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Center for Teaching and Learning celebrates 35 years of teaching help


With its 35th anniversary around the corner, the Center for Teaching and Learning is gearing up to celebrate its work at Stanford.

Established in 1975 through a grant from the Danforth Foundation, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) prides itself on carrying out four main objectives: faculty development, teaching assistant (TA) training, student learning and oral communication education. CTL’s purpose is “to promote excellence in teaching at all ranks and excellence in student learning inside and outside the classroom,” according to its website.

To kick off its 35th anniversary, CTL is planning a reception to honor award-winning faculty and celebrate the program’s success on Nov. 9. Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam will deliver a lecture, “Is the Lecture Dead?: The Large Lecture Course in the Humanities Today.”

Preceding Elam’s talk will be a presentation by the winner of a student speech contest, who will discuss a significant learning experience with a teacher. Open to undergraduates and graduate students, the contest asked participants to submit their speeches to a special committee in October. Later this week, the committee will choose several finalists to give their speeches in person in order to decide the winner.

“We wanted this celebration to be a thank-you to the faculty who have worked so hard on teaching and to donors who have contributed to undergraduate education,” said CTL director Michele Marincovich. “We are also extremely grateful to students who have used the public speaking and tutoring services.”

Every year, CTL provides a wide range of services to the community, including teaching consultations, early-career faculty assistance, classroom observations, departmental support, teaching assistant (TA) training, course website development, teaching portfolios, quarterly TA orientations, mid-quarter and end-quarter student evaluations, tutoring and learning skills assessments and coaching. The center also publishes teaching handbooks and newsletters and hosts a variety of conferences and speakers on teaching.

“I think the Stanford faculty take teaching incredibly seriously, and they really do care about giving students a good learning experience,” Marincovich said. “The reason we are here 35 years later is because the faculty has been eager, interested and responsive to very helpful information about what students need.”

In addition to its resources for faculty, the center prides itself on its academic support for students. The CTL Peer Tutoring Program offers students tutors for departments such as biology, physics, psychology and more. Residential tutors in a variety of subjects are strategically placed throughout campus so all students are close to tutors, particularly freshmen and sophomores. Students can also take advantage of appointment-based tutoring in various locations on the Farm. CTL offers academic coaching to help students ease into the transition from high school to university, focusing on skills such as reading comprehension, problem-solving approaches and test preparation, as well as avoiding test anxiety and procrastination.

One unique aspect of the center is its Oral Communications Program, which offers graduate and undergraduate students a variety of opportunities for development in public speaking. The program works with students to provide feedback and support on oral presentations. The program helps students prepare for job interviews outside the classroom and speaking projects inside the classroom, utilizing video recording to give feedback on delivery and structure, and serves approximately 5,000 students a year.

“For me, it is extremely rewarding to see people improve as quickly as they do just with a few tips,” said doctoral student Corrie Potter, an oral communication tutor. “When doctoral students are going on the job market, we can provide really good feedback on their job talks. And it’s free. Not many universities have that kind of support.”