Fewer than 40% of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree, if they graduate at all. The loss is particularly acute among both women and underrepresented students: those from low-income backgrounds, students of color and students who are first in their families to attend college.
Many talented students leave STEM fields in spite of their academic abilities. Often, uneven quality of teaching is the most significant reason for making the switch. The unfortunate reality is that most new STEM faculty devoted their graduate training to research. Their first experience in front of a classroom doesn't come until after they have accepted a teaching position.
The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) improves the quality of undergraduate STEM education by preparing STEM graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to become both great researchers and great teachers. This network of 41 major research universities across 22 states, the District of Columbia and British Columbia is training the nation's future STEM faculty in evidence-based teaching and mentoring techniques.
CIRTL teaching strategies are based on proven research showing that student persistence increases when faculty promote active learning, connect classroom topics to real-world situations, promote an inclusive learning environment, encourage teamwork and continually assess their students' learning.
In 2014 we committed $3.2 million to help CIRTL offer its training model at 22 pilot universities. As of October 2017, 20 of the pilot universities institutionalized the program and have committed to remain in the CIRTL Network through 2022.
Nearly 8,000 future STEM faculty have been trained to use CIRTL's proven teaching and mentoring methods as part of this initiative. Of that group, over 1,100 have put CIRTL's methods into practice, earning them recognition as STEM Practitioners and Scholars. More than 100 of these future STEM faculty have published research or reported on CIRTL's teaching methods. "Teaching-as-Research" projects have proven to be so effective for undergraduates that CIRTL expanded the method to graduate students.
Up to 80% of STEM doctorate degrees in the United States are granted at only 100 research universities, and CIRTL Network institutions currently graduate about 20% of the nation's new faculty each year. Because this work is touching such a large share of newly minted instructors, we expect it to have a significant impact. Supported by Great Lakes funding, CIRTL is progressing toward its goal of growing the network to 50 universities or more. We hope the remaining research universities will adopt the successful CIRTL model and truly shape the future of undergraduate STEM education.
"Great Lakes is proud to support the expansion of the CIRTL Network," said Richard D. George, president and chief executive officer of Great Lakes. "This work can transform undergraduate education—with more women and underrepresented populations earning STEM degrees."
Learn more about the CIRTL Network and its approach at cirtl.net.
Contact Senior Program Officer Sue Cui at firstname.lastname@example.org.