00:00 AM

NSF grant helps Pitt’s next generation STEM faculty prepare for teaching in the classroom

PITTSBURGH  (September 16, 2013) ... The national experiment to develop a new generation of college science and engineering faculty, one equipped to excel in the classroom as well as the lab, is about to shift into high gear. The  Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL)  has received a three-year, $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. As one of CIRTL's 22 member institutions, the University of Pittsburgh will participate in the NSF grant through the auspices of the Swanson School of Engineering's  Engineering Education Research Center (EERC)

Ten years ago, CIRTL set out to prepare the next generation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics professors to be as bold and creative in the classroom as they are in their programs of research. With this NSF funding, 7000 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows will be part of CIRTL learning communities at 22 major research universities in the CIRTL Network. These future faculty will learn to implement and advance high-impact, evidence-based learning and teaching practices.

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

A foundational CIRTL concept is that improving one's teaching boils down to the key question "What have my students learned?" This question, Mathieu argues, can be addressed in each classroom by the experimental method familiar to scientists: hypothesis generation, experiment, observation, analysis and improvement, and approach known as "teaching-as-research".

The new funding will allow extensive cross-Network engagement and online learning between 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. "Our graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are well trained to engage in world-class research; however, many do not have the skills for teaching in the STEM classroom. This NSF grant provides opportunities for graduate student and post-doctorate fellows to gain evidence-based learning and teaching practices that will enhance their future careers in academia," says Associate Professor Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Director of the Engineering Education Research Center, the PI of the Pitt-based CIRTL. 

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


Contact: Paul Kovach