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Message from the Director

Adam Fontecchio On behalf of our team at the Center for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning Excellence (CASTLE), I am writing to share our perspective on the challenges and opportunities presented as we find ourselves in a new post-pandemic world. The year 2020 brought with it many challenges and opportunities headlined by the global COVID-19 pandemic that forced us all into virtual modes of teaching & learning, and the social justice issues brought to the forefront by the Black Lives Matter movement. Both of these events have led to a greater focus on how we can teach more effectively and inclusively to support the learning of all students. The last few years of advances in remote work have become part of our new normal, with concomitant shifts towards optimizing remote learning and work, worldwide. As a society we are still navigating the long-term effects of the pandemic but have emerged back into the face-to-face world while reimagining hybrid options for work, learning, and social interaction. Additionally, there is significant societal momentum around dismantling systemic injustice, despite ongoing challenges. It is now a time to reflect on the important lessons we have learned, tools we have developed, and the opportunities we have in front of us to reinvent our approaches to inclusive learning and work.

Here at CASTLE, we welcome you to join us as we tackle problems that benefit the state of STEM education at Drexel and the entire nation. Since our founding in 2014, we have undertaken research projects focused on STEM education to meet societal needs, including generating a larger and more diverse STEM workforce, engendering a better educated public, and supporting educational inclusion for all racial and ethnic groups. Through our ongoing work at CASTLE, we strive to promote institutional change towards effective and inclusive teaching in STEM. Social justice work emphasizes the need to dismantle systemic injustice around STEM education. Systemic injustices have led to the disproportionate exclusion of certain groups of people from learning and engagement in STEM. The work we undertake in CASTLE endeavors to create environments where all people feel they can learn and succeed while embracing their individual identities.

With the pivot to virtual and hybrid educational modes, there have been both struggles and successes. These changes have led to hope and opportunity that we can collectively take a step forward in our educational pedagogies. The virtual classroom and laboratories have provided tools to increase inclusion and equity in classrooms, by ensuring modes of learning and communication to fill in existing educational gaps and ask questions that need to be asked to ensure a productive learning experience for all students. We are working to continue to develop tools to ensure the success of ALL students in their learning in STEM.

As a society, we will always have grand challenges to overcome. Here in CASTLE, we are excited to be contributing to addressing critical issues of cultural change towards effective and inclusive teaching and we enjoy engaging with others in our mission, both at Drexel and through national networks engaged in improving STEM education. With mutual respect and a desire to understand other perspectives, we can move forward together more effectively as a community of practice centered around STEM education. As we traverse through the year 2023, I hope you will join us in a hybrid seminar, for a Pedagogical Happy Hour, as a participant in our learning communities, in pursuing grant writing to tackle important issues in STEM education, or in engaging in our research on effective and inclusive STEM teaching & learning.

Adam K. Fontecchio
Director, CASTLE

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