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Broadening the National Impact of the CIRTL Network

The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) contributes to long-term improvement in STEM undergraduate education through the purposeful development of the future STEM faculty. The strategic leverage point by which CIRTL shapes the future national STEM faculty is graduate and postdoctoral preparation in teaching and learning. CIRTL provides systematic and focused professional development to build future faculty expertise in evidence-based teaching. Three core ideas – teaching-as-research, learning communities, and learning through diversity – and a detailed set of associated learning outcomes provide the conceptual framework for all CIRTL activities. Research has established the efficacy of this approach. In particular, there is empirical evidence of the positive long-term impact of teaching professional development based on these ideas. The CIRTL Network includes nearly 40 research universities in the United States and Canada. This project is comprised of an integrated portfolio of initiatives for increased impact and widespread deployment of future faculty professional development in teaching. The initiatives work in two strategic directions:

  • increase the number of future faculty participating at each CIRTL Network university;
  • extend CIRTL opportunities to future faculty beyond the CIRTL Network.

To increase the number of future faculty participants within the CIRTL Network, CIRTL will develop and evaluate a set of new cohort-based learning communities: i) disciplinary learning communities in chemistry, engineering, life sciences and statistics; ii) teaching assistant learning communities; and iii) postdoctoral learning communities. These will operate both locally and online. To extend opportunities to future faculty beyond the CIRTL Network, CIRTL will develop and evaluate: i) an online NSF Graduate Research Fellow learning community; and ii) partnerships in future faculty development with eight professional societies. CIRTL will also build new bridges for its alumni to contribute to the CIRTL mission by developing and evaluating a CIRTL Alumni Network. These new initiatives have the long-term goal of preparing more than 8,000 STEM future faculty annually in the CIRTL Network, and to extend opportunities to many more beyond the Network.

CIRTL Teaching Assistant Learning Communities

Teaching Assistants (TAs) are often trained in one-off experiences that focus on logistics more than pedagogy. The Exploring Practices in the Classroom (EPIC) project plans to use a Teaching Development Plan and Skills Inventory to identify teaching-related professional development goals. Then the project will develop a modular facilitation guide and train the trainer sessions to promote growth in identified areas. The project will assess how these tools impact participants’ perceived readiness to complete teaching tasks, participants’ language used to describe effective teaching, and participant involvement in CIRTL communities.

EPIC Project Website

CIRTL Postdoctoral Learning Communities

The IUSE Postdoctoral Learning Communities project has 3 main goals. The first is to offer professional development experiences tailored to postdocs, a population that does not typically teach during their training. The second is to create and sustain postdoc learning communities to support transitions into academic careers. The third is to broaden postdoc participation in the CIRTL Network – enriching the CIRTL Cross- Network and feeding into the Alumni Network.

CIRTL Disciplinary Learning Communities

The goal of the IUSE Disciplinary Learning Communities (DLCs) project is to connect graduate students with discipline-based education research. This project will develop an instructional framework, pilot both face-to-face and online DLCs, and will host events at national conferences.

Preparing NSF Graduate Research Fellows in Teaching

The goal of the IUSE Graduate Research Fellows (GRF) project is developing a Graduate Research Fellow Online Learning Community (GRF OLC) populated with curriculum and programming on teaching and learning to support GRF future faculty. The team is attempting to solve two problems with this work. They wish to expand the reach of the CIRTL Network by engaging a population that has a significant likelihood of becoming future faculty. They also want to increase training, broader impacts, and professional networking.

The CIRTL Alumni Network

The first goal of the CIRTL Alumni Network project is to connect prior CIRTL participants (CIRTL Alumni) to each other and to the CIRTL Network, for their continued professional development as a learning community, and assistance to current CIRTL participants and projects of the network. The second goal is to obtain feedback from CIRTL Alumni in order to evaluate how well CIRTL is doing in preparing future faculty, improve the offerings of the local sites and national network, and demonstrate to stakeholders the value of CIRTL programs.

Resources for National Initiatives

The goal of the IUSE Resources project is to curate and disseminate CIRTL resources on behalf of new members of the CIRTL Network and all universities who wish to develop CIRTL-like future faculty development programs. Potential resources include: curricula, teaching materials, evaluations & assessments, publications & presentations, marketing materials, and toolkits.

Study of CIRTL at the Institution Level: Processes and Impact

The goal of the IUSE Study of CIRTL project is to map local programs to improve local- and network-level evaluation. This is being done using the Systems Evaluation Protocol as an evaluation tool (developed by researchers in Cornell University’s Office for Research on Evaluation). This work will improve the evaluation capacity within each local CIRTL program, identify shared outcomes across local programs, and develop an evaluation learning community trained in a common language.



Collaborative Award Name (Full): Preparing Future Faculty to Improve STEM Education: Broadening the National Impact of the CIRTL Network

Awarding Organization: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Dates: 9/1/17 – 8/31/22

Award Number(s): 1726625

Collaborative Partners:Boston University, Drexel University, Johns Hopkins University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, University of Colorado Boulder University of Wisconsin-Madison, Washington University in St. Louis, Yale University

Final Evaluation Report: coming soon