History of the Center for Teaching and Learning

The Teaching Center: Early Years

The Center for Teaching and Learning, then the Teaching Center, was established at Washington University in St. Louis in 1990. The first director was Robert McDowell, Professor of Mathematics. The Center’s initial focus on supporting in-class instruction expanded through the late 1990s under the leadership of Jim Davis, Professor of History, with a growing emphasis on classroom technology. In 2000, the Teaching Center, in collaboration with the Faculty Senate and the Graduate School, initiated the Teaching Citation program, a professional development in teaching program for graduate students and postdocs. This began the CTL’s long commitment to supporting future faculty in their teaching.

The Center Grows: 2002-2018

In 2002, Regina Frey, Florence E. Moog Professor of STEM Education in Chemistry, was appointed director of the Center and she introduced a revised and expanded mission that focused on collaboration with faculty on innovation in teaching and teaching as a community endeavor, through consultations, workshops, and scholarship of teaching and learning. During this time, the Center also took on a more comprehensive role in classroom design, renovation, and support, with the development of design standards informed by pedagogical objectives and in collaboration with facilities management. This effort eventually became codified as the Classroom Services division of the CTL, while the other functions of the Center were organized as the Academic Services division.

During this time, The Teaching Center became heavily involved in a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teaching initiatives including a workshop series for faculty, a STEM pedagogies workshop series for graduate students, and the promotion of classroom response devices (iClickers) for large courses. In addition, the Center led the effort at WashU to become part of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) Network, which is committed to advancing the teaching of STEM disciplines in higher education. In 2011, the Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education (CIRCLE) was funded by the Office of the Provost. CIRCLE and the Center worked as close partners and collaborators on a number of projects. As the Center grew in staff, it also increased the number of programs and types of support offered, including many workshops and events centered on celebrating classroom diversity and promoting inclusive teaching practices. In addition, the Center supported Blackboard when it was the university’s LMS. LMS support transitioned out of the Center to a school-specific support model when the university moved to Canvas in Spring 2019-Fall 2020.

Expanding the Mission: 2018-Present

In 2018, Michael Wysession, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, was appointed Executive Director of the Center. In Fall of 2018, Classroom Services debuted the newly refurbished and redesigned high-tech active learning classroom in January 110 and also began transitioning a number of other traditional classroom spaces into more flexible active learning classrooms as part of their mission to equip WashU faculty and learners with the most pedagogically-informed teaching and learning spaces. In the transition to online learning during the pandemic, the Classroom Services team expanded their reach, supporting both faculty interested in recording their lectures in the physical classroom, as well as those wishing to use software like Kaltura to produce and manage their videos from home.

In 2019, in response to a CFU review, The Learning Center, which provides mentoring programs to undergraduate students, merged with the Teaching Center and the Center was renamed the Center for Teaching and Learning. At the same time, the Academic Services division was renamed Educational Development to better reflect the scope of work provided by this division. In 2020-2021, the Learning Center moved from the South 40 to its new location in the renovated lower level of the Mallinckrodt Center.

In 2018, the Educational Development team developed and began facilitating the EPIC Learning Community, a program for graduate students in their first years at WashU. In 2019, the Educational Development team reorganized the Teaching Citation program within the Professional Development in Teaching Program to provide a clearer, more cohesive set of opportunities for graduate students across the disciplines. During Professor Wysession’s tenure, the Center’s Educational Development team has embraced its past commitment to advancements in STEM education, while also working to broaden the reach of programing to a variety of disciplines and instructors that had been traditionally underserved members of the WashU instructional community. Examples of this commitment include opening faculty workshops to instructors of all ranks; delivering workshops to a variety of discipline-specific groups like the College Writing Program, The Brown School, and the ROTC program instructors; developing and co-hosting with the language departments the Language Teaching Fair, an event for language faculty; and establishing the New Faculty Seminar on Teaching and Learning and the Faculty Reading Community.