November 28, 2008
University Council will be asked at its next meeting to approve a foundational document that, according to the provost, addresses an issue “fundamental to a university, and to our university.”
Speaking to a notice of motion introduced at University Council Nov. 20, Brett Fairbairn said the Foundational Document for Teaching and Learning represents the highest mission for any university. It is also part of the long debate, “perhaps the never-ending debate, on how to fulfill that mission.”
The document has been extensively vetted and updated over years of consultation that led to the final draft presented to council members for their consideration. Fairbairn pointed out that planning documents “are not, in themselves, plans.” Rather, they “outline key considerations … to which our plans should pay attention.”
The draft document takes a comprehensive look at U of S faculty and student perspectives on teaching and learning and outlines trends and new thinking in higher education. It also details initiatives already underway across campus in support of teaching and learning, and presents a number of possible advances that could be made in areas like curriculum development, student transition to university and alternative approaches to program delivery.
Fairbairn said the teaching and learning agenda played a key role in the development of the university’s new integrated plan which identifies the graduate and undergraduate student experience as a top priority. But while that plan covers a four-year period, the shelf life of a foundational document must be longer, he said, as long as 10 or 12 years.
Ernie Barber, vice-provost of teaching and learning, told council he likes the document “because it calls on the university to make discernable progress on improving our teaching and learning. This is not the last thing we will write about teaching and learning. It’s not complete, but it’s enough. It’s time for swift and decisive action.”
Richard Long, professor of industrial relations and organizational behaviour and chair of council’s teaching and learning committee, said his group unanimously approved the document for presentation to council after having ensured it went through an appropriate consultation process and that it reflects the principle values and direction of the university.
Council’s planning and priorities committee also unanimously endorsed the document.
The motion to approve the Foundational Document for Teaching and Learning at the University of Saskatchewan will come before council at its Dec. 9 meeting. The document can be accessed on the integrated planning website, or the site of teaching and learning committee of council.