NSF-Sponsored Program Supports Teaching Development for STEM Grad Students and Postdocs

January 21, 2014

Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines will have a new array of teaching development programs and resources through UMass Amherst’s involvement in the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) Network.

Headquartered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the CIRTL Network’s mission is to enhance undergraduate education by better preparing STEM graduate students for successful careers that include innovative and effective teaching of diverse student learners.

The CIRTL Network was founded in 2006 to address a nationally recognized problem – the inadequate preparation of STEM graduate students to assume their future roles as teachers. The network has since grown from six universities to 22, including UMass Amherst. Recently, the network received a three-year, $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, which marks a critical junction in the effort to develop a national faculty exposed to CIRTL’s core ideas: evidence-based teaching, the creation of learning communities, and learning through diversity.

“Participation in CIRTL should give our graduate students and postdocs a competitive advantage on the job market, and will help prepare them for their transition into their faculty careers," says John McCarthy, vice provost for Graduate Education and dean of the Graduate School.

UMass Amherst graduate students and postdocs are now eligible to participate in a wide range of online courses, workshops and coffee hours taught or facilitated by faculty from other CIRTL Network institutions. There will also be several on-campus events organized by UMass Amherst faculty every semester, including short workshops and longer series. Events range from focusing on particular classroom techniques to strategies for the job market. Three workshops have already been held, and three more are scheduled for the spring semester. Graduate students and postdocsmay take part in occasional on- or off-campus CIRTL programs according to their interests and needs, or become more deeply engaged andreceive a document of completion. All programs, both on-campus and online, are free.

The campus co-leaders of CIRTL are McCarthy and Mary Deane Sorcinelli, associate provost and director of the Center for Teaching and Faculty Development. The faculty co-leaders are Elizabeth Jakob, professor of psychology, and Tilman Wolf, professor of electrical and computer engineering. Sponsorship of CIRTL is provided by the Center for Teaching and Faculty Development, the Graduate School, and the colleges of Natural Sciences, Engineering, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

For information about CIRTL programming, visit the Center for Teaching and Faculty Development’s website. For other inquiries, contact the CIRTL team at cirtl@psych.umass.edu.