Students participate in "active learning" classrooms as part of the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) and the Active Learning Initiative (ALI). The ALI has awarded postdoctoral teaching fellowships to three departments at Cornell for the 2024-2027 term.

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ALI announces 2024-2027 postdoctoral fellowship recipients

Beginning in the fall semester of 2024, the Active Learning Initiative (ALI) will support three teaching postdoctoral fellows for the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the College of Engineering and the Departments of Physics and Mathematics, both in the College of Arts and Sciences, as part of the ALI’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Grant Program at Cornell.

The grants support a teaching postdoctoral fellow as they work with a team of faculty members in departments that want to take a more systematic or holistic approach to introducing active learning into their courses. 

“We are excited to have these funds to begin our work on revamping our program and finding the best ways to bring in more active learning,” said Susan Daniel, William C. Hooey Director and Fred H. Rhodes Professor of Chemical Engineering in the Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

ALI Postdoctoral Fellows have a Ph.D. in their respective disciplines and a strong interest in teaching. Throughout their appointment, they work closely with department faculty on course transformations to facilitate improvements in student learning. The fellowship involves helping faculty research, develop and implement new teaching materials and approaches across the department.

Since its founding in 2012, ALI has expanded its reach significantly on campus, supporting successful course transformations in 19 departments, including humanities, social sciences and STEM courses. From 2012-2022, ALI postdocs supported more than 100 faculty at Cornell as they incorporated active learning strategies into their courses.

Active learning strategies stress giving students time to process and discuss what they are learning and to practice and apply their knowledge to develop expertise and facility with the subject. With a goal of giving students more agency over their learning, the strategies emphasize designing innovative projects and assignments, including student-directed lab experiments, video assignments and semester-long projects.

The 2024-2027 fellowships are funded by college deans of participating departments, the provost's office, and by Alex and Laura Hanson '87, and supported by Cornell's Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and the Center for Teaching Innovation.

Recipients of the 2024-27 ALI Postdoctoral Fellowships are:

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

The Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering’s ALI grant will allow faculty to integrate inquiry-based learning across 11 required courses in its undergraduate curriculum.

With the updated courses will come more opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning to be integrated throughout the curriculum, and there will now be space for a new senior-level capstone design course which will be spread over two semesters. Some courses will provide new opportunities to use Cornell as a ‘living laboratory,’ in which assignments involve campus facilities and systems.

Synchronizing their new inquiry-based model with theory lessons and design problems will help students achieve a deeper level of learning and facilitate the development of more meaningful and sophisticated capstone projects directly linked to student career goals. 


With its 2024 funding, the Department of Mathematics aims to revolutionize the teaching and learning experience in four engineering mathematics courses which together serve 3,300 students annually. 

The department believes that introducing innovative teaching methods will foster a more engaging and effective learning environment, facilitating improved comprehension and concept retention. 

The department’s goals for its fellowship build on the work it began with the ALI in 2017 when it received a three-year grant to transform two introductory calculus courses and a proofs course. Together, these courses serve over 900 students a year. 

The department also plans to introduce active learning into lectures, discussion sections, and assignments using polling questions, interactive worksheets, and mini-projects with real-world applications. From there, it plans to transform two additional upper-level courses that serve as introductions to specific fields of mathematics.


The Department of Physics has collaborated with the ALI since 2012, beginning with its work to transform its introductory engineering sequence and followed by additional ongoing projects in the years since. 

Now, with its current grant, the department will build on its twelve-year investment into active learning pedagogies by redesigning its two Introductory Physics for Life Sciences (IPLS) sequences (four courses) to better support the diversity of the student population in terms of their math and physics preparation, majors, study habits, and high school backgrounds. 

Because these courses serve as the physical sciences graduation requirement for several colleges and their content and course materials are covered on the MCAT, they have a wide impact on students majoring in a variety of disciplines. 

The redesigned courses will implement active learning activities that focus on authentic biological examples that working biologists need to provide meaningful physical insight and foster their reasoning skills.

For full descriptions of the departments’ plans for their grants, see the Active Learning Initiative

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