The Caltech Center for Teaching, Learning, & Outreach
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Center for Teaching, Learning, & Outreach
Spring 2016 News for Faculty
(scroll down for details)
  • Visit the CTLO Tent at the Campus Campaign Launch Celebration - April 29, 2016
  • CTLO Spring Seminar - May 17, 2016
  • Community Science Event - May 23, 2016
  • Graduate Students and Teaching - Recent New Findings
  • Getting Beyond a Blind Date with Science - A Talk by Alan Alda
  • Mid-Quarter Feedback - Happening Now!
  • (Re)designing Your Class: A Short Course for Faculty - Summer 2016
  • Active Learning Classroom Kit Initiative - Ongoing
  • E110 Principles of University Teaching and Learning in STEM Course - 2016/2017 Academic Year
  • Community Science Academy - Summer 2016
  • 2016 Summer Programs
  • Broader Impact Models 
CTLO Updates
  • Rebekah Silva, New CPET Graduate co-director
  • Daniel Thomas, Outgoing CPET Graduate co-director

Visit the CTLO Tent at the Campus Celebration of Break Through: The Caltech Campaign

"Educational Breakthroughs – Past, Present, Future" 
Friday, April 29, 2016, 5:00 - 6:30 pm, Beckman Mall


Caltech’s remarkable innovators have been pushing the limits of educational methods for decades, even when their main tools were chalkboards and textbooks. Today, the great minds of Caltech continue to expand our teaching toolkit, using chalk and text in new ways, incorporating mobile technologies, embedding active learning, and other novel approaches. The Caltech student experience is transforming alongside our broadening impact on preK-12 teaching and learning. Come experience Caltech's rich educational breakthroughs: Past, Present, and Future through hands-on demos of tablet-based learning, interactive light tables, classroom hacks, MOOCs, telepresence collaboration, and more! More Campaign Celebration information.


Using data to Inform, Drive and Scale STEM Instructional Reform

Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 12:00-1:00 pm
Annenberg 105

Guest Speaker: Marco Molinaro, PhD.
Assistant Vice Provost for Educational Effectiveness at UC Davis

At UC Davis, we’ve been trying to understand how the instructional system, from individual courses to whole programs, functions to support, and at times impair, successful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) student outcomes for an ever increasingly diverse population. Examples include data-driven methods and tools, such as a novel visualization system for charting the pathways that students take through a university (the "Ribbon Tool") and a unique, quantitative classroom observation tool (“GORP").

More details here!

Community Science Event: Animal Magnetism
Monday, May 23, 2016, 4:00 PM, Brown Gym
Speaker: Professor Joe Kirschvink
Remember when science projects took only a day, and presentations could fit on a trifold display board? Relive your grade school days and make a difference to our local schools. Do a fun science demonstration or activity for motivated and enthusiastic K-12 teachers who will take your ideas back to their students! One demo could help 1,000 students. The theme is Earth Science, but students and staff from all specialties are welcome. You can also attend a the seminar by Prof. Joe Kirschvink on "Animal Magnetism." 

Teaching and Learning 
Research in a Nutshell

Graduate Students and Teaching– Recent New Findings
Several recent studies and reports give us a clearer picture of the impact of teaching during graduate school—for both undergraduates and for the future careers of doctoral students. For example, Bettinger et al. find that undergraduates benefit from working with graduate student instructors, along with positive impacts on doctoral careers. Connolly et al. also find that graduate students who participate in workshops and programs on teaching are more successful in obtaining tenure-track faculty positions after their PhDs.
Faculty can help graduate students achieve these benefits by encouraging them to improve their teaching abilities during graduate school, whether they TA once or multiple times. The CPET Certificates of Interest and Practice in University Teaching, along with CTLO workshops and seminars, and the 2-unit course, E110—Principles of University Teaching—are all open to graduate students. Talking openly with graduate students about their teaching goals can also be productive and open a clear line of communication between you and your graduate students.

Getting Beyond a Blind Date with Science– A Talk by Alan Alda
"Teaching is communicating with an interested audience, where understanding is the point." -Alan Alda

Alan Alda’s ‘sold-out’ talk in Beckman Auditorium on April 6, 2016 provided several insights connecting science communication with teaching. First, it’s all about telling a story; the trick is that the complexity of that story must fit the audience. Alda also touched on “the curse of knowledge,” often referred to as “expert amnesia”—when scientists know their field at a deep level, but don’t recall the steps or the difficulty of first learning it. Finally he raised a highly relevant question for teaching: does communication (learning) happen when we tell someone something, or when they “get it”? 
CTLO regularly holds workshop allowing faculty and TAs alike to tap into improv techniques (one of Alan Alda’s key recommendations) to connect with students and audiences, as well as opportunities to translate forgotten ‘A ha!’ moments and ways of learning for current students. Stay tuned for the 2016 Teaching Conference in September and more opportunities coming up.
Scientists Can Tell a Good Story: A conversation with Alan Alda
Alan Alda: The Art of Science Communication: A video of Alan Alda's talk at MIT  

