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Graduate teaching assistants take part in an orientation workshop in
2015, an example of the kinds of programs that UD already offers to help
graduate students develop their teaching skills and that will be
expanded and enhanced through participation in CIRTL.
11:47 a.m., March 7, 2016--The University of Delaware has joined the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning
(CIRTL)s international network of top research universities dedicated
to advancing the teaching of science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) disciplines in higher education through future
faculty professional development work with Ph.D. candidates and
It is an honor to welcome such a distinguished institution as the
University of Delaware to our network, said Robert Mathieu, director of
CIRTL, which was established at the University of Wisconsin in 2003
with support from the National Science Foundation.
UDs membership will mean enhanced opportunities for graduate
students to improve their teaching skills, not only through on-campus
training opportunities but also through courses and programming offered
online and in hybrid formats by other CIRTL Network member
While CIRTLs top priority is improving undergraduate STEM education
and the retention of historically underrepresented students in STEM,
graduate students from disciplines throughout the University will also
be able to participate in and benefit from CIRTL opportunities.
UDs selection for membership is part of an expansion of the CIRTL
Network that was completed in February, more than doubling the size of
the network this year. Now with 46 members, CIRTL institutions produce
more than one-third of all U.S. doctoral degrees in STEM.
According to Kitch Barnicle, executive director of CIRTL, graduate
studies in STEM fields have traditionally emphasized research rather
As a matter of fact, new professors often face their first classes
of students with little preparation in teaching, he said. Our goal is
to develop great researchers who also are great teachers, not one or the
UDs CIRTL core planning group includes faculty and administrators in
two STEM departments, biology and math, that produce high numbers of
doctorates who stay in the academy rather than pursuing careers in
industry. These departments are also playing key roles in improving STEM
undergraduate education at UD.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Initially, we expect to work most closely with faculty in biology
and chemistry in developing our CIRTL programming, mainly because we see
the graduate student teaching assistants in the Harker
Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Labs integrated first-year
science curriculum as a very important target group for CIRTL
professional development work, said Ann Ardis, senior vice provost for
graduate and professional education. But the longer-term goal, she
noted, is to support a robustly multidisciplinary local CIRTL learning
The importance of developing strong teaching skills among future
faculty members is clear, Ardis said: Graduate preparation in teaching
is the best way to improve undergraduate instruction and retention.
Deborah Allen, professor of biological sciences and director of the Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education
at UD, who is the Universitys institutional lead for CIRTL, said the
new or expanded initiatives offered through participation in the network
will be a critical part of graduate education.
I think the biggest change will be a scholarship component to the
professional development of teaching skills, Allen said. Being part of
CIRTL will connect us to resources as part of a national network
dedicated to strengthening teaching. And for graduate students, having
these kinds of teaching skills and experience, in addition to research
and scholarship experience, can only help them when theyre in the
academic job market.
CIRTL initiatives offered at UD will develop over time, but Allen
said plans include incorporating initiatives into graduate student
orientation sessions, expanding mentoring experiences focused on
teaching and increasing participation by graduate students in the
current Faculty Commons resource that emphasizes best teaching practices.
With the support of the new network membership, UD also plans to
reactivate its Higher Education Teaching Certification program, which
for many years offered four courses in which graduate students could
develop their teaching skills. Currently, the Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning (CTAL) offers two courses, and Allen said plans are to expand the offerings.
Well come back with an enriched version of that [certification
program], which was very successful, Allen said. Some graduate
students will go into research or work in industry, but for those going
into academia, Ive seen a lot of interest in developing strong teaching
Cheryl Richardson, associate director of CTAL, agreed that
opportunities through CIRTL will have a broad impact on graduate
education at the University.
I think this will give a huge boost to the professional development
of graduate students, she said. Not every graduate student gets the
opportunity to be a teaching assistant, so these kinds of programs can
help them in exploring teaching and learning. And theyll have the
chance to share their work nationally, through the network, which will
benefit them and the University.
CIRTL hosts numerous web-based workshops and discussions each month.
In March, for example, the theme is Inclusion, and topics range from
creating inclusive research labs in specific STEM fields to using your
international background to your advantage in the classroom. Offerings
can be found at this website.
More about CIRTL
CIRTL stresses the use of successful, evidence-based strategies
proven to promote active learning and to help STEM students from all
backgrounds succeed and complete their degrees.
Teaching strategies include connecting classroom topics to real-world
situations, promoting inclusive learning, encouraging teamwork through
shared projects and study groups, continually assessing student progress
and using research skills to advance effective teaching practices.
As a new member, UD will develop its own programs built on the CIRTL
core ideas of teaching as research, learning communities and learning
This new local learning community will offer its own robust schedule
of courses, programs, events, internships and resources. In addition, it
will collaborate on cross-network projects with CIRTL partners and
participate in national offerings.
The project is operated within the Wisconsin Center for Education
Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education and
is supported by the National Science Foundation, Great Lakes Higher
Education Corporation and Affiliates and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Article by Ann Manser
Photos by Evan Krape
Originally Published by UDaily.