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  • Nidhi Chopdekar

Everything you need to know about CETL

Updated: Nov 3

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Virginia Tech assists faculty with the creation, development, and implementation of learner-centered instruction. They support the faculty in enhancing their student performance by implementing research-based teaching strategies and student-centered design principles. One of their goals is to help faculty be recognized and celebrated for innovation and excellence in teaching. Graduate students and postdoctoral associates also have access to professional development opportunities in teaching and learning offered by CETL. Through an integrative and practical approach, Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering (COE) aims at supporting learner-centered instruction. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech has supported the College of Engineering with numerous projects. Some of the major contributions include formulation of the Interdisciplinary Design Capstone curriculum approach through the center's instructional grant program and various productive work sessions for both Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Innovation Campus to develop the Project-Based Learning (PBL) curriculum for MEng in ECE and Computer Science.



CETL
CETL. Photo / Nidhi Chopdekar


Scot Ransbottom from the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who has engaged with CETL on multiple occasions, described how helpful the people at CETL have been to him:


“I’ve had the great fortune to work with the CETL team for many different situations. Kim Filer and her team plan and coordinate the WPI Project Based Learning workshop each year... The workshops provide education and guidance on how to do PBL, but Kim and her team are absolutely willing and engaged to jump in with specific groups and help identify specific approaches or tactics to implement and realize very discrete objectives. Kim helped the COE level Interdisciplinary working group to orchestrate and conduct a set of pilot courses for VT to achieve an Interdisciplinary Design Capstone course sequence with multiple engineering departments... In addition to Kim, Liesl Baum has been a dedicated and tireless partner to help ECE extend our two-semester, team-based, industry sponsored major design experience to support the Masters of Engineering program and the emerging Innovation Campus where graduates students can collaborate to solve realistic and meaningful projects. Liesl is also helping to re-envision assessment for the MDE program to employ a performance review approach while ensuring students get all the feedback they need to grow and learn from their experiences.”


One of the research-based teaching strategies that CETL supports is project-based learning, which is a method of engaging students in authentic, real-world challenges over a period of time. Due to its success in fostering learning, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking, it is regarded as a high-impact activity. David Gray, a collegiate assistant professor in the College of Engineering who has found great help from PBL said,


“From in-depth Mid-Semester Classroom Feedback to the Principles of Effective Teaching Certificate to hosting the WPI PBL workshops, CETL has shaped and honed my teaching craft from the beginning of my career at Virginia Tech. These fundamental programs allowed me to engage with experts and with my peers to understand and practice principles of effective pedagogy in my various teaching spaces. More recently, CETL has empowered me through grants and advice to explore new methods of engagement with my students, and new ways of providing the best education that I can for my students' success.”


CETL’s Principles of Effective Teaching Certificate offers professors the chance to engage in learning and developing practical knowledge and abilities. The program offers a community of learners and a support system for professors so they can develop as educators. The center's employees, professors, and instructional specialists from around the university will collaborate with the participants. In addition to providing certification services, CETL has also aided in personal development of faculty members in terms of improving teaching effectiveness. Robin Ott from the Department of Mechanical Engineering expressed her personal experiences on the guidance she received from the center that honed her teaching skills as a new faculty member at Virginia Tech:


“... I eventually learned about the Virginia Tech CETL (it was CIDER at the time) and quickly signed up for the Principles of Effective Teaching Certificate Program. In that program, faculty met weekly for a year under the leadership of a CETL employee, learning about important factors to consider when teaching, and hearing examples and tips from colleagues. After that year I felt significantly more prepared to be a teacher. I think all new faculty should be required to take that class whether they are career academics or new Collegiate Faculty or Professors of Practice. Since then I’ve reached out to the CETL team often for guidance on different topics and truly appreciated their eagerness to help...”


More about CETL


Supporting experiential learning at Virginia Tech and enhancing student learning through research-based teaching strategies and student-centered design are two of CETL’s main goals. To meet the needs of the faculty, CETL provides a variety of specialized services, including consulting, workshops, certificates, and annual conferences. The Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy™ presents cutting-edge pedagogical theory and research in higher education. Disciplinary and transdisciplinary educational practices, outcomes, and research are covered in the conference sessions. Approximately 500 faculty members and instructors in higher education who are committed to excellent teaching attend the conference each year at Virginia Tech. The conference welcomes faculty members from colleges and universities both across the country and internationally to participate in seminars, practice sessions, and research sessions focused on teaching excellence.


Tiffany Shoop, who is the Director of Special Programs at CETL, said that one of her favorite parts of working at the center is getting to meet so many faculty members from across the university, including the College of Engineering, and learning about the engaging academic experiences they provide for our students at Virginia Tech.


“Centers for teaching and learning are a critical component of institutes of higher education because they impact so many key players in the faculty and student experience. Through the opportunity to engage with faculty in an effort to improve their teaching, their teaching experience, and the learning experiences of the students, the CETL has been able to refine the practice of professional development for individuals and more broadly impact the culture of teaching and learning at Virginia Tech. To see this work in action, firsthand, and to work with faculty who are so dedicated to this aspect of their work is so rewarding”, said Liesl Baum, the Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives at CETL.


One of the most recent programs at CETL is the Bridge Experience Program for undergraduate students in order to provide them various opportunities for place-based experiential learning and help them gain the skills and abilities they need to succeed in their future endeavors. In short, it is a ‘bridge’ between a student’s academic life and professional life. Furthermore, CETL provides Instructional Consultations to faculty members that are customized to their courses and instructional environment. This includes assistance with planning a new course, building a syllabus, and designing assignments. Another service offered by CETL is called the Course Design Clinic that provides faculty with focused support to plan a new course. The objective is to mentor faculty members through rigorous instructional design that incorporates assignment-based evaluation, active learning strategies, and inclusive course design tactics. Similarly, CETL also provides Program/Departmental Consulting for customized services like curriculum mapping, workshops, certifications, and support for new initiatives. Additionally, they also provide Mid-Semester Feedback for faculty who wish to receive structured feedback from students regarding the functionality of the class and the quality of student learning. Faculty can also request Teaching Observations, where a center staff will provide feedback and suggestions, along with a written summary for potential improvements in a follow-up meeting. Moreover, several types of funding opportunities are available to meet the needs of faculty through the Instructional Grant Programs.


For more information about CETL and its services, visit https://teaching.vt.edu/


Meet the people at CETL





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