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To Prepare Future STEM Faculty, University of Missouri Joins National Network

CIRTL Network increases to 46 partners – more than doubling in five years

March 8th, 2016

Story Contact: Jeff Sossamon, 573-882-3346,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri has joined the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL). Established in 2003 with support from the National Science Foundation, CIRTL seeks to improve teaching skills and increase the diversity of future university faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“Historically, STEM graduate coursework has been focused on creating researchers in specific academic fields,” said Kitch Barnicle, executive director of the CIRTL Network. “New professors often face their first classes of students with little preparation in teaching. Our goal is to develop great researchers who also are great teachers.”

CIRTL stresses the use of successful, evidence-based strategies proven to promote active learning and to help STEM students from all backgrounds succeed and complete their degrees. Teaching strategies include: connecting classroom topics to real-world situations, promoting inclusive learning, encouraging teamwork through shared projects and study groups, continually assessing student progress and using research skills to advance effective teaching practices.

Peter Motavalli, a professor in the Department of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences in the School of Natural Resources at MU, will serve as MU’s director of CIRTL. Motavalli says signing on with this one-of-a-kind national learning community provides each member institution great value.

“According to research, students often leave STEM degree programs due to ineffective teaching,” Motavalli said. “CIRTL learning communities can target the next generation of STEM faculty members in graduate school because 80 percent of PhDs are granted by just 100 research universities.”

Mizzou is among 25 intuitions joining CIRTL during a recent expansion that more than doubles the network’s membership. CIRTL’s members commit to developing local learning communities that promote proven teaching and mentoring techniques for STEM graduate students.

“It is an honor to welcome such a distinguished institution as the University of Missouri to our network,” said Robert Mathieu, director of CIRTL. “We are excited MU is joining with other top research universities dedicated to strengthening the teaching skills of our nation’s future STEM faculty.”

With 46 graduate universities now part of the network, CIRTL foresees better prepared and more diverse STEM faculty members working across thousands of colleges and universities due to the training and support of CIRTL local and national learning communities.

“We are connecting the university learning communities online, so graduate students have a far more diverse experience in higher education than just their own campus,” says Mathieu, director of CIRTL. “So a student at the University of Missouri also can learn about teaching from another student or professor at Howard University, for instance.”

The project is operated within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the highly ranked UW–Madison School of Education and supported by the National Science Foundation, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.