2012-2013 Seminar Series

Tales from the Trenches:  Teaching Astronomy at a California Community College

Dr. Jennifer Krestow, Glendale Community College Professor

Thursday, May 23, 2013: 5:00 PM. Location Beckman Institute Auditorium

Ever wonder what a community college prof really does?  What a typical day is like?  What type of classes are offered, what topics are covered in those classes?  What are the students like? How much grading is involved?  Learn the real truths from someone who has been there and done that.  Here's your chance to listen to true tales from a community college classroom. Tales that illustrate the ups and down, rewards and challenges of teaching an extremely diverse group of individuals.

Caltech Perspectives on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) 
Tuesday, March 5, 2013: 5:00 PM. Location: 105 Annenberg

It's difficult to open a newspaper or higher education publication these days without reading about new developments in Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. During this joint seminar, sponsored by CPET and Teaching & Learning Programs, Caltech Faculty and TAs who have taught MOOCs will discuss their experiences, including insights about pros and cons, how teaching differs, and perspectives on the future of MOOCs.  


  • Antonio Rangel, Professor of Economics and Neuroscience. Instructor of Winter 2013 MOOC, "Principles of Economics for Scientists."
  • Henry Lester, Bren Professor of Biology and Executive Officer for Neurobiology. Instructor of December-January MOOC, "Drugs and the Brain."
  • Yaser Abu-Mostafa, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Instructor of MOOC offered four times in 2012-13, "Learning from Data."
  • Ryan Trainor, Ph.D. Student in Astrophysics. Teaching Assistant of Winter 2013 MOOC, "Galaxies and Cosmology," taught by Professor George Djorgovski.

Making the Most of the Ratio -- How to Teach an Effective Seminar or Reading Course

Dr. Paul Asimow, Caltech Professor of Geology and Geochemistry, 2011-12 Feynman Prize Recipient

Tuesday, November 6, 2012: 4:00 PM. Location Beckman Institute Auditorium

Teaching duties in university settings are often divided between large lecture courses and small seminar or reading courses. Efforts to improve teaching typically focus on the large courses. Most faculty look forward to the opportunity to teach small classes, but how can we really make the most of them? Prof. Asimow will discuss ways that a seminar experience can leverage the obvious advantage of small student/teacher ratio. Strategies include involving the students in selecting topics and readings, finding literature at the right level, getting the right balance between professor and student-led presentation, and establishing an environment where everyone is comfortable contributing.

Teaching & Learning at Caltech: Evidence, Values, and Vision

Cassandra Volpe Horii, Caltech Director of Teaching and Learning Programs

Tuesday, October 16, 2012: 5:30 PM. Location Beckman Institute Auditorium

This year, Caltech is embarking on a new initiative to create a "center for teaching and learning." In broad terms, the center will be a resource for faculty, postdoctoral fellows, teaching assistants, and students. It will support all of these groups in finding and using evidence-based, innovative teaching and learning approaches in their courses, curricula, sections, labs, studies, outreach, and more. But how will the center uniquely foster the values and vision that the Caltech community holds for teaching and learning? In this seminar, Cassandra Horii, Caltech's new Director of Teaching and Learning Programs, will present evidence and examples of what other top university teaching and learning centers have done. Participants will engage in an active process of exploration and generation of ideas for how the new center can serve Caltech's remarkable place in the universe of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.