Rice joins organization focused on teaching in STEM fields

Rice University is one of 25 research universities that are new members of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), a national initiative to increase the number and diversity of graduates in the STEM fields.

0307_STEMCIRTL was established in 2003 with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve the teaching skills and diversity of future university faculty members in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The center is operated within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) in the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Education.

With the addition of Rice and other new members like Yale, Columbia and Northwestern universities, CIRTL’s membership includes 46 research universities that produce one-third of U.S. doctoral degrees in STEM majors.

“Through our involvement in CIRTL, Rice is excited to continue our efforts for graduate students, to support educational initiatives and to contribute to the national conversation about effective teaching in STEM disciplines,” said Joshua Eyler, director of Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence. Improving education is one of Rice’s ongoing priorities.

As CIRTL members, universities commit to developing local learning communities that promote proven teaching and mentoring techniques for their STEM graduate students.

“The Center for Teaching Excellence, the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and faculty are all collaborating to develop Rice’s CIRTL offerings,” Eyler said.

Robert Mathieu, director of CIRTL and WCER, said education research has shown that ineffective teaching often is the reason students leave STEM degree programs. “Knowing this, and that 80 percent of the Ph.D. students in the nation are educated at only 100 research universities, we realized the huge leverage and potential impact of training graduate students to become effective teachers before they become STEM faculty members,” he said.

CIRTL stresses the use of evidence-based strategies proven to promote active learning and help STEM students from all backgrounds succeed and complete their degrees. Teaching strategies include connecting classroom topics to real-world situations, promoting inclusive learning, encouraging teamwork through shared projects and study groups, continually assessing student progress and using research skills to advance effective teaching practices. CIRTL’s member universities also develop their own programs, all built on the CIRTL core ideas of teaching-as-research, learning communities and learning-through-diversity.

The project is supported by the NSF, Great Lakes High Education Corporation and Affiliates and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.