CU joins national center to improve college STEM teaching


As a result of a competitive application process, Cornell has accepted the invitation to join the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) Network, an elite national organization that aims to produce better university teachers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The objective of the center, which has 25 institutional members, is to provide doctoral students with better tools to teach in STEM fields. Each participating university will build a program on its campus, and the network of schools will share teaching methods, success stories and key techniques to better prepare those graduate students with the skills needed to be successful teachers in the classroom.

Participation in the CIRTL Network will enable Cornell to focus its efforts on the university's strategic goals -- specifically, a strong and comprehensive graduate and postdoctoral education program, a commitment to excellence in teaching and a focus on public service, said Barbara Knuth, vice provost and dean of the Cornell Graduate School.

"Our involvement will provide benefits for our graduate students and postdocs through interactions with the learning communities on our campus and in the diverse CIRTL Network campuses," Knuth said. "We also anticipate benefits among our faculty on campus who choose to be part of the Cornell-CIRTL learning community, through increased opportunities to interact and collaborate on issues related to teaching, mentoring and learning."

Cornell will kick off its participation by sending representatives -- Knuth; Susan Henry, former dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and faculty leader on the proposal to join the CIRTL Network; Theresa Pettit, director of Cornell's Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE); and Jill Cohen, a doctoral candidate in the field of natural resources -- to the 2011 CIRTL Forum, Oct. 9-10 in Madison, Wis.

In recent years, academic leaders on campus have identified training in teaching, and the role it plays in both learning and in synergism with research, as a primary focus, Knuth said. CTE, for example, supports early-career professorial staff in teaching including active learning, application of technology and the integration of research and teaching (including using teaching itself as a research tool). CTE also provides a certificate in teaching, designed especially for junior faculty but open to all faculty, and trains teaching assistants in pedagogical techniques, offering certificate and fellowship programs for graduate students committed to teaching excellence Knuth said.

"We view involvement in the CIRTL Network to be a perfect match for our long-term institutional goal of providing the best possible integrated teaching and research faculty to the national professoriate," Knuth said.

CIRTL is funded by the National Science Foundation.


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