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What is CIRTL?

CIRTLCIRTL is the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (pronounced SIR-TUL, more or less). CIRTL is comprised of 23 Research-1 institutions with a shared goal of improving the preparation of STEM graduate students and postdocs for careers that include college and university teaching.

As a CIRTL Institution, UMass Amherst graduate students and postdocs have two different kinds of opportunities:

(1) An array of on-line offerings that only students and postdocs at network institutions can take. These include full-semester courses, workshops, coffee hours, and the like. They are taught by members of each Network institution and hosted by CIRTL Central at UW Madison. These offerings are free to you, although the number of participants from each campus is limited. Credit can be arranged here at UMass.

(2) An array of on-campus events every semester. These will include short workshops and longer series.

Upcoming Events

Workshop: “Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment”
Presenter: Dr. Connie Chow

  • Details: Friday, February 26th, 2016, 12:00 - 1:00 pm. Location of the event will be provided upon registration (see link below)
  • Event Description: In our diverse university environment, understanding each student’s unique experience is essential to creating an inclusive and supportive classroom environment. In this interactive and dynamic workshop, Dr. Connie Chow will present several case studies and lead a discussion of how to incorporate these ideas in your courses. Case studies will address social and cultural barriers in STEM for undergraduate students, particularly those from underserved and underrepresented populations. Participants will work in small thematic groups and then share with the larger groups. Lunch will be provided.

    Dr. Connie Chow, a scientist and educator, infuses STEM with play, feminism and inclusion. She founded The-Exploratory ( to empower teachers and girls to bring science to life in Ghana. She's an associate lecturer in the Honors College at UMass Boston and a visiting social entrepreneur at the Center for Women's Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University.
  • To register: go here.

Workshop: Simple Solutions to the Top Five Student Complaints
Presenter: Dr. Johanna Yunker

  • Details: Monday, March 28th, 12-1:30pm, Location of the event to be provided upon registration (see link below)
  • Event Description: It's tempting to dismiss student complaints, such as "I'm bored..." But sometimes our students use these vague phrases in an attempt to express real frustrations about the learning process. This teaching workshop will expose some of the underlying reasons for common student complaints and suggest simple solutions that you can try in your next class. Co-sponsored by the Graduate School Office of Professional Development (OPD).
  • To register, go here.

Past Events

"Mentoring Training in STEM Disciplines," with Prof. Bennett Goldberg, Physics, Boston University

  • Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 12 PM to 1:30 PM
  • Details: Lunch at 11:45. The workshop begins promptly at noon. Please come early to help yourself to the complimentary lunch buffet before we begin.
  • Description: Are you ready to be a mentor to the undergraduate and graduate students in your lab?  Learn about good mentoring practices and practice your skills at this hands-on workshop developed at Boston University. Learn how to communicate effectively with your research team, both as a mentee and as a mentor, and how to build a mentor network.  Limited to 28 participants.
  • To register: go here.

“Crafting Writing Assignments in STEM”, with Professor Haivan Hoang, Director of the Writing Program, UMass Amherst

  • Tuesday, March 24, 2015, 12 PM to 1:30 PM
  • Details: Lunch at 11:45. The workshop begins promptly at noon. Please come early to help yourself to the complimentary lunch buffet before we begin.
  • Description: How do you create a writing assignment that engages the students, meets your learning goals, and won’t drive you insane to grade?  In this workshop, you’ll learn some guidelines for crafting effective writing assignments for your STEM classes.
  • To register: go here.

Panel discussion: “Teaching at a smaller institution - What it's like and how to get there”

  • Thursday, April 2, 2015, 11 AM to 1PM
  • Details: The workshop begins promptly at 11AM. Lunch will be provided in the middle of the event.
  • Description: Jobs at large research universities are scarce and not suited to all tastes. Think you might want to teach at a smaller institution but not really sure what it's like?  Come to our panel discussion to find out how faculty members at three different institutions spend their time, and learn what makes a successful job application and interview.  Our guests are Prof. Charlie Wiseman (Department of Computer Science and Networking, Wentworth Institute of Technology), Prof. Kimberly Hunter (Department of Biological Sciences, Salisbury University), and, via Skype, UMass alum Prof. Michael Stroud (Department of Psychology, Merrimack College).
  • To register: go here.

“Managing Your Digital Identity”

  • Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 12:00-1:30 pm
  • Description: In this new digital landscape, control over one?s online persona has become just as important as managing your in-person appearance. During this workshop, we will discuss the importance of taking control over your digital identity through various social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,, and more. By learning a few simple principles you will gain the skills necessary to create and maintain a professional and personable digital identity.This presentation will be followed by a presentation of Katy?s Teaching-As-Research project.

“Practitioner Project Description:  Studying Digital Illiteracy in the College Classroom”

  • Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 1:30-2:00 pm
  • Description: Digital literacy, defined as the skills and knowledge to create, evaluate, critically apply, navigate and leverage digital tools for professional use, is increasingly important within our modern Western society. Studies show that 77% of employers expect college graduates to have internet-based computer skills and will independently acquire new skills as technology changes. Despite this, universities do not prepare students with the necessary digital competencies or build student confidence. By embedding digital tools into our course curriculum, we can improve students’ digital literacy and confidence. 

