A semester into having its own centralized space on campus, the Center for Teaching and Learning has grown in resources, offerings and usage.
Formed in 2014, the center used to run eight programs in seven different spots across Yale’s campus. Today, with most of its programs under one roof and equipped with high-tech classrooms, recording studios and meeting spaces, the center occupies 35,000 square feet of the Sterling Memorial Library. Since the relocation, the center has introduced multiple new initiatives and has seen increased interest in already existing programs, according to Jennifer Frederick GRD ’99, the center’s executive director.
“We can now showcase teaching in modern classrooms, we can host numerous workshops and seminars, and we can collaborate as a center to meet the needs of faculty, postdocs, graduate and professional school students, and undergraduates,” Frederick said. “Our highly visible location in the heart of campus has increased our interaction with the entire Yale community.”
Alfred Guy, director of undergraduate writing and tutoring at the center and an assistant dean of academic affairs, said that the new center has allowed the writing program to better integrate with the STEM tutoring program and an academic strategies program, which has “made all three programs better.”
He noted that, while the center’s undergraduate tutors maintain a presence in all residential colleges — including the newly opened Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin colleges — since the opening of the new center more students have visited the center itself to take advantage of the tutoring program’s various resources.
“Our goal is not just to help with the current project but also to give students strategies and habits that will linger,” he said.
Moving forward, Guy said, the center’s staff would like to examine the impact of the tutoring services on students’ performance in their courses.
According to Nancy Niemi, the director of faculty teaching initiatives for the center, the center’s relocation also facilitated the introduction of more projects targeting faculty members, such as the Faculty Teaching Academy and the Summer Institute on Course (Re)design, which took place in May and attracted more than 50 instructors.
“We have more opportunities to collaborate and listen to the needs of our faculty, students and staff,” she said. “Our space is a strong signal to the campus, and the world, that we are dedicated to achieving President Salovey’s goal of being the research university most committed to teaching and learning.”
Lucas Swineford, the center’s executive director of digital education, said the center has “welcomed partnerships” with departments and faculty members, who now have the option of holding office hours and classes in the center’s spaces on a semester-by-semester basis.
Classrooms in the center are equipped with new technology, such as mobile media stations, motion-tracking cameras and even speakers for enhanced sound, according to the center’s website.
Alison Coleman, who is teaching her English 114 seminar, “(Re)Defining Family,” in one of the center’s classrooms this semester, said she felt “very fortunate” to have been given access to the space.
Coleman said she was struck by “the buzz of intellectual activity” at the center, both in the common spaces and the classrooms, which she described as “beautifully designed to support teaching and learning.”
She added that students in her class will also use the center’s film studio to create TV-style author interviews as part of their last assignment.
“The fact that [the center] is right in the library, and right at the physical heart of campus, only adds to its value in bringing Yale’s academic community together,” she said. “I often find myself staying after my class session to write in the common areas on the ground floor, and it is really inspiring to see all the different ways that students and faculty are making use of the space.”
Graduate school programs have also benefited from the relocation, said Elena Kallestinova, director of the Graduate Writing Laboratory, which is now located in the center’s space.
Kallestinova said the relocation of the laboratory has allowed graduate writing consultants to design interactive workshops within the center’s classrooms. She added that the new space also allowed the lab to hold more “writing retreats” — study halls and dissertation boot camps that saw more than a 25 percent increase in student attendance last year.
Hannah Lant GRD ’21, a McDougal graduate teaching fellow, noted that the center’s relocation has improved its visibility on campus. She added that it has also helped teaching fellows with planning, as they have become well acquainted with the classrooms in the center.
“These spaces are … a physical embodiment of [the center’s] principles,” Lant said. “They are built to be highly modular, allowing for the kind of collaboration and peer discussion we deem central to both cognitive process and in establishing community.”
Yana Bebieva GRD ’19, also a McDougal graduate teaching fellow, said the new location, with its open study spaces, makes the center a great place for fellows to work and solicit feedback from more senior members.
Moving forward, Frederick said, the center will “continue to evolve” to meet academic needs on campus.
“Instead of just tinkering with part of a teaching system here and there, we can work holistically with departments and programs to better understand and meet their needs, from student learning services and graduate student training to faculty teaching support and digital resources,” she said.
Before 2014, the Center for Teaching and Learning existed only as a web-based resource for students.
Anastasiia Posnova | firstname.lastname@example.org