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Searle Teaching-as-Research (STAR)

Searle Teaching-As-Research (STAR) is a classroom-based research program designed to improve learning and teaching in STEM and social science disciplines. This is part of the broader CIRTL at Northwestern efforts.



Size & Format
In-person: <10 participants

Dates & Times
STAR is a two quarter-long program which runs in both winter and spring quarters.

Graduate Students, Postdoctoral Trainees


STAR participants identify a research question focused on improving student learning prior to applying to the program. The classroom context for the research question may include a full course, a laboratory section of a course, or a module of an online course. Projects should take place at Northwestern University and can address any IRB-approved question about student learning that supports a participant's pedagogical and future career goals. Ideally, program participants will be teaching as a teaching assistant or instructor of record, co-teaching, or otherwise involved in a course concurrently with program participation. This program has been re-imagined to guide participants through an IRB-approved TAR project.

Watch these videos to learn more about introducing Teaching-As-Research and the Teaching-As-Research inquiry cycle. A great place to start is reviewing examples of past participants' STAR projects.


STAR will run in the 24-25 academic year. 

The STAR program is open to any graduate student or postdoctoral fellow who has a project context and is a current or past participant of any one of the following programs:

  • Reflective and Effective Teaching (RET) or its former iteration, the Teaching Certificate Program (TCP)
  • Mentored Discussions of Teaching (MDT)
  • The STEM MOOC-Centered Learning Community (MCLC)


The STAR program online application includes:

  • Identification and description of the project context (e.g., classroom) in which your STAR project will take place; traditionally participants implement their projects in the spring quarter
  • Preliminary description of STAR project research question(s) that will be addressed
  • Indication of faculty member with whom the participant will work, if known or applicable 

A faculty mentor is not required but suggested if you are implementing your project in their class. 


Participants will:

  • Develop research questions in a classroom context
  • Build awareness of human subject research
  • Review literature to inform the project design
  • Select and implement appropriate research methods
  • Collect, analyze, and interpret research data
  • Reflect and present on research findings and implications

Those planning to disseminate their project findings will also:

  • Engage with Human Subjects Research training content
  • Discuss the importance of Human Subjects Research ethics in the context of a classroom-based research project
  • Submit an IRB protocol 

Participant Expectations

STAR runs for two consecutive quarters. The program begins in winter quarter and runs through spring quarter. Participants are expected to engage in both quarters. 
  • During winter quarter, participants attend monthly seminars with Searle Center staff to design their research projects and to iteratively work through their projects both synchronously and asynchronously.
  • During spring quarter, participants implement their projects, attend monthly STAR meetings, and present findings at a poster/presentation session in June (see examples of past participants’ STAR projects below.)


Faculty Mentors


Hold at least one mentor-mentee meeting in the Winter and Spring quarters. If you are on the IRB*, we suggest meeting more frequently. 

Suggested meetings:
  • Attend Meeting 1 to discuss project as well as the teaching context for the project, and planned involvement of Faculty Mentor (e.g., will you be on the IRB?) 
  • Attend Meeting 2 to discuss components of IRB application (i.e., IRB protocol) prior to submission; IRB must be approved before project implementation  
  • Attend Meeting 3 to discuss data collection
  • Attend Meeting 4 to discuss findings and final presentation 
*Please note that being on the IRB-approved protocol for the STAR project is optional. All study team members must complete the Human Research Participants Training prior to IRB protocol submission. FACulty mentors intersted in serving as the PI for the IRB-approxved project, can visit Northwestern’s IRB office flowchart for eligibility 

Contact Us

Interested in a consultation for your Searle Teaching-as-Research project? Please contact:

Erika Nadile, Assistant Director of Interdisciplinary Connections

This year, the STAR program is newly re-imagined with an emphasis on flexibility and research ethics. We are provided with abundant resources and are encouraged to tailor the research project based on our own pace and goal. Moreover, the frequent group and individual meetings facilitate collaboration and provide invaluable support and efficient feedback from mentors and peers, greatly enhancing the overall quality of our projects.”

— Former STAR Participant