CTLO’s Ongoing and
Upcoming Initiatives

While you’ve been teaching, we’ve been brainstorming, researching and thinking about more ways that we can support teaching at Caltech. We have a lot of exciting things in the pipeline for the summer and fall! Keep an eye out for further announcements, descriptions and calls for participation in our:
 Mid-Quarter Feedback Initiative
Spring quarter is flying by! How is your class going so far? The CTLO can design mid-quarter feedback surveys for your class that you can distribute either before or after the midterms. After getting mid-quarter feedback from students, a Caltech Physics professor commented that it "had an effect because the students felt empowered by being heard during the course and not after the end.” Contact us today at if you would like us to design a mid-quarter feedback survey for your class!
(Re)designing Your Class: A Short Course for Faculty
Do you teach a class that you’re considering redesigning, re-engineering, or rethinking? Maybe you’ve taught it before and it needs a little sprucing up, or maybe it’s new and you’re starting from the ground up.  The CTLO will be running a 4-session short course this summer for faculty on (Re)designing your Class. We’ll walk you through the renowned process of “backwards design” from start to finish, including clarifying learning outcomes, designing assignments and exams, building the overall class structure, and fostering an inclusive classroom. By the end of the four sessions, you will have a solid plan for the class, with constructive feedback from the CTLO and colleagues. Please indicate interest here!

Active Learning Classroom Kit 
("hacking the classroom")
Active learning classroom hacks are popping up all over campus! Easily bring active learning into your classroom with our Active Learning Kit. We currently have a kit that can support four groups in a class and includes: four micro projectors for group work (each can connect to an individual students’ laptop or tablet), dry erase wall sheets (hug the wall using static cling!), and dry erase markers.

Email to find out more about the kit or active learning in general.
E110 Course: Principles of University Teaching and Learning in STEM
We will be offering this 2-unit course both in the Fall 2016 AND Winter 2017 quarters! It is open to graduate students and undergraduates for credit, as well as faculty and others for auditing. Recent participants have said that the “course reading list, course structure, and course assignments were all great. I enjoyed every bit of E110” and that “it was insightful to see modeled the teaching methods explained during the course.” Find out more here and let us know if you are interested in participating.
For more information on any of these initiatives, please contact


Do you know any bright local high school students who love science? Encourage them to apply to our CSA summer program where they will learn science and engineering from university researchers, and carry out projects in Caltech facilities, including its undergraduate teaching labs. Do they ... like mixing watercolors? Kick it up a notch by building a colorimeter and computing extinction coefficients of colored dyes. Like ants? We’ve got ant farms. Or make aspirin starting from willow bark. You get the picture. The program is $500 for 6 weeks, and free for PUSD students. Admission is competitive so encourage those interested to fill out the application with care. The deadline is April 22. Click here to apply now!

Check out an overview of all of the Outreach summer for young people here.

Broader Impacts -- Educational Outreach Support

Whether you are at the proposal or implementation stage, CTLO can help you develop and implement effective educational outreach and "broader impacts" models. We have collaborated on a number of successful grant applications recently. If your plans involve hosting or working with minors on campus, please review Caltech’s Guidelines for Programs with Minors.  You may also contact Mitch Aiken,  / 395-4641  for assistance in developing and implementing your plan.  

New co-director of The Caltech Project for Effective Teaching (CPET)

The CTLO would like to welcome Rebekah Silva who joins Kelsey Boyle as our CPET Co-Director. Bekah is a third year graduate student in the Barton lab studying the mechanisms of how different DNA repair pathways signal one another to coordinate complex processes essential for life. She began her undergraduate work at Riverside Community College (RCC) and finished her degree in Chemistry after transferring to Stanford University. Bekah’s interest in teaching at Caltech stemmed from her encounters with thoughtful teachers at RCC and Stanford who inspired her to pursue her interests, and she now strives to do the same for her Caltech students.  During her time as a tutor and a teaching assistant, she learned many lessons, including how to motivate students who are non-majors and the challenges associated with teaching larger courses. In Bekah’s words, “CPET and the CTLO have been and continue to be great resources for me and others who aspire to be effective teachers, and I am excited to a part of the teaching movement at Caltech in a more formal capacity as CPET co-director.” We are excited to have Bekah join the CTLO team. Welcome, Bekah!

Outgoing co-director of The Caltech Project for Effective Teaching (CPET)

The CTLO and CPET would like to thank Daniel Thomas for his work as a CPET Co-Director for the past 3 years. Daniel’s interest in teaching started early during his undergraduate career at UNC and continued to develop during his time as a graduate student at Caltech. Over the last three years, Daniel has been essential to the evolution of CPET’s organization and role within the greater Caltech community, including planning the very first Caltech Teaching Conference, helping transition CPET to the purview of the CTLO, and being instrumental in developing the Caltech Certificate of Practice in University Teaching program. Daniel’s thoughtful insights on teaching and education have been very appreciated by the CTLO and CPET, and we thank him for his time and devotion to his role as CPET Co-Director. Daniel will be graduating this year with a Ph.D. from the Beauchamp lab, and we wish him much success during the next phase of his career!

We can work with you, your course or your department
on all aspects of teaching and learning, such as:
  • strategies, from traditional to those that incorporate new methods or technologies
  • grading & assessment practices
  • classroom observations/recordings & feedback
  • mid-quarter/end-of-quarter student surveys and focus groups
  • assistance with grant proposals involving educational outreach, including NSF "broader impacts."

Please contact us at (626) 395-8427 for more information: or send additional queries to
We are located on the 3rd floor of the Center for Student Services (Building #86).

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