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CIRTL at Columbia

CIRTL at Columbia is committed to developing local learning communities that promote proven teaching and mentoring techniques for STEM graduate students. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are invited to participate in local on-campus and national online cross-network programs.

What is CIRTL?

In 2016, Columbia University joined the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL). CIRTL was established in 2003 by the National Science Foundation to improve teaching skills and increase the diversity of future university faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. 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.

The core ideas of the CIRTL program include:

Learning-through-diversity: Learning-through-diversity capitalizes on the rich array of experiences, backgrounds, and skills among STEM undergraduates and graduates-through-faculty to enhance the learning of all. It recognizes that excellence and diversity are necessarily intertwined.

Teaching-as-research: Teaching-as-research is the deliberate, systematic, and reflective use of research methods by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instructors to develop and implement teaching practices that advance the learning experiences and outcomes of both students and teachers.

Learning Communities: Learning communities bring together groups of people for shared learning, discovery, and generation of knowledge. To achieve common learning goals, a learning community nurtures functional relationship among its members.

CIRTL is comprised of 46 member institutions across the U.S. and Canada. View all the member institutions here.


CIRTL offerings are intended for graduate students and postdocs in STEM and Social Science disciplines who are interested in enhancing excellence in undergraduate education through the development of a national faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse learners as part of successful and varied professional careers. Though the Network emphasizes its role in preparing future faculty, faculty new to teaching would benefit from CIRTL as well.

On-campus Programs

The STEM Teaching & Learning Community, sponsored by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and the Center for Teaching and Learning, offers programs for graduate students and post-docs in science, math or engineering fields who are interested in learning about evidence-based approaches to undergraduate teaching and in forming a learning community with their STEM colleagues.

Spring 2017: Backward Design in STEM Teaching

Backward Design in STEM Teaching is a four-week series of interactive sessions where participants meet to learn about evidence-based teaching strategies and to produce a set of resources that they can use in their current or future teaching setting. The content is drawn from “An Introduction to Evidence-Based STEM Teaching,” an online course created by CIRTL. The series is available to graduate students and post-docs on the Morningside or Medical Center campuses.

This series is intended for graduate students and post-docs in science, math or engineering fields who are interested in learning about evidence-based teaching approaches to undergraduate teaching. Participants meet for an hour and a half over lunch or dinner once a week to watch short, engaging video lectures, discuss backward design and related teaching topics as they apply to the STEM classroom, and work in small groups to produce materials reflecting these evidence-based approaches.

Participants will form a learning community for the four weeks of the series and are therefore highly encouraged to register and attend every meeting. Each week tackles a different aspect of backward design (goal setting, assessment and active learning) and how to apply it in diverse college STEM classrooms, ending with an opportunity for reflection and feedback on the topics and materials we produce. Participants will engage in discussion stemming from videos and discussion led by CIRTL Fellow Susie Newcomb and will produce an individual portfolio of teaching materials with feedback from colleagues.

  • Learn from the experts. The series draws on a fantastic online course and set of resources developed by experts in STEM teaching from Universities across the country. Each session uses a curated set of videos and resources to enhance and support the discussion and guide the production of participants’ deliverables.


  • Become part of a community. The interactive nature of these sessions allows participants to meet and engage with like-minded colleagues. Bounce your ideas off other scientists and get specific feedback to help improve your teaching and frame your ideas about pedagogy. Network with other scientists who can support you in your future career!


  • Come away with a set of teaching materials. Teaching is a hands-on and highly individual process. During the workshop series, participants with have the opportunity to produce a set of lesson planning materials that can serve future teaching opportunities or help to frame teaching statements. Working in discipline-specific groups, participants will generate a set of specific learning goals, aligned assessments and learning activities that would serve diverse STEM students.

