Caltech Center for Teaching, Learning, & Outreach

California Institute of Technology

Established: 2012

Profile submitted by Cassandra Volpe Horii, Director

Vision and Goals

Caltech's vision is for our teaching and educational excellence to parallel our renowned research excellence.

The mission of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach (CTLO) is to work toward this vision by supporting instruction, enhancing learning, and facilitating educational outreach.

CTLO is committed to fostering innovation and relying on evidence in all of our programs and services.

Some of CTLO's specific goals include:

  • Foster a sustainable culture of excellence in teaching and educational outreach
  • Improve student learning and the student experience.
  • Increase use of evidence-based educational practices.
  • Improve the teaching experience for faculty and teaching assistants, including current teaching and preparation for future teaching.
  • Contribute to an enlarged and more diverse set of local K-12 STEM pathways.
  • Increase K-12 and public STEM literacy and engagement.

Center/Program Structure

CTLO is situated organizationally under the office of the Provost and serves all academic units at Caltech, a predominantly STEM research university with approximately 1000 undergraduates and 1200 graduate students. CTLO staff consists of one Director (STEM PhD, 1 FTE), one Associate Director for Educational Outreach (MEd, 1 FTE), one Associate Director for University Teaching (PhD, 1 FTE), one Educational Outreach Program Coordinator (PhD, 1 FTE), and just over 1 FTE of administrative support. CTLO personnel hold staff appointments, and in some cases, teach credit-bearing courses at Caltech.

Description of Programming

CTLO's programs fall into two main categories: those focused on supporting university-level teaching and learning, and those focused on Caltech's partnerships with and services to K-12 students, teachers, and schools. We work with a substantial fraction of our faculty (over 85% within the first five years), graduate students (all, through required graduate teaching assistant orientations, and through continuing workshops, courses, and professional development), and all undergraduates who teach or who hold student government leadership positions focused on academics.

Work with the faculty often consists of consultations tailored to individual needs: e.g., course design, designing and assessing "broader impacts" components of research projects, and implementing new technologies in teaching. We also have a series of seminars in which CTLO partners with academic areas for teaching-focused events hosted within the academic areas. Programs of various sizes and durations, on topics ranging from fundamental aspects of teaching to advanced professional development for future faculty/outreach careers, serve graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and students. CTLO also holds programs on campus for K-12 students, professional development programs for K-12 STEM teachers, and facilitates programs linking Caltech students, faculty and researchers with local and regional K-12 schools.

Successes and Impacts

Between founding in 2012 and the five-year anniversary in 2017, CTLO:

  • Engaged 297 faculty members in high-quality programs and services (268 of them professorial faculty—over 85% of this population). Participating faculty represent all divisions and ranks, and over half (54%) re-engage with CTLO in significant depth (e.g., through multiple programs, sustained collaboration, and/or in-depth consultation).
  • Worked with 1321 unique graduate students and 471 unique postdoctoral scholars. Many of them interact with CTLO on multiple occasions during their time at Caltech through participation in seminars, workshops and courses and/or as TAs to enhance their professional development related to teaching and outreach.
  • Helped improve over 90 different Caltech courses by working closely with instructors on course (re)design, teaching methods, assignments, and assessments, as well as helping instructors obtain and make sense of customized feedback.
  • Increased Caltech's impact on pre-college students, teachers, and parents in the Pasadena and Southern California region to over 17,500 contacts per year (2016-17).
  • Helped Caltech researchers prepare almost 70 grant proposals with educational or "broader impacts" components, with a success rate of 55% and an additional 30% receiving entirely positive reviews on educational elements.
  • Outcomes are further document in various reports on the CTLO website:

Elements Contributing to Success

Our dual focus on university level education and K-12 educational outreach has been a tremendous benefit as CTLO is able to serve as a single point of contact on all aspects of education. This allows us to establish productive relationships with faculty on occasions when support is most meaningful to them, and then build on those to advance additional opportunities.

Supplemental Materials

CTLO Overview (Acrobat (PDF) 130kB Mar29 15)