UArizona Joins Network Dedicated to Improving STEM Graduate Education

June 9, 2020   |   By University Communications

From University of Arizona News

The University of Arizona this fall will join a network of institutions in the United States and Canada dedicated to improving how graduate student and postdoctoral scholars are prepared for future faculty positions in STEM fields.

The university's membership in the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning was announced last week. The center is based at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin – Madison's School of Education.

CIRTL's member institutions are charged with developing learning communities where graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math – future faculty members of these disciplines – can learn STEM teaching practices that serve diverse undergraduate students.

The University of Arizona's membership will provide it access to network resources such as professional development opportunities, program evaluation guides, and online courses, workshops and events.

As a new member of CIRTL, the university will provide opportunities for graduate students to work on teaching projects with faculty in their disciplines, said Gail Burd, UArizona senior vice provost for academic affairs, teaching and learning and the institutional leader for the university's CIRTL partnership. Graduate students will also be trained to teach and assess student writing in STEM courses and will have opportunities to attend workshops on inclusive excellence in teaching and learning.

They also will be encouraged to join one of the university's Faculty Learning Communities, which meet several times each semester to talk about issues around teaching and learning.

“The University of Arizona provides excellent research training for future faculty in a variety of STEM disciplines,” said Burd, a Distinguished Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology. “Our goal for the CIRTL learning community is to apply our experience with faculty professional development in evidence-based teaching to scaffold graduate student and postdoctoral scholar development for excellence in teaching and learning.”

Frans Tax, a Distinguished Outreach Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, said UArizona, with its diverse student body and statuses as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and an American Indian and Alaska Native-Serving Institution, is “an ideal setting for training in inclusive excellence in teaching and learning.”

“The CIRTL community will introduce our future faculty, while they are still graduate students and postdocs, to the idea that there is a science to effective teaching,” said Tax, who is co-leader of the university's CIRTL partnership.

The five other new members are the University of Florida, the University of Houston, the University of Idaho, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. With the new additions, the network will include 43 institutions.

“Our newest member universities will bring an even greater diversity in the expertise that the network is giving our future faculty,” said CIRTL Director Robert Mathieu, a University of Wisconsin – Madison astronomy professor. “Several of our new partner institutions emphasize teaching indigenous students, while others contribute valuable experience serving students in urban multicultural environments.”