For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Drexel CASTLE receives funding for collaborative research project



April 9, 2018

By Marisa A. Dietrich

Drexel University’s Center for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning Excellence (CASTLE) recently received funding for a new research project collaboration with member institutions of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a national network of research-intensive universities with the shared mission of advancing the teaching of STEM disciplines in higher education.

Ten member institutions in the CIRTL Network including Drexel University were awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (iUSE) research grant titled: “Preparing Future Faculty to Improve STEM Education: Broadening the National Impact of the CIRTL Network.” Drexel received $199,900.37 over a three year period of a larger $2,999,267.00 grant from the NSF. The purpose of the project works to increase the number of future faculty participants within the CIRTL Network.

Drexel joins other institutions including Boston University, Iowa State University, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale University, as well as researchers from CIRTL Central located out of University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Increasing National Access: Preparing NSF Graduate Research Fellows in Teaching Faculty and staff at Drexel’s Center for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning Excellence (CASTLE) are working on curriculum and development to support NSF Graduate Research Fellows, and to build a national online GRF Learning Community (GRFLC) focused on teaching and learning.

Led by Adam Fontecchio, PhD, Director of CASTLE and member of the CIRTL Network Leadership Committee and Jennifer Stanford, PhD, Co-Director of CASTLE, the project will develop and evaluate an online NSF Graduate Research Fellow learning community. “The NSF GRF Program is one of the premier Fellowships for promising STEM graduate students, and it is designed to support students as they prepare for their future academic and professional careers,” mentions Dr. Fontecchio. This iUSE project is developing and evaluating new professional development offerings to better prepare the GRF recipients for the teaching and pedagogical aspects of life as a faculty member. He notes, “This is an important aspect of a junior faculty member's career, and is often overshadowed by the technical components of a graduate education.”

Broadening the National Impact of the CIRTL Network

Collectively, the ten universities collaborating on the full iUSE project will work to develop and evaluate a set of new cohort-based learning communities, including: disciplinary learning communities in chemistry, engineering, life sciences and statistics; teaching assistant learning communities; and postdoctoral learning communities. These learning communities will operate both locally and online, and will offer professional development opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral scholars interested in STEM teaching and learning.

CIRTL will also develop partnerships in future faculty development with eight professional societies, and build new bridges for its alumni to contribute to the CIRTL mission by developing and evaluating a CIRTL Alumni Network open to Drexel University alumni students.

About the CIRTL Network:
The national CIRTL Network is comprised of 40 research intensive universities, including Drexel University. CIRTL aims to enhance the STEM learning of all graduate students and post-doctoral scholars in an effort to increase both diversity in STEM fields and STEM literacy nationwide. Graduate education is used as the leverage point to develop a national STEM faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse student audiences.

Learn more about the iUSE project and Drexel’s participation in the research by emailing Marisa Dietrich, CASTLE Program Coordinator at