Training in Communicating Technical Information

Penn-based PhD graduate students, postdocs and early career faculty will develop teaching and oral presentations through Penn’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). A CTL-Fellow will introduce relevant, evidence-based pedagogical methods for teaching and communicating STEM materials through a series of small group sessions. The participants will test this new understanding by developing their own teaching presentations on an REACT-related topic. By designing a presentation at an undergraduate level, students will hone their skills for excellence in communicating technical information.

The trainees will practice their presentations in a teaching-focused “Critique Session” with the entire Penn-based ACT in the spring semester prior to going to their summer research at GIANT. At each session, two trainees will give their teaching presentation followed by a collective critique. The CTL-Fellow will highlight general teaching resources and make suggestions for increasing effectiveness based on current pedagogical theory for engaging undergraduates (e.g., active learning techniques and effects and working with cognitive load constraints). The broader Penn REACT community will participate in these CTL-led Critiques to give presenters feedback on technical aspects and, importantly, to engage in a lively exchange of ideas about the best practices for STEM pedagogy. In addition to developing skills for communicating technical material to undergraduate audiences, trainees will create and maintain the content of a web site aimed at the general public that shares ACT highlights and videos about materials for water management, infection resistance and energy.

PhD students with the best presentations as determined by ACT leaders will be invited to speak at the annual FAW in Grenoble held every June. During the summer GIIP program, other graduate students and postdocs will present their teaching talks to the GIIP participants (typically ~25 international students). After returning to Penn, each ACT trainee will give this teaching presentation at Bryn Mawr or Villanova and recruit the next cohort of undergraduates in REACT’s international research experience during the upcoming summer. These trainees will also visit local middle and high schools to present an age-appropriate lecture about the role of basic science in addressing societal needs such as natural disasters. ACT trainees planning to perform research at GIANT the following summer will attend at least one of these teaching/recruitment events.