James R. Vivian


Teaching in New Haven: Table of Contents | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

In 1982 Fred M. Hechinger wrote his first of several columns in The New York Times on the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. He described the Institute's establishment in 1978 as signaling a "reversal of the twenty year breach between universities and schools."1 The next year the late Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti and Ernest L. Boyer, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, convened a national conference of Chief State School Officers and college and university presidents, which the Institute organized at Yale. At the meeting, attended by representatives of thirty-eight states, the Institute was presented as an example of how universities can and must assist in strengthening teaching in the nation's schools. In 1986, when the Institute held a conference on "Strengthening Teaching Through Collaboration," Mr. Hechinger said that "the list of participants in the conference showed collaboration's rapid spread."2 In 1990 he wrote in The New York Times that the endowment of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute-the result of a highly creative $2 million challenge grant by the DeWitt Wallace Reader's Digest Fund, which made the Institute the first collaborative program of its type to be permanently established-marked the beginning of a "new era" in university-school relationships.3

During the 1980s there was, as Mr. Hechinger's columns indicate, a gratifying amount of attention to the Institute's work in New Haven and to the growing movement for university-school collaboration, as well as the opportunity for the Institute to assist other universities and schools in the development of similar programs. Representatives of the Institute were often asked to explain how school teachers could take from an Institute seminar with a Yale faculty member something practical to use in their own classrooms. The purpose of the present volume, then, is to provide concrete examples of how several teachers of diverse subjects and grade levels have used Institute seminars to develop materials for their own teaching.


In 1980 two national panels issued their findings on the state of student learning in the humanities and the sciences: a joint National Science Foundation Department of Education study spoke of "a trend toward virtual scientific and technological illiteracy" and the Commission on the Humanities concluded that "a dramatic improvement in the quality of education in our elementary and secondary schools is the highest educational priority in the 1980s."4 The commission called for curricula to teach children to read well, to write clearly, and to think critically. They also found that "the need to interrelate the humanities, social sciences, science and technology has probably never been greater than today."5 These national problems in public education, further described in scores of subsequent studies and reports, are of concern to Yale as to universities generally, and Yale's reasons for becoming involved in seeking solutions therefore transcended its sense of responsibility to the New Haven community. As President Giamatti pointed out in an interview on the David Susskind television program on December 7, 1980, "it is profoundly in our self-interest to have coherent, well-taught, well thought-out curricula" in our local schools and in secondary schools throughout the country.

Yale had acted on such a view as early as 1970, when the History Department began the History Education Project (HEP), which assisted a number of New Haven social studies teachers in developing improved curricula for courses in American history, world area studies, and urban studies. Although involving fewer than twenty teachers each year, the History Education Project enjoyed a good reputation among school teachers and with the administrations of the University and the Schools. In 1977 the Secretary of the University, Henry Chauncey, Jr., then responsible for Yale's community relations, called HEP "the most solid, the most vital" educational link between Yale and New Haven. It provided, in fact, one of the few occasions for the University and School administrations to meet about a joint endeavor. HEP had been undertaken with a grant from the American Historical Association (AHA), which until 1973 funded a number of such projects across the country. The New Haven project was later continued with local and state support; and by 1977 it was the only project the AHA had helped to establish that was still in existence, its $10,000 annual budget provided in equal shares by the University, the Schools, and New Haven's community foundation. There was, thus, an eight-year record of a well-regarded relationship among university faculty members and school teachers to which both institutions had a financial commitment, albeit small.

Perhaps most important, the participating school teachers and members of the Yale History Department had discovered what they stood to gain from working with each other. They became the nucleus of the groups that planned the present Institute. They were persuasive, within the University and the Schools, in enlisting administrative support. They also solicited the interest of their colleagues in their own and other University and School departments. Because of their previous collaborative experience and their standing in their respective institutions, they were able to convince their administrations and their teaching colleagues that such an undertaking would be worthwhile and mutually advantageous.