This research examines digital literacy perception and digital abilities of undergraduate students in an introductory archaeology course (n=187), and assesses whether integration of new technology into the classroom improves learning and confidence. Findings from the study show that both teachers and students are overestimating their digital abilities, and that embedding basic digital skills into non-digital courses can be beneficial towards improving students’ abilities.

  • To register: go here.

“The Effects of Collaboration on Learning and Memory: Insights from Cognitive Psychology to Improve your Teaching”

  • Friday, October 30th, 12:00 - 1:30 pm
  • Description: In recent decades, group learning techniques have become widely popular across virtually all levels of education. As group learning techniques have become more commonly used, a growing number of researchers across a wide array of disciplines have started studying how peer collaboration affects student learning and development. This workshop will present an overview of key findings from cognitive psychology research on collaborative memory, which focuses on understanding how memory changes when people work together to remember information. Implications for educators who are interested in using collaborative learning techniques in their classrooms will be discussed.
  • To register: go here

"How to Make Team-Based Learning Work for You”, with Prof. Randall Phillis, Biology, UMass Amherst

  • Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 12PM to 1:30PM
  • Details: Lunch will be provided. Room Location will be provided upon registration.
  • Description: Team-based learning (TBL) is not only a major initiative at UMass, but is also a hot topic in universities and colleges across the nation. A TBL classroom looks very different than a typical classroom?the students work intensively in groups to tackle large problems, with guidance from the instructor. Prof. Randy Phillis will give us the rationale for this approach, describe how it is implemented, and show the impressive results from his own class. Come to this lively and fascinating workshop, and leave feeling ready to engage knowledgeably in conversation about TBL in that faculty job interview! Pre-registration is required for this event. Click the link below to register. Please register by November 5, 2015/
  • To register: go here

Levels of Engagement

You are welcome to participate in an occasional event, or to become more deeply engaged in the program. For the latter, there are three levels of participation, each resulting in a document of completion. For further information about the requirements for levels of participation in CIRTL, please see here.

CIRTL Associate Eligibility

To be designated a CIRTL Associate, you must participate in five (5) CIRTL events. Each on-campus CIRTL event will be designated as fulfilling one or more of the three CIRTL core ideas: “learning communities,” “evidence-based teaching” (called Teaching-As-Research on the CIRTL website) or “learning through diversity.” You must participate in at least one matching event for each core idea. More detail on each core idea can be found at

Instead of participating in five (5) on-campus events, Associates may:

  • Substitute one or two of the on-campus events with an online event from the CIRTL network. Some online courses have designations to indicate the core idea they cover; others may serve as electives.
  • Participate in three (3) on-campus events and a longer online module or course offered at Approval for this substitution should be obtained in advance from the UMass CIRTL co-leaders, Tilman Wolf and Beth Jakob (email ).
  • Replace a CIRTL event with an appropriate on-campus non-CIRTL event. Approval for this substitution must also be obtained in advance by the co-leaders.

There are no time constraints for completing these requirements; they may be completed in a single semester or spread over years. You are responsible for keeping track of your own participation in CIRTL events and for notifying the co-leaders when you have completed the mandatory five events.

The CIRTL events and the pillars they align are below. If you believe you have completed the CIRTL Associate requirements as based on this table, please contact for verification.

Date Event Title Learning Communities Teaching As Research Learning Through Diversity


Preparing for Teaching at Different Types of Institutions



Top Ten Teaching Mistakes



Preparing Your Teaching Statement



The Integration of Team-Based Learning within STEM courses



Effective College Teaching in STEM Disciplines (Brent and Felder workshop)



Large Lecture Strategies



Dealing with Difficult Students Panel



Preparing Your Teaching Statement



Prof. Buju Dasgupta: Mind Bugs: How Implicit Bias Affects Teaching and Learning



Prof. Mohamed Noor: Productive Professor or Foibling Faculty? Starting Your New Academic Position Right



Prof. Bennett Goldberg: Mentoring Training in STEM Disciplines





Prof. Haivan Hoang: Crafting Writing Assignments in STEM



Panel Discussion: Teaching at a smaller institution - What it's like and how to get there



Managing Your Digital Identity



The Effects of Collaboration on Learning and Memory: Insights from Cognitive Psychology to Improve your Teaching

X X  


How to Make Team-Based Learning Work for You

X X  


Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment

X   X


Simple Solutions to the Top Five Student Complaints



Contact us!
If you have any questions, feel free to email us at .

CIRTL Personnel

Institutional Co-Leaders:
Gabriela Weaver, Director of the Institute for Teaching Excellence & Faculty Development
John McCarthy, Dean of the Graduate School
Sarah Pociask, Postdoc, Institute for Teaching Excellence & Faculty Development

Faculty Co-Leaders:
Elizabeth Jakob, Department of Psychology
Tilman Wolf, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Advisory Board

Lynn Adler, Department of Biology
Magdalena Bezanilla, Department of Biology
Robert Hallock, Department of Physics
Ryan Hayward, Department of Polymer Science
Jim Kurose, Department of Computer Science
Jennifer Normanly, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Barbara Osborne, Department of Veterinary & Animal Science
J. Mohan Rao, Department of Economics
Susan Roberts, Department of Chemical Engineering
Richard Vachet, Department of Chemistry


National Science Foundation
The Center for Teaching & Faculty Development
The Graduate School
College of Natural Sciences
College of Engineering
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences


© 2016 University of Massachusetts Amherst