Delta Pillars

The Delta Program in Research, Teaching and Learning is founded on three interrelated core ideas: the Teaching-as-Research approach is explored via Learning Community opportunities that are based on Learning-through-Diversity.


The improvement of teaching and learning is a dynamic and ongoing process. Teaching-as-Research involves the deliberate, systematic, and reflective use of research methods to develop and implement teaching practices that advance the learning experiences and outcomes of students and teachers.

Hear alumni and mentors talking about their teaching-as-research experiences here, and learn more about the definition and cycle of teaching-as-research here. You might also be interested in the 2018 panel of Teaching-As-Research alumni about TAR in the job hunt and beyond .

Conceptual steps in the teaching-as-research process are:

  1. Identify a challenge in student learning and a teaching-as-research question about the teaching plan.
  2. Reviewing the literature and best practices: What is known about the challenge and effective teaching practices?
  3. Pose a teaching-as-research and hypothesis, often further refined through the planning process
  4. Creating objectives for student learning: What do we want students to be able to do after instruction?
  5. Defining measures of success: What evidence will we need to determine whether students have achieved the learning objectives? How can student learning data be designed and analyzed to answer our teaching-as-research question?
  6. Developing and implementing engaging, equitable teaching practices: What activities in and out of the classroom support students in achieving the learning objectives?
  7. Analyzing and interpreting evidence of student learning: How did students advance toward outcomes? What is the answer to the teaching-as-research question?
  8. Reflecting, evaluating, and iterating: How will we use what we have learned to improve our teaching?

Learning Communities

Learning Communities bring people together for shared learning, discovery, and the generation of knowledge. Delta is committed to promoting teaching practices that engage participants toward collaboratively achieving learning goals.

The following ideas are central to successful learning communities:

  • Shared discovery and learning (individual and group accountability)
  • Functional connections among learners (positive interdependence)
  • Connections to other related learning and life experiences
  • Inclusive learning environments that draw on the diverse backgrounds and experiences of learners (group process and teamwork skills)



The idea of Learning-through-Diversity begins with the principle that excellence and diversity are necessarily intertwined. Faculty and students bring an array of experiences, backgrounds, and skills to the teaching and learning process. Effective teaching draws on these to the benefit of all, which we call “Learning-through-Diversity.” Existing social structures and educational practices do not always promote equal success for all learners. Thus, creating equitable learning experiences and environments requires intentional and deliberate efforts on the part of current and future faculty.

Delta is committed to developing a national faculty who model and promote the equitable and respectful teaching and learning environments necessary for learning-through-diversity. Delta provides developmental experiences, programs and resources that promote the abilities of current and future faculty to:

  • Know the diverse backgrounds of their students and their implications for learning
  • Identify curricular, teaching and assessment practices that promote learning for all
  • Draw upon the diversity of their students to enhance and enrich the learning of all
  • Recognize existing inequities, and promote an equitable, inclusive and respectful climate for learning

These ideas are also the foundation of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a national project and network of which Delta is a founding member. Watch a brief video explaining them below.


How are these core ideas relevant to your teaching?

Activities hosted by the Delta Program address the questions that graduate students, postdocs, and faculty ask as they strive to become excellent professors.

How can I motivate and support all my students, given their different backgrounds?

I hope to teach for many years. Will I make a difference? Will my thousands of students/participants learn what I think is important?

Will I be a strong candidate for faculty careers and NSF CAREER awards?

Why are there so few women and people of color in my classes/opportunities? Am I serving my students/participants well?

My funding agency is requiring broader impact of my research program. How can I respond successfully to these new demands?

Will my investments in technology increase student/participant learning?

I support the idea of outreach, but how can I do it well?

How can I balance my desire to be a better teacher with so many other demands on my time?