In these ways the success of HEP created favorable conditions for planning a more ambitious and demanding program that would include additional disciplines. For the administrations of Yale and the Schools, the earliest discussions in 1977 focused on which of the Schools' many needs might be most usefully addressed by the University's resources. In what areas did the Schools have significant needs and the University complementary strengths? What was central enough to the mission of both institutions to enable us to construct a real partnership of allies in league to improve our community's public schools? Which problems of the Schools were recurring, and which University resources enduring, so that the program might be of benefit to the Schools over the longer term? These questions were addressed at a time of enormous pressures on the budgets of Yale, the City, and the Schools. Even in better times, financial resources would never fully match our ambition to construct a highly productive partnership. The overriding question was how we might together apply limited resources in an intensive way where the need was greatest.

We explored these questions in the context of developing a proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to expand the history project, to include additional disciplines in the humanities, to increase the number of teachers involved, and to make the new program more rigorous. Since 1978 the NEH has provided indispensable support for the Institute. The development of proposals to the NEH and others, in fact, has demonstrated that proposal writing itself has certain beneficial results: it establishes a need to clarify and obtain agreement on objectives, and it imposes a deadline for making decisions.

Teachers and administrators from the University and the Schools soon reached a consensus: the relationship between the University and the Schools must be both prominent and permanent within any viable larger relationship between Yale and New Haven, and of the many ways Yale might aid New Haven none is more natural than a program that shares Yale's educational resources with the Schools. Because student needs change, scholarship develops, and new educational policies are established by the school system and each level of government, school curricula undergo frequent revision and teachers are reassigned to teach subjects they have not taught recently, or ever before. Because of Yale's strength in the academic disciplines, all agreed that the University could most readily aid the Schools by assisting in the further preparation of curricula and teachers in the subjects they teach, and by helping teachers to keep abreast of new developments in their fields.

Our intent was therefore not to create new resources at Yale; rather, it was to expand and institutionalize the work of University faculty members with their colleagues in the Schools. Even at this early stage, both Yale and the Schools sought a course of action that might have a substantial impact. The Superintendent of Schools, Gerald N. Tirozzi, and the Board of Education asked that the expansion of the program begin with the addition of seminars in English, the subject in which they saw the greatest need. The objective was eventually to involve as many teachers as possible and to include a range of subjects that would span the humanities and the sciences, so that the program might address school curricula, and thus students' education, broadly.

In 1978, then, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute was established as a joint program of Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools, designed to strengthen teaching and thereby to improve student learning in the humanities and the sciences in our community's middle and high schools. That year, the President of Yale, the Superintendent of Schools, the Mayor of New Haven, and the Institute Director held a news conference on the program. This was the first news conference held by a Yale President and a New Haven Mayor in over a decade, and the only one in memory that concerned public education in New Haven. At that time Mayor Frank Logue commented that the Institute represents "a combined activity that is in the mainstream of both our enterprises," not something made "out of whole cloth."

Since 1978 the Institute has benefited from a time of unusual harmony and good will between the University and the Public Schools and the City administration. Moreover, because it was founded well before the widespread public attention that since 1983 has been paid to our nation's public schools, it was not subjected to intense scrutiny before it could begin to have sound evidence of the results of its program. Indeed, our problem in the earliest years was in obtaining any public recognition at all for teachers' work in the Institute.

In September 1986, the new President of Yale, the new Mayor of New Haven, the new Superintendent of Schools, and the Institute Director held a news conference to accept the Teachers Institute's third grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The announcement provided an occasion, similar to the news conference in 1978, for President Benno C. Schmidt, Jr., three days after his inaugural, to hold his first news conference together with Mayor Biagio DiLieto and Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Dow, Jr. Mayor DiLieto said then the Institute "is an excellent illustration of the kind of cooperation that exists between the City administration and Yale University, and it speaks well for our efforts to maintain that relationship at a very high level." Superintendent Dow said that "the improvement of our school system can be directly related to the kind of involvement that we have here." President Schmidt said that "among the many ways in which Yale University seeks to be a good and active citizen of New Haven, the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute is one of our great successes."

