University of Rochester

New Grant Will Help to Prepare the Next Generation of Science and Engineering Professors

October 10, 2013

A national collaboration, which includes the University of Rochester, has won a $5 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to continue to develop young scientists into science and engineering professors who will excel in the classroom as well as the lab.

Ten years ago, the national collaboration called the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) set out to prepare the next generation of science, technology, engineering and math professors to be as bold and creative in the classroom as they are in their programs of research. The University of Rochester joined CIRTL, creating its own CIRTL community, in 2011, and since that time, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows at the University of Rochester have benefitted from both online and local courses, workshops, seminars, and discussions related to teaching and learning. With this new NSF funding, 7,000 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are expected to benefit from being a part of CIRTL learning communities nationwide. These future faculty will learn to implement and advance high-impact, evidence-based learning and teaching practices, which will greatly benefit our next generation of undergraduate STEM students.

"Learning how to be an effective teacher is fundamentally important to the professional development of our graduate students, and CIRTL, through the collaboration of 22 institutions across the country, provides an expanded portfolio of options for our students to learn about different facets of teaching and learning," said Wendi Heinzelman, dean of graduate studies for arts, sciences and engineering at the University. Through both online and on-campus events, CIRTL provides graduate students at the University of Rochester the opportunity to learn about how to improve traditional means of teaching, such as teaching in large lecture format, as well as state-of-the-art teaching, such as online courses. "Additionally, CIRTL provides opportunities to explore other aspects of teaching and learning beyond fundamental pedagogy, such as the importance of mentoring, how to engage a diverse population, and how to balance one's professional and personal lives."

"In addition to supporting our local CIRTL community, the University of Rochester will be contributing to the national network by sharing our expertise in small-group collaborative problem solving, in online homework systems, and in teaching students with disabilities," explained Vicki Roth, director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL). CETL promotes excellence in both teaching and learning through a range of programs for faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students and will oversee the local CIRTL community.

"Fundamentally, the future faculty of the nation lies in today's graduate students," said Professor Robert Mathieu of the University of Wisconsin Madison, the director of the CIRTL network. "If we can enhance their graduate preparation in teaching, we can advance undergraduate learning across the entire nation."

The new funding will allow extensive cross-network engagement and online learning among the 22 universities, as well as develop infrastructure necessary for further national expansion. As a result, graduate students will have extensive opportunities to learn from faculty and students with diverse experiences in student populations, university cultures and locations.

The grant is the third major NSF award in the past decade to develop and expand the CIRTL Network.