A brightly lit and sleekly furnished hub for faculty and students alike is now stationed at the heart of Yale’s campus in Sterling Memorial Library, allowing an integration of previously scattered campus teaching and learning resources.
The new Center for Teaching and Learning, which opened on Jan. 11, is a consolidation of eight previously disparate Yale departments dedicated to initiatives that enhance faculty teaching and facilitate student learning. Before the CTL opened, these programs were spread out between two buildings on campus, 35 Broadway and the Hall of Graduate Studies, and the integration of these separate offices into one shared space has been hailed by students, faculty and center staff as an effective way to bring the center’s resources to the Yale community.
Since the idea was rolled out in July 2014, the center has begun initiatives aimed to help four University constituencies: undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral fellows and faculty. Undergraduate initiatives have focused on enhancing classroom learning through workshops and personal counseling, while initiatives for the other three groups target pedagogical strategies.
The Writing Center, formerly located at 35 Broadway, now shares the mezzanine level of the center overlooking York Street with the Academic Strategies Program. While the Writing Center provides writing tutoring and other resources to students, the Academic Strategies Program provides one-on-one consulting and hosts workshops on topics ranging from how to manage heavy reading loads to how to talk to professors. Both departments are designed primarily for undergraduates.
Director of the Academic Strategies Program Karin Gosselink touted the new CTL space as an improvement from the program’s former lodgings at 35 Broadway, citing expanded tutoring spaces and increased student awareness of its resources given the central location on campus. Gosselink added that the new tutoring rooms’ writable walls enhance creativity in a way that the old rooms did not.
However, with the opening of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges and the arrival of an expanded freshman class this fall, the center is prepared to consider expanding its resources to accommodate the increased demand, according to CTL communications officer Patrick O’Brien.
The center also equips graduate students with resources designed to assist their academic writing and encourage them to become future educators. The center hosts dissertation advising sessions and “boot camps” in which graduate students can write their dissertations in the company of their graduate peers.
The CTL also administers a collection of teaching grants and programs for graduate students, including the Digital Education Innovation Grant and the McDougal Graduate Teaching Fellows Program.
Tyler Smith GRD ’19, a molecular biophysics and biochemistry graduate student, is currently a McDougal fellow. As part of the McDougal program, he designs and leads teaching workshops for other graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
“I feel that Yale has been an incredibly supportive institution that encourages teaching excellence in its graduate students,” Smith said. “As I am considering my future career options, I’m highly considering teaching at a primarily undergraduate institution, and I have gotten a lot of support from the CTL and feel prepared to pursue that career path.”
The CTL provides postdoctoral researchers with a variety of opportunities to focus on and experiment with their teaching. The center issues a Certificate of College Teaching Preparation for postdocs who meet a set of teaching requirements, and it also administers the Helmsley Postdoctoral Teaching Scholars Program, which currently provides funding for four postdocs to explore innovative teaching approaches in STEM fields.
Faculty teaching resources also abound at the center. The center’s staff advise faculty on syllabus design, help them incorporate technology into their courses and host faculty lunches during which faculty members can share pedagogical ideas and learn from each other’s teaching methods. According to O’Brien, the initiatives are designed not to critique faculty teaching, but rather to create a “partnership” between faculty and the center.
Nancy Niemi, the CTL’s director of Faculty Teaching Initiatives, said that the unified space allows faculty to engage with teaching in innovative ways.
“A faculty member might visit us for a teaching and learning lunch event, and learn that the CTL also offers support with the new [Canvas] learning management system,” Niemi said. “Having classroom spaces and collegial resources available in one space makes it convenient for people to partner and work with us.”
As part of its faculty initiatives program, the CTL hosts an annual three-day conference called the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Science and Engineering Education. Assistant professor of chemistry Ziad Ganim, who attended the 2015 workshop, said he was able to bring ideas from the institute back to his classroom, incorporating computer lab components and visual roadmap overviews into his statistical mechanics course.
The center plans to host a series of faculty open house activities in the next two months to introduce faculty to the center’s space and services.