These are among the reasons why Yale announced in 1990 a plan to build an adequate endowment for the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. By endowing the Institute, we want to transform it into a permanent and central function of a university which is committed to collaborating with school teachers and to strengthening teaching and learning in local schools and in schools across the country. We also want to affirm that Yale believes that such collaboration is directly in its own self-interest. We hope that this may be influential with other institutions and schools. At a time when universities across the country need to be more deeply involved in strengthening teaching in schools, endowing the Institute demonstrates one way for a faculty of arts and sciences to contribute effectively to teachers' continuing education. We therefore intend to encourage the permanent establishment of similar institutes at other colleges and universties across the country.

Since its founding in 1978 the Teachers Institute has become by far the most comprehensive, intensive, and sustained collaboration of Yale faculty members with public school teachers. Between 1978 and 1991 the Institute has offered 88 different seminars in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, mathematics, and the physical and life sciences. Seventy-three Yale faculty members have given Institute talks and led one or more seminars. More than 300 individual school teachers have completed the program successfully from one to fourteen times. Through the program, Fellows have developed 708 individual curriculum units which are taught widely in school courses.

The Annual Program

Teachers play a leading role in determining how the Institute can help them meet the needs of all their students, not only those who later will enter college. Each year as many as eighty New Haven school teachers of English, history, foreign language, art, math, and science become Fellows of the Institute to work with Yale faculty members on topics the teachers themselves identify. The Institute does not involve a special group of teachers who teach a special group of students; rather, it seeks to involve all teachers, grades 3 through 12, who can demonstrate the relationship of their proposed Institute work to school courses they teach.

Culminating with the Fellows' preparation of new materials that they and other teachers will use in the coming school year, the Institute's annual program lasts almost five months and includes talks, workshops, and seminars. The talks are intended to stimulate thinking and discussion and to point up interdisciplinary relationships in scholarship and teaching. Presenting Institute guidelines for curriculum units, the workshops explore the Fellows' own approaches to writing a curriculum unit and stress the main audience for whom Fellows are writing: other teachers. The Institute encourages Fellows to write their units in first person-in the voice of an experienced classroom teacher-addressing other teachers in and beyond the seminar. This extends the operation of collegiality within the seminar to encompass other colleagues in the schools who might adapt the units to their own teaching.

As Thomas R. Whitaker describes in his introduction to the present volume, the leader and Fellows in each seminar must face together the challenge of balancing the teachers' further preparation in the seminar subject with their development of teaching materials for school courses. Thus, each seminar addresses the fundamental educational issue of the connection between the teacher's preparation and students' learning. Our experience with HEP taught us that this was something too vital to be left to chance. We cannot simply assume that the teacher's new knowledge will be conveyed to students. By requiring the writing of a curriculum unit, we insist that teachers and their seminar leader examine together how that knowledge can be effectively introduced to students in the schools. The units themselves therefore mirror the collaborative nature of the Institute, combining as they do both current knowledge of a field and classroom experience. The Institute does not accept "auditors" or teachers who are unwilling to write a curriculum unit. The teachers who serve as Coordinators within each of the seminars follow the progress of other Fellows in developing their units and meeting due dates; and any Fellow who does not submit a finished curriculum unit is considered not to have completed the program successfully.

The materials that the Fellows write are compiled into a volume for each seminar and deposited in school libraries throughout New Haven. As compared with the loose-leaf files in which only one set of all materials developed in the HEP were kept, Institute units contain an organized approach to teaching a specific topic, bound with related essays, and circulated widely to other teachers. Thus teachers' work is documented and made available to many more teachers throughout the school system over an extended period of time. The Institute in effect publishes the units, providing all Fellows a type of professional opportunity not ordinarily available to them. Seminar members and the teachers who serve during nine months of the year as Representatives of the Institute for all New Haven schools promote widespread use of these materials by their colleagues.

