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DELTA Program in Research, Teaching and Learning

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) is home to the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning Network (CIRTL), a 22-institution initiative funded by both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Delta Program in Research, Teaching, and Learning is the implementation of the CIRTL Network at UW-Madison. Like the CIRTL Network, Delta promotes professional development in teaching for graduate students and post-docs so that they can successfully implement and advance effective teaching practices for diverse student audiences as part of their careers.

The Delta program comprises a curriculum of graduate level courses, intergenerational small-group programs, workshops, and internships embedded within an active, interdisciplinary learning community. A certificate recognizes participant accomplishments within the program. All aspects of the program are centered on the “Teaching-As-Research” idea—the systematic and reflective use of research methods by instructors to develop and implement teaching practices that promote learning. Along with Teaching-As-Research, Learning Communities and Learning-through-Diversity are also woven into the design of the Delta Program. The integration of these three ideas has proven to be an effective approach to improving preparation for teaching, enhancing student learning and promoting institutional change.

Consistent with AAU’s Framework for Systemic Change in Undergraduate STEM Teaching and Learning, Delta provides the scaffolding/support needed to promote the use of high-impact, evidence-based teaching practices. Delta internships, which are in reality teaching-as-research assistantships, akin to disciplinary research assistantships, pair graduate students and post-docs with a faculty or instructional staff partner and mentor. They mark the transfer of classroom-based knowledge about evidence-based teaching practices to their classroom-based implementation and evaluation of student learning.

One clear mark of the success of the program is institutional support for a new initiative – Delta’s Bridging the Achievement/Equity Gap project. This project developed a systematic, Teaching-As-Research based approach toward addressing the achievement gap in courses with adverse academic outcomes for underrepresented minority students. Delta’s effective programming is leveraged to raise awareness among current and future faculty and then move them to classroom action. As a result, more faculty and staff are using high impact, evidence-based instructional approaches. Individual classroom-based projects are beginning to demonstrate an impact on student learning, which in turn has informed data-driven campus conversations about the achievement gap.

The impacts of Delta go beyond the participants themselves and impact undergraduate students in an array of STEM courses. The instructional materials developed are incorporated in the standard teaching practices and the departments in which they are taught. They are also disseminated locally and nationally.

Finally, at the institutional level Delta enhances both the campus research mission and the teaching mission. For example, Delta provides faculty with the capacity to effectively address the broader impact funding criteria of Federal agencies like NSF. Additionally, Delta is increasing the ability of UW-Madison to recruit the very best graduate students. By engaging faculty in transformational change and increasing their capacity to effect that change in their courses by pairing them with future faculty, the program is poised to promote long term change at the level of institutional culture.