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8.28.06 Teaching to Succeed - Grant supports new center for learning and teaching

Why do college students not achieve to their full potential?

All too often it's because we're not teaching them right, says Arts & Sciences Dean Robert J. Sternberg, a cognitive psychologist noted for his work on human intelligence.

Now, a $250,000 grant has started Tufts moving toward a goal of improving teaching skills to reach diverse learners.

The award supports Tufts' new Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, informed by Sternberg's theory of "successful intelligence," which argues that people draw on unique strengths to adapt and be successful.

A faculty fellows program offered by the center will enable teachers to receive either a course reduction or an honorarium in exchange for participating in a one-semester seminar on improving teaching skills for reaching diverse learners.

The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation, established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis's retirement as chairman of Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc.

Sternberg said: "We are greatly appreciative of the Davis Educational Foundation's decision to support this worthy project. The Foundation's collaboration with us on such a vital program is of enormous help as Tufts strives to be among the best institutions of higher learning."

According to Sternberg, students learn in different ways, and too often, the creative and practical-thinking abilities that serve them most usefully in life aren't credited on an SAT or drawn out in a college classroom. That means students often fail to achieve to their potential because their particular strengths aren't engaged by teachers.

"The solution is to value other ability patterns and then change teaching and assessment so that these other ability patterns can lead to greater success in school," he said.

Linda Jarvin, who has been associate director of the Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies and Expertise (PACE) that Sternberg established at Yale, will oversee the new center as deputy director.