Results for Teachers and Students

Many evaluations have documented the efficacy of the Institute's approach in increasing teachers' knowledge of their disciplines, enhancing their professional morale and confidence in teaching the subjects they study and the curricular material they prepare in the Institute, heightening their own self-fulfilling expectations of students' capacity to learn this material, and encouraging them to remain in teaching in New Haven.<+>6 The curriculum units Institute Fellows write are used widely and effectively by themselves and many other teachers, and students' attention, motivation, and mastery are improved as a result.

In fact, seventy percent of all teachers who have been Institute Fellows are currently in teaching or administrative positions in the New Haven Public Schools. Between 1986 and 1990, from forty-four to forty-eight percent of Fellows each year said that the opportunity to participate in the Institute had influenced their decision to remain in teaching in our local public school system.


We are grateful to numerous individuals and organizations who have made possible the present volume. More than seventy-six local and national foundations and corporations have provided gifts and grants which-together with funding from Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools-supported the Institute seminars offered since 1978 through which teachers wrote the original versions of the curriculum units which are included here. Although a complete listing of these sponsors appears in the appendix, I should credit in particular the invaluable support which has been provided since 1978 by the National Endowment for the Humanities for our work in the humanities, and since 1985 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York for our work in the sciences. In addition, I especially want to acknowledge the role of the Carnegie Corporation of New York in encouraging the Institute to undertake the preparation of the present volume and in supporting its editing, revision, and production. This volume was first released for discussion at the December 1991 Yale Conference on "University-School Collaboration: Preparing Teachers and Curricula for Public Schools," a meeting of teachers and administrators from across the country made possible by major support from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. The material presented here, however, does not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies.

We were particularly fortunate that Thomas R. Whitaker, Frederick W. Hilles Professor of English and Professor of Theater Studies, who has himself led nine Institute seminars-greater than the number led by any other Yale faculty member-agreed to edit this volume and advise the individual authors in the revision of their curriculum units. We appreciate, too, that in many cases the Yale faculty members who advised the development of the original units conferred with the authors on updating and extending the original statements of their teaching plans. Most importantly, the authors themselves took the time during an unusually demanding school year to undertake the process of revision for this publication, in order to make their experience in the Institute more widely available to their colleagues in other communities across the country.

This volume is the Institute's first venture in desktop publishing; four individuals not only assisted in the production of the present book but also increased the Institute's capacity to undertake similar projects in the future. Three of these individuals were Yale undergraduates employed by the Institute during the summer of 1991: Adam W. Schnitzer designed the book and laid out each page; Arthur K. Chung scanned the illustrations which appear here and solved more than one computing problem that could have stalled the whole project; Kimberly E. Kessler assisted by word processing and proofreading several of the units. Erica C. Brossard, Administrative Assistant in the Institute, worked in all the areas mentioned above and completed the volume after summer's end. Janet Russell, Senior Administrative Assistant in the Institute for more than ten years, made the arrangements for printing this edition of the book.
This volume, like the Institute itself, is therefore a collaboration among many individuals with diverse responsibilities and backgrounds, each of whose contributions was essential to the finished work. All were guided, I believe, by the expectation that the curriculum units presented here will make the school teacher's experience of participation in the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute more meaningful to our colleagues in other institutions and schools. We further hope that it will add to their understanding-as well as our own-something valuable about the ways in which public school teachers and university faculty members can work together through such an Institute, as they face in common the challenge of strengthening teaching and learning in an urban community's public schools.

James R. Vivian

New Haven
October 1991


1 Fred M. Hechinger, "Colleges Reaching Out to Aid Public Schools," The New York Times, December 14, 1982.
2---, "Promoting 'Subversion'," The New York Times, November 18, 1986.
3---, "With Yale as a Model, Universities and Public Schools Enter an Era of Cooperation," The New York Times, December 5, 1990.
4 National Science Foundation and United States Department of Education, Science and Engineering Education for the 1980s and Beyond, 1980, ix.
5 Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities, The Humanities in American Life, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980, 25, 6.
6 These results are presented in some detail in "Preparing Teachers and Curricula for Public Schools: A Progress Report on Surveys Administered to Teachers, 1982-1990," by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, 1991.