photo of apple on deskIn STEM fields, postdoctoral positions are frequently the launching point into the professoriate. However, given the demands of their research commitments, many postdocs have very limited teaching experience when they begin applying for academic jobs.  To enable postdocs to build their skills in teaching in the sciences, CRLT and Rackham Graduate School collaborated to create a unique opportunity for U-M postdoctoral scholars: the Postdoctoral Short-Course on College Teaching in Science and Engineering (PSC). The PSC has been offered seven times in a face-to-face format since its debut in 2012, and an online version of the course has been offered twice with Rackham and the U-M Office of Academic Innovation.

CRLT is currently accepting applications for the face-to-face version of the course during the Winter 2017 term. The course will meet on Wednesdays from 9:00am-12:00pm from Jaunary 4th through February 22nd, 2017. Applications are due by 8:00am EST on November 11th, 2016. More information about the face-to-face and online versions of the course can be found on the PSC webpage.
Feedback from previous participants attests that the PSC can be a transformative experience for postdocs:
  • “I wasn’t planning on teaching as part of my career.  PSC showed me that not only do I enjoy teaching, but that I am capable of doing it well.  It’s changed the type of job I’m applying for.” (from a postdoc in engineering)
  • “During a campus interview, the search committee chair asked me how I would actively engage students in their introductory courses with over 100 students.  After PSC, I was totally prepared to answer this question and could provide examples from my course design project and practice teaching session.”  (from a postdoc in the biomedical sciences)
In order to flexibly accommodate the demanding research obligations of U-M’s postdocs, the PSC uses a “flipped class” model. Before each of the sessions, participants watch short video podcasts and complete preparatory online assignments to establish basic mastery of teaching and learning concepts.  During face-to-face meetings, the postdocs engage exclusively in hands-on, experiential learning, practice applying the concepts, and participate in reflective discussions.  Both online and during class, the instructors model research-based teaching strategies, so that participants can experience these approaches from the perspectives of their future students.  

Ann Arbor Campus

The recent incident of hate speech that occurred at U-M is part of a disturbing national trend. A recent article in Inside Higher Education referred to “an epidemic of racist incidents at campuses across the country.” These upsetting events in combination with the heightened rhetoric of the election campaign have the potential to increase the stress levels experienced by members of the campus community, especially those from groups targeted by hate speech. It is useful to keep in mind that such incidents may still be on students’ minds when they enter your classroom, and that such incidents take a toll on faculty and GSIs as well.  What can instructors do?

  • Acknowledge the incidents: Research conducted in the wake of national tragedies, such as 9-11 or Hurricane Katrina, indicates that students find it helpful when their instructors simply acknowledge traumatic events, recognize that students might be experiencing distress, and show extra support (Huston & DiPietro, 2007).
  • Prepare to engage with the incident proactively or in response to student concerns: CRLT has developed a web page with guidelines for discussing incidents of hate, bias, and discrimination that can help you prepare. The site offers strategies for planned discussions, as well as suggestions for responding to challenging conversations when they arise spontaneously. For example, we provide sample discussion guidelines instructors have found helpful in both planned and spontaneous discussions of difficult issues.

"I voted" stickerTeaching and learning are never entirely void of politics, but this fall—as a new U.S. president is elected mid-semester—the tension, drama, and controversy of the political moment will no doubt be especially palpable in classrooms across the university.

Instructors in every discipline have cause to prepare thoughtfully for the impact of this election season on their students, their curriculum, their classroom climate, and themselves. Maintaining a commitment to inclusive teaching during an election that is itself fraught with hostility around questions of diversity requires a renewed insistence on the free and fair exchange of ideas. To support this commitment, we offer the following three questions instructors might ask themselves while preparing to teach.

1. What role does my discipline play in the issues raised by this election?

Our students need to be able to critically evaluate the platforms of candidates and elected leaders. Every discipline is somehow implicated in these agendas, whether the topic is immigration and the rights of refugees; fracking, genetically modified foods, or climate change; education and health care; history, race, and the Black Lives Matter movement; gender (in)equality and LGBTQ rights; or international relations and the “war on terror.”

Instructors can ask:

  • Which topics within my discipline might require special attention in light of the election?
  • How might the candidate platforms be a resource for teaching and learning these topics?
  • What are the diverse perspectives and voices that characterize my field related to these topics, and how do I maintain some balance in presenting them?

​Many U-M students will vote in this election.  By asking questions such as those above, we as instructors can help them engage with the data and skills they need to weigh the issues and make informed decisions.

2. How might my courses allow students to practice some of the fundamental, particular skills required by democracy?

In addition to the content of our individual disciplines and courses, there are overarching democratic skills that students can develop in courses across the University.  These include: Read more »


CRLT is available to support U-M teachers throughout the summer. If you're teaching a course, you can request a Midterm Student Feedback session led by one of our consultants. CRLT staff are also available to discuss the student ratings from past courses or to consult on course design and planning as you look ahead to the fall. We're happy to hear from you at any time of year!

For our full range of consultation services, see this page. Read more »


“Engaged learning” is a common term at the University of Michigan and a growing movement nationally. What does it mean? U-M’s working definition conceives of engaged learning as providing students with opportunities for practice in unscripted, authentic settings, where stakeholders (including the students themselves) are invested in the outcome. This pairs nicely with Grant Wiggins’s concept of “authentic assessment,” whereby students closely practice and demonstrate the type of work they will be doing after graduation: it is public, involves collaboration, and engages students in representative challenges of a field or subject, which are often ill-structured -- rather than having “right or wrong” answers. A more thorough exploration of engaged learning at Michigan can be found in a forthcoming series of Occasional Papers (more on these below). 

Here are a few of the many ways that students already experience engaged learning at U-M: Read more »