Columbia joins CIRTL network to better prepare future STEM faculty
Columbia University has joined the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), established in 2003 with support from the National Science Foundation to improve teaching skills and increase the diversity of future university faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Columbia University is among several new members joining CIRTL during a recent expansion of the network’s membership. All of CIRTL’s members commit to developing local learning communities that promote proven teaching and mentoring techniques for STEM graduate students.
“It is an honor to welcome such a distinguished institution as Columbia University to our network,” said Robert Mathieu, director of CIRTL. “We are excited Columbia University is joining with other top research universities dedicated to strengthening the teaching skills of our nation’s future STEM faculty.”
“This outstanding learning community provides great value to each member institution. We look forward to being actively engaged with the CIRTL Network,” said Soulaymane Kachani, Columbia University’s Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning.
According to Kitch Barnicle, executive director of the CIRTL Network, “Historically, STEM graduate coursework and effort have been focused on creating researchers in specific academic fields. As a matter of fact, new professors often face their first classes of students with little preparation in teaching. Our goal is to develop great researchers who also are great teachers, not one or the other.”
“Over a decade of research has revealed that students often leave STEM degree programs starting from an early stage in the undergraduate years due to ineffective teaching. Columbia and CIRTL learning communities can effectively target future generations of STEM faculty members at an early stage of their careers, during graduate school,” said Kathy Takayama, Associate Provost and Executive Director of the Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning. “Indeed, a research article published in the premier journal, Science, has shown that STEM graduate students’ teaching experiences improve their research skills.”
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.
In addition to building local learning communities at Columbia University and other member universities, CIRTL emphasizes the importance of developing national connections through network exchanges and virtual courses. “We are connecting the university learning communities online, so graduate students have a far more diverse experience in higher education than just their own campus,” says Mathieu, director of CIRTL. “So a student at Columbia University can also be learning about teaching from another student or professor at Howard University, for instance.”
The project is operated within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the highly-ranked UW–Madison School of Education and supported by the National Science Foundation, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Feldon et al. (2011) Science 333, 1037. [pdf]