CIRCLE Fellowship program aims to spur sustainable classroom innovation​s

A new program is assisting faculty in their implementation of active-learning teaching strategies that can enhance student engagement and learning.

Supported by the Washington University in St. Louis AAU initiative to improve undergraduate STEM Education, the CIRCLE Fellows program is a collaboration between Washington University STEM faculty, Teaching Center faculty developers, and Center for the Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning and Education (CIRCLE) researchers.

Its main goal is cultivating innovative teaching that spurs sustainable, evidence-based transformation of the university’s classrooms and curricula.

“With this program, we are finally getting the faculty to talk about teaching,” said Richard Loomis, PhD, associate professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences and a 2014-16 CIRCLE scholar.

“Ten years ago, nobody was discussing teaching, and now we have a conversation going on — not only in the [chemistry] department, but across departments and even between universities,” Loomis said.

With the understanding that introductory coursework is crucial in the retention of STEM majors and that active-learning approaches deepen student learning, the first two cohorts of CIRCLE Fellows are faculty who teach the introductory course in biology (Biology 2960) and faculty who teach the introductory chemistry course (Chemistry 111) — one of the first STEM courses students take when they arrive on campus in the fall.

CIRCLE Fellows for 2013-2015 are Barbara Kunkel, PhD, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences; and John Majors, PhD, associate professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biophysics in the School of Medicine. In addition to Loomis, Megan Daschbach, PhD, lecturer in chemistry, is also a 2014-2016 CIRCLE Fellow.

For more information, visit the Teaching Center website​.