Advancing STEM Undergraduate Learning: Preparing the Nation's Future Faculty

TitleAdvancing STEM Undergraduate Learning: Preparing the Nation's Future Faculty
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsPfund C, Manske B, Austin AE, Connolly M, Moore K, Mathieu R
MagazineChange: The Magazine of Higher Learning
Issue Number6
Date Published12/2012
KeywordsCIRTL publication, Research and Evaluation
AbstractGraduate students and post-doctoral scholars at research universities will shape the future of undergraduate education in the natural and social sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the STEM disciplines) in the United States. In 2009 alone, more than 41,000 doctorates were awarded in STEM fields, and if employment trends hold, roughly one in every three STEM PhDs will become faculty or instructional staff within six years of receiving their degree.

Since almost 80 percent of doctoral students are trained at only 100 research universities, the graduate schools of these institutions are a critical leverage point for improving undergraduate STEM education across the country. If a significant fraction of these universities were to intentionally prepare future STEM faculty as teachers of undergraduates, they would seed the diverse array of undergraduate institutions across the country with thousands of faculty and instructional staff who both teach effectively and continually improve the teaching-learning process.

Here we share the story of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), its conceptual framework for the preparation of future faculty, and one example of a high-impact implementation: the Delta Program in Research, Teaching and Learning (Delta) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This story shows how institutions can provide aspiring academics with professional development opportunities in teaching and learning that are demonstrably effective and institutionally sustainable. In particular, it describes three core ideas that cultivate the knowledge, behaviors, and skills that future STEM faculty need in order to help generate undergraduate learning. Finally this story demonstrates that a combination of creative freedom, a sense of having a broader impact, and enhanced professional success will engage current faculty members, and thereby their universities, in this important national mission.