New Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning opens in fall

Herbie Lee, Vice Provost Academic Affairs (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Starting this fall, our campus will open a new Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning (CITL), and we are looking for a Senate faculty member to be its founding director.

Historically, universities have had teaching centers where faculty and graduate students could go for advice on teaching. Our CITL is part of a national change in higher education culture to focus more on aspects of learning. The reason for teaching is for students to learn. Thus it makes sense to shift our perspective to focus on learning, and to see teaching as a critical piece in facilitating learning.

The educational literature has much research on the concept of “backward design.” The idea is to start by defining the learning objectives for the course. What does the instructor expect students to know by the end of the course? These could be skills, such as textual analysis, laboratory technique, or voice skills in theater; or these could be facts, such as the history of social movements or the physical laws of electricity. Once the instructor has defined the learning goals, then the rest of the course is explicitly designed to teach and assess those goals. Thus the syllabus would cover the topics needed to reach those goals. Quizzes and exams would be written to focus on measuring learning related to those goals. And, the instructor would determine modes of instruction and teaching methods to help students reach those goals. The point of the course is to help students learn and to achieve those learning goals.

The backward design approach is in contrast to the traditional approach of first deciding what topics will be covered, then writing exams relative to those topics, and finally describing student learning in terms of a list of topics from the syllabus, rather than a coherent set of goals at the core of the course.

Within a framework of student learning, CITL will partner with a wide range of other campus units to provide both traditional and forward-looking teaching support. CITL will provide traditional confidential one-on-one mentoring and teaching feedback, and it will facilitate teaching assistant development, classroom cultural competency training, and assessment of student learning.

CITL will be a resource for faculty who want to learn about the latest best practices in teaching and about new technologies that can be incorporated into their teaching to improve student learning. It will facilitate the sound pedagogical use of technology-enhanced instruction. There are plans to bring back faculty grants for work that improves student learning.

Applications are now being accepted for the founding director’s position with an initial review date of April 26, 2016:

Inquiries and suggestions are welcome to me at