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Dear Colleagues,

Thanks to a generous gift by the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation, Tufts is now forming the Institute for Research on Learning and Instruction (IRLI). We are writing to ask about your interest in participating.

IRLI’s core mission is to stimulate and support research on what and how students learn at Tufts, within and across their courses and other experiences, and on what instructors can do to help. The mission spans the traditional categories of research, teaching, and service and requires interdisciplinary collaborations that span departments and schools.

In forming IRLI we are trying to create something new, and we are writing to solicit your input about possible roles for faculty and forms of affiliation. We invite you to join us at an opening meeting, on Friday, December 14, from 10:00-12:00 in the Cheryl Chase Center, Carmichael Hall, for exploration and discussion. We’ll provide food; call it an IRLI brunch. Although our initial work and the funding for IRLI focuses on STEM fields, all areas of learning and teaching are welcome.

We envision a range of roles, forms of affiliation, and participation for faculty and students in IRLI. Some will have education research as their primary focus—and the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation’s gift is helping to fund three new faculty positions for this work in the STEM disciplines. Other faculty will make education research a component of their efforts, balanced with research in their discipline; others will conduct their inquiries on learning and instruction as instructors in the contexts of their courses.

We do not see a simple relationship between findings of education research and instructional practices that faculty implement. That is, we do not expect simple answers to questions about “what works.” Rather, we see effective teaching itself as involving ongoing inquiry and problem solving, and our aim in IRLI is to form a scholarly community in which we connect that work with formal research.

Thank you for reading—if you’ve made it this far, the topic must interest you! So here is the request: Please give us your preliminary thoughts about how you might want to be involved in IRLI, and let us know if you are able to join us by December 1st 6th.

We’ve set up this Qualtrics form for your reply.

Yours,

David Hammer, Director; Education and Physics
Julia Gouvea, Education and Biology
Andrew Izsák, Education
Kristen Wendell, Mechanical Engineering and Education