2016-17 CIRTL Fellow and Facilitator


Susie Newcomb

Susie Newcomb

CIRTL Fellow

Susie is a PhD candidate in the department of Biological sciences and has been a fellow in the Center for Teaching and Learning hosting workshops on STEM teaching since 2014. Susie studied science education at Teachers College and has worked in the New York City public school system as a high school Biology and Chemistry teacher. Email:

Online Programs

How to get started:
We encourage STEM graduate students and postdocs to visit the CIRTL website to sign up (top right corner) and create a profile. Joining the CIRTL community is a great networking opportunity. You will be able to access online courses, resources, job postings, and the opportunities listed below.


CIRTL’s online courses and short courses on teaching and learning give graduate students and post-docs an interactive, synchronous, online learning experience led by faculty from CIRTL Network universities across the nation. CIRTL offers two MOOCs, each focused on different aspects of evidence-based STEM instruction. These MOOCs, designed and led by faculty across the country, are offered year-round.


CIRTL’s online workshops are tailored to helping graduate students and post-docs develop specific materials that can advance their teaching and research expertise. These workshops, led by faculty and staff from CIRTL institutions, cover a range of topics, like writing and implementing an individual development plan, and writing and refining teaching philosophy statements.

Learning Communities

CIRTL’s online learning communities give graduate students, post-docs, faculty, and staff a platform to make connections, share resources, and discuss new ideas. Learning Communities focus on issues of teaching and learning in STEM disciplines.


Weekly CIRTLCasts give current and future faculty the opportunity to learn about and discuss a wide range of topics related to STEM teaching and learning. Led by CIRTL Network faculty and staff, these online, synchronous events enable participants to dig deeper into issues of interest.

Journal Club

CIRTL’s journal club has monthly online, synchronous discussions about current research on teaching and learning in higher education.

Call for 2017-18 CIRTL Fellow

Applications due July 1, 2017.

Apply today

The CTL is accepting applications for the 2017-18 CIRTL Fellow through July 1, 2017. The CIRTL Fellow is an instrumental component of Columbia’s institutional partnership with the CIRTL network. This fellowship provides a leadership opportunity on campus, and a networking opportunity (exposure to STEM leaders across 43 institutions) for a select STEM graduate student.

Drawing on resources provided through the CIRTL network and Columbia’s CTL, the Fellow promotes and supports CIRTL activities on the Morningside and CUMC campuses, serves as a mentor to STEM peers during the year, hosts STEM teaching events, and leads STEM teaching and learning communities.

The CIRTL Fellow is expected to devote 50 hours per semester to the program, conducting a range of activities from September 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018. The Fellow earns a $5,000 stipend upon successful completion of all deliverables ($2,500 after each semester), and will be reimbursed for reasonable costs incurred in attending CIRTL events off campus.

This opportunity is limited to current Columbia University doctoral students in their seventh or earlier year in their program during 2017-18 and in academic good standing. Participation in this fellowship is contingent on written permission from the applicant’s sponsor or academic advisor.

Learn more about CIRTL Fellow activities and deliverables


Specific 2017-2018 activities and deliverables include:

  • Co-facilitating with CTL staff a STEM Teaching and Learning Community on Morningside campus in Fall 2017
  • Collaborating with CTL staff and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs on a Spring 2018 pedagogy course drawing on CIRTL resources
  • Mentoring Lead Teaching Fellows in STEM, helping them to integrate CIRTL resources into departmental programming
  • Promoting CIRTL opportunities at CTL campus events such as the CTL Open House and the Celebration of Teaching and Learning
  • Engaging in a teaching-as-research (TAR) project that would directly contribute to their doctoral research, professional development
  • Presenting TAR research at Columbia and at a CIRTL event.
  • Participating in CIRTL cross-network offerings as part of professional development when possible
  • Writing a summative report of activities

The CIRTL Fellow earns a stipend of $5,000 over the academic year ($2,500) per semester), and will be reimbursed for reasonable costs incurred in attending CIRTL events off campus.


To be eligible for the position, applicants must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Successful completion of the Lead Teaching Fellow program
  • STEM teaching experience
  • Availability for on-campus meetings and events during the 2017-2018 academic year
  • Seventh or earlier year and good academic standing in a STEM doctoral program


Susie Newcomb, CTL CIRTL Fellow, 2016 – 2017

Suzanna Klaf, CIRTL Institutional Leader

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