Teaching future faculty how to teach at the CTL

A group of CTL staff and teaching fellows pose outside the library.
The Graduate and Postdoctoral Teaching Development staff and the McDougal Graduate Teaching Fellows at the Center for Teaching and Learning gather in the Selin Courtyard in Sterling Memorial Library.

With the recent addition of a new director and several resources, Yale’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is helping to prepare the next generation of educators by working with graduate and professional school students and postdocs to develop their teaching skills and practices.

The CTL supports graduate students, professional school students and postdocs through a range of programming that aims to improve the learning experience for Yale undergraduates, while also offering professional development to future faculty that will serve them well in their job search and teaching careers,” said Suzanne Young, director for graduate and postdoctoral teaching development at the CTL.

Young joined the department in May 2017 after serving as the associate director of Yale’s Center for Language Study for seven years. She brings a wealth of knowledge related to course design, teaching innovation, technology-enhanced teaching, and student engagement strategies to the CTL. Young works with Kaury Kucera, associate director for graduate and postdoctoral teaching development and Yale-CIRTL program director, and the center’s executive directors to develop programming and to collaborate with instructional technologists, faculty teaching-initiatives staff, and others.

McDougal Graduate Teaching Fellows

The CTL hires 20 McDougal Graduate Teaching Fellows each year to offer workshops, observe classroom teaching, and create learning communities around teaching. Young notes that the CTL helps graduate students to build a culture of teaching for their peers.

The Graduate Teaching Fellows join the CTL from a range of departments and disciplines and they are selected through an application process based on their commitment to teaching and their readiness to stretch beyond their own discipline,” said Young. 

These fellows, with their grounded understanding of Yale’s teaching culture, are the ideal guides for their peers, said Young. 

Our responsibility as graduate teaching fellows is to prepare other graduate students to become TFs (teaching fellows) within their own department,” said Larry Bowman, a current McDougal Graduate Teaching Fellow and a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology. “We help our peers develop professionally by providing them with numerous workshops, forums, and consultations.”

Spring Teaching Forum

While Young is new to the CTL, many of the programs devoted to graduate and professional school students and postdocs date back to the Graduate Teaching Center in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the Center for Scientific Teaching  —  both integrated into the CTL in 2014. 

One example of programming that has stood the test of time is the Spring Teaching Forum. The forum, organized by CTL Fellows, has historically addressed timely pedagogical discussions on campus. Past forums have focused on the joys of teaching, the grading process, the impact of technology, and the value of diversity in teaching and learning.

Last spring, the CTL hosted the 19th annual Spring Teaching Forum with a focus on civic concern in teaching and learning,” said Kucera. “The day-long event was organized by CTL fellows, and it drew participants from across the university — including faculty, postdocs, and graduate students — to discuss how to extend teaching beyond the walls of the classroom.”

Young and Kucera work with the fellows to develop topics for the Fundamentals of Teaching and Advanced Teaching workshop series each year. These workshops take place throughout the academic year and are led by the fellows. Topics for this fall include: using technology-enabled classrooms, understanding the peer observation process, preparing and delivering an effective lecture, understanding gender dynamics in the classroom, and and developing inclusive assessment practices.

A welcoming environment for all

‘Gender in the Classroom’ aims to discuss issues of gender in the academy, and will also give graduate students some practical strategies for making their class a more welcoming environment for all students,” said Usha Rungoo, a sixth year Ph.D. candidate in French studies and African American studies and a McDougal Graduate Teaching Fellow. “I think it is important to incorporate empathy and inclusivity at every step of my teaching, and I want to share that philosophy with fellow graduate students and postdocs.”

Yale joined the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CITTL) Network, a consortium of research institutions from across the United States that develops training programs to improve STEM teaching and research mentoring, in 2016. These online resources have allowed the CTL to significantly expand teaching development to postdoctoral fellows at Yale who may not be actively teaching during their time here, but who are interested in growing as teachers.

CIRTL offers Yale graduate students and postdoctoral fellows the opportunity to learn with, and from, peers and educational leaders nationally,” said Kucera. “This exposure is one of the most rewarding outcomes and is especially relevant for those preparing for jobs involving teaching and research mentoring at diverse U.S. institutions.”

While the CIRTL Network resources were originally developed with STEM education in mind, the resources and training opportunities are founded on evidence-based practices and are not exclusive to one topic or discipline. Two online courses are being taught from Yale this semester, including “Diversity in the College Classroom.”

A goal of the course, ‘Diversity in the College Classroom,’ is to explore the research literature to understand the ways that diversity affects learning,” said Jennifer Frederick, executive director of the CTL and a co-instructor of the CIRTL online class this semester. “We aim to help educators develop inclusive classroom strategies by starting with consideration of our own identities, examining research on bias, and building a community of inquiry focusing on ways diversity affects our teaching and students’ learning.”

New and ever-evolving resources

With ever-evolving workshops and new resources for teaching in the 21st century, the CTL is focused on providing graduate students and postdocs with opportunities to develop their teaching practices in a supportive environment, said Frederick.

We worked with thousands of graduate students, postdocs, and faculty last year on a variety of pedagogical initiatives and issues,” she said. “We look forward to seeing new faces and working with established partners to ensure that graduate students and postdocs feel welcome in the CTL.”

Campus & Community

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Patrick C. O'Brien: [email protected] , 203-430-3897