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CIRTL schools offer diverse training to future faculty. One strategy for encouraging graduate students and post-doctor fellows to engage in CIRTL professional development opportunities is to first engage them in their department where they often hold deep connections and maintain a sense of identity. This can then be used as an opportunity to encourage participation in institution-wide or cross-network CIRTL training. This page provides two curricula schools can use to facilitate disciplinary learning communities (DLCs) to help departments or discipline-related programs offer training. Both curricula are discipline-neutral. It can be adopted by any discipline, but facilitators are encouraged to integrate discipline-specific examples as appropriate. Needs analysis resources are also included to help gauge future faculty interest in DLCs.

  1. Introductory teaching topics – This four-part workshop series introduces graduate students to the basics of course design, assessment, and facilitating evidence-based teaching practices.
  2. A discipline-based education research curriculum – This structured curriculum engages future faculty in a discussion of education research in their discipline, and introduces them to basic teaching-as-research practices.

More information about each is below, and both curricula are available in our Disciplinary Learning Communities Materials folder.

Needs Analysis

Disciplinary Learning Communities (DLCs)’s were developed to fill a presumed need. DLCs provide an opportunity for future faculty to engage in teaching professional development through programs offered within their discipline or department, where most future faculty are embedded and associate their core professional identity. These need analysis resources are designed to assess an institution’s existing infrastructure to help gauge future faculty interest in participating in DLCs, assess the perceived value of acquiring key teaching skills, and identify more specifically what professional development opportunities might be more successful than others. Data collected from this survey can also be used to communicate future faculty professional development needs to senior leadership.

Introductory Topics

The overarching goals of this curriculum are to 1) encourage adoption of evidence-based course design and facilitation strategies and 2) develop a cross-institutional network of faculty committed to improving STEM education.

The authors created the PowerPoint presentations to help facilitators lead a series of four, 60-90 minute workshops held on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly). Facilitators are encouraged to integrate discipline-specific examples to help participants identify how to apply concepts discussed.  Facilitators are also encouraged to announce local CIRTL professional development opportunities and CIRTL cross-network events at the end of each session to encourage participants to engage in additional training.

  • Session 1 – Course Design and Learning Objectives: The first session introduces participants to the backward design process for creating a course. Participants will also learn how to write well-defined learning objectives using the S.M.A.R.T. approach and Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  • Session 2 – Assessment: This session discusses formative and summative assessment and how to align assessments with learning objectives as defined by the backward design process.  Participants will also learn strategies for facilitating assessments including the use of rubrics.
  • Session 3 – Active-Learning Strategies: This session will give an overview of how to actively engage students Practices
  • Session 4 – General Facilitation Strategies: This session discusses general strategies for facilitating a course. It is based on What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain.

Disciplinary-based Education Research Curriculum

The overarching goals of this curriculum are to 1) encourage adoption of research-based teaching strategies including those specific to the discipline and 2) develop a cross-institutional network of faculty committed to improving STEM education.

The DLC Facilitator Guide describes activities designed to engage participants in group discussion and encourage them to model teaching best practices in facilitating seminar-style discussions. The authors designed the DLCs to leverage the three core ideas of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL): 1) learning-through-diversity, 2) teaching-as-research, and 3) learning communities.  The suggested seminar-style format reflects the goal to encourage the development of a learning community by gathering a small group of people on a regular basis for shared learning, discovery, and generation.  The materials used in the DLCs reflect the value of teaching-as-research by discussing discipline-based education research.  The authors embedded learning-through-diversity activities within the lesson plan (see Session 2) to encourage participants to consider issues of diversity and inclusion when designing their courses and engaging with educational research.

The authors structured the guide around multiple sessions, imagining most facilitators would meet for 2-hours on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly). The sessions were intentionally designed to be modular so facilitators could adapt the activities to best meet the needs of their local community. Facilitators should explore opportunities to integrate these activities with local professional development programs designed to prepare graduate students and postdoctoral fellows for their future teaching responsibilities.

  • Session 1 – Introduction (DLC Facilitator Guide): The first session will provide an overview of the DLC, explain the learning objectives, and introduce participants to the discipline-based education research literature including key disciplinary resources.
  • Session 2 – Engaging with Content: The second session will present strategies for critiquing an article so participants will be prepared to engage in DLC discussions.  Strategies for facilitating a discussion will also be discussed because each participant will be expected to lead a discussion of at least one article.
  • Sessions 3-6 – Discussion of Research-based Teaching Strategies: These are the core modules of the DLCs in which the faculty facilitator and participants will lead discussions and critiques of articles identified by members of the DLC.  The number of sessions will be defined by each local community.
  • Last Session – Conclusion:  The last session will be an opportunity to critique additional articles and/or summarize lessons learned.  Participants could also have the opportunity to share for critique the draft narratives describing the research-based teaching practices they anticipate adopting.

The guide is discipline-neutral.  The lesson plans describe activities that can engage participants in discipline-based education research and activities for any field.  The authors recognize that facilitators may need assistance identifying articles and other instructional resources thus discipline-specific appendices were created to allow facilitators to benefit from the work of others, and ideally, contribute their suggestions as well.


The DLC materials were developed by Mike ReeseEileen Haase, Jane Greco, Kelly Clark, and Ahmed Ibrahim of Johns Hopkins University along with Jo Anne Powell-CoffmanUlrike Genschel, and Thomas Holme of Iowa State University.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 17266625