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Dean of Undergraduate Education Claybaugh Seeks to Improve Faculty Teaching, Advising

University Hall in Harvard Yard.
University Hall in Harvard Yard. By Amy Y. Li
By Jonah S. Berger and Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writers

Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda Claybaugh said she plans on reexamining undergraduate advising, improving professors’ teaching, and reforming courses that “weed” out students in an interview Thursday.

Claybaugh — who assumed her position in July 2018, replacing Jewish Studies Professor Jay M. Harris — is responsible for overseeing the College’s curriculum, the Program in General Education, academic advising, and career services.

Claybaugh said one of her main priorities in the years ahead is to “do more” with academic advising, a request undergraduates have put to her since she took office. In particular, she hopes to pair students with advisers more tailored to their concentrations and focus on identifying common sources of academic stress.

“At the College, we care about the whole student, but each of us has a particular responsibility to a particular part of the student,” Claybaugh said. “I think that what we can do on the academic side is help respond to students’ stress, student anxiety, by helping to address the root causes.”

Claybaugh said she hopes to develop a pedagogical class for faculty members to teach them “best practices” to address the “particular” needs of Harvard students. She said such an instructional program is still in its early stages, but believes that it would be well-received among faculty.

“I think it would send a very clear signal that Harvard expects its faculty to be excellent teachers as well as excellent researchers,” Claybaugh said. “I think that I very seldom meet a faculty member who doesn't care about teaching, but many of us have received no actual training in teaching.”

She noted that many professors simply teach the way they were taught as students, even if that style is not ideal for the material they are now teaching.

“There are many kinds of assignments and many models of course design other than a kind of standard lecture or seminar that faculty just didn't experience themselves,” Claybaugh said. “So I think faculty are very willing. I think it would just be helpful to give them tools.”

Claybaugh also said she wants to work with individual departments to ensure students are not forced out of concentrations because of their ability level.

“I think we are no longer willing to just watch students sink or swim,” she said. “And so that means that we need to really scrutinize where students seem to be falling through the cracks, and figure out how we can work with individual courses, with departments, to ensure that all of our students flourish equally.”

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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