Home Faculty meeting Q&A: New CTL Director calls for inclusive and evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning

Q&A: New CTL Director calls for inclusive and evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning


Cassandra Volpe Horii was named the new director of Stanford’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and associate vice provost for education on February 7. and learn at Stanford.

Horii, a first-generation college graduate with a background in STEM education, previously worked at the California Institute of Technology as associate vice provost and founding director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Outreach. In her new role at Stanford, Horii oversees and guides CTL’s various programs and resources to support students and faculty in classroom learning, tutoring, and teaching.

Just weeks into her new role, Horii said she considers herself an advocate for CTL and is “thrilled by the wonderful teaching and learning ideas, projects and collaborations” that CTL has launched.

The Stanford Daily [TSD]: What are CTL’s responsibilities and operations, both day-to-day and on a larger scale?

Cassandra Volpe Horii [CH]: The Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning [CTL] is a campus-wide resource. We work directly with students to support and enhance learning through academic coaching in one-to-one meetings and group workshops, tutoring through course-specific sessions and individual appointments , and peer partners trained in language conversation and academic accountability. Last year, CTL hosted over 11,000 student visits for academic coaching, tutoring, language conversation partners and workshops. CTL also works with faculty, academic staff and other teachers and teaching assistants on designing or redesigning courses, implementing evidence-based and inclusive teaching methods, and integrating learning technologies, among other topics.

TSD: Which of these specific responsibilities falls under your purview as the new director of CTL?

CH: CTL already has amazing people and teams doing this work, and I see my role as, first and foremost, an advocate for CTL and the teaching and learning work done daily by students, faculty and staff academic. I connect CTL experts with working groups, committees and projects where they can help, and I also support CTL staff as they sustain and grow these great programs, develop new approaches to help lead Stanford’s educational efforts and are considering the next phase of what we’re trying to do all together. Like everyone else at CTL, my role involves a lot of collaboration, with students, faculty, lecturers, teaching assistants, schools, departments, programs – you name it, we bring our understanding of what works in teaching and learning, and why it works, where it is needed at Stanford.

DST: What are some of the evidence-based strategies that CTL implements?

CH: There are a lot of them, and over the last few decades we’ve seen a huge growth in the number and type of studies really looking at what works at the university level, and the different types of disciplines and course settings. There is growing evidence that methods that actively involve students in some way as part of the classroom tend to produce deeper and longer-lasting learning that fosters a sense of belonging. This is just one, but there are many other approaches, and we incorporate them into all of our programs.

DST: About 17% of Stanford students identify as first-generation and/or low-income (FLI). How do CTL initiatives and programs support FLI students on campus? In what ways do you hope to further develop these projects?

CH: I am a first-generation college graduate myself, and the work we do to support FLI students is very close to my heart, as are CTL’s contributions to Stanford’s IDEAL. [Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Environment] education initiatives in general. More immediately, Academic Coaches are trained specifically to support FLI students, for example, anticipating what may be unclear about navigating through college and what resources might be particularly useful at different times and throughout the course. university experience. Additionally, our work with professors and lecturers emphasizes what I would call “transparency” – that is, sharing with students why and how assignments or other aspects of the course are going useful to students, how students can best approach them, where to find feedback, where to ask for help, and what a successful end product would look like – what features it might have. Inclusive approaches like this tend to result in really challenging learning experiences that are also very rewarding, and they learn more about the current opportunity, rather than whether students had access to a similar learning experience before coming to Stanford.

DST: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect students across campus, what resources does CTL provide to optimize blended and online courses?

CH: CTL has adapted and supported Stanford students and faculty throughout the pandemic. We continue to be truly committed to meeting people where they are and in the formats they need now. As these formats continue to change, we also try to stay closely in touch with Stanford’s overall trajectory. In terms of community, faculty, and course design, CTL has created some really in-depth teaching and course design resources that include strategies to promote student well-being or incorporate helpful technologies, and those- these can be adapted to many different lesson formats and are all available in our on-demand guides.

DST: How does CTL meet the educational needs of students who had to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 and who may be trying to attend classes remotely or catch up on work?

CH: I think the resources that are there for professors and departments are helpful in enhancing course and program flexibility. These templates are available anytime, and in terms of formats for students, CTL services are truly available to students as and when they need them. For example, academic coaching and tutoring are available online in these formats when students need it. At the same time, we’re bringing back a lot more in-person interactions when it makes sense.

DST: What are you most looking forward to accomplishing or working on as a director?

CH: It’s really, for me, getting to know the amazing students, professors, teachers and other teachers at Stanford, and the teaching assistants that I really look forward to seeing. I’m only a few weeks into my job here, and already I’m thrilled with the wonderful teaching and learning ideas, projects and collaborations I’ve been lucky enough to encounter – and truly , the people who make them. One example is IDEAL’s departmental pedagogy project teams, which included professors, university teaching staff and students working together. They shared a series of lightning talks about their plans, just during the winter term a few weeks ago. I’m really looking forward to having the chance to visit more classrooms, meet the students and faculty groups, and really experience how people approach teaching and learning in Stanford’s many contexts. I am excited about the new possibilities we will create together!

DST: What tangible impact do you hope to have on CTL and Stanford during your tenure as director?

CH: It’s a very important moment in terms of learning and teaching right now, and I think CTL is right in the middle of this key moment. With our collaborators in this Stanford-wide collective initiative that we have, we participate in and help lead the Teaching Commons. I think students and instructors have really had to try a lot of new approaches to learning and teaching over the past two years, big ideas about what really matters in lessons and other kinds of learning experiences. learning, to how academic experiences do or could do more to cultivate belonging, to new ways of collaborating with online tools and methods like digital inking or real-time interaction. I really hope to build the capacity of CTL so that we can continue to support these new developments and address the places where we really have room to grow, such as connecting students and instructors in a much more collaborative way to share ideas with each other and help inform where we are going next.