E: Faculty Development for Educational Innovation


TITLE: Faculty Learning Communities: A Model that Fosters Individual, Departmental and Institutional Impact

PRESENTERS: Katerina V. Thompson, University of Maryland - College Park; Gili Marbach-Ad, University of Maryland - College Park; Laura C. Egan, University of Maryland - College Park; and Ann Smith, University of Maryland - College Park

Despite prominent calls to improve undergraduate science education, bringing about this change has proven difficult. Faculty learning communities (FLCs) are emerging as a powerful model for fostering STEM reform in higher education. FLCs can be characterized as groups of faculty members who meet on a regular basis to share activities, knowledge and practices, which collectively constitute a joint enterprise. Our university has multiple FLCs whose joint enterprise is to improve undergraduate STEM education. Some of these FLCs are active for a specific academic year, while others are longstanding. Our FLCs focus variously on (a) gateway introductory courses; (b) the interface between related disciplines, such as biology and physics; (c) courses related to a shared research area; and (d) non-tenure track faculty members.

In this presentation, we will characterize the STEM-related FLCs in our institution, share our experiences with creating and supporting FLCs, and present evidence from surveys and student assessments that demonstrates that FLC members use more evidence-based teaching approaches than non-FLC members. We will discuss the benefits of FLCs at the individual, departmental and institutional levels. At the individual level, FLC participants become more comfortable with their teaching role, learn important teaching skills, implement more evidence-based teaching approaches and feel more collegial as well as more recognized for their work.

At the departmental and institutional levels, FLCs provide opportunities for faculty mentorship, allow for the development of large-scale projects, facilitate grant funding and offer opportunities for the development of curriculum and assessment for a program of study.


TITLE: Successful Model for Professional Development: Creating and Sustaining Faculty Learning Communities

PRESENTERS: Ann C. Smith, University of Maryland - College Park; Ann M. Stevens, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Gili Marbach-Ad, University of Maryland - College Park

Faculty learning communities (FLCs) are one of the most effective ways to provide faculty with professional development in teaching and learning. FLCs engage faculty members that might otherwise be reluctant to participate in pedagogical activities by providing them with a supportive environment to explore and experiment with teaching approaches.

The Host-Pathogens Interaction (HPI) FLC at the University of Maryland has a successful working model for developing such an FLC. The HPI FLC brings together 20 faculty members with a shared research interest in HPI who are collectively responsible for nine undergraduate courses that cover HPI topics. They have met monthly since 2004 to discuss topics related to teaching and learning. Over the past ten years, the HPI FLC members created a validated two-tiered concept inventory (HPI-CI), consisting of multiple-choice questions with openended explanations. Based on the rich data collected, the group made curriculum and pedagogical changes in their courses. The multiple publications that resulted from the group’s work draw the attention of many science educators who ask permission to use the HPI CI in their courses.

More significantly, the process for developing an effective community has now been successfully transported to the Microbiology Group at Virginia Tech. Work at both institutions focuses on using the HPI CI as an assessment tool to engage faculty members in discussions about student learning, especially commonly held student alternative conceptions that set a barrier to instruction. We will share the process of creating inter-institutional collaborations between FLCs, including challenges faced and solutions found.


TITLE: Culture, Policy and Technology: Barriers Reported by Faculty Implementing Course Reform

PRESENTERS: Loran C. Parker, Purdue University; Omolola A. Adedokun, Purdue University; Zaira R. Arvelo Alicea, Purdue University; Sula Lee, Purdue University; Rob Morris, Purdue University; and Gabriela Weaver, Purdue University

This work reports on research exploring the transformation process at the intersection of faculty and institutional levels and addresses supports and barriers to institutional transformation. The long-term goal of this research effort is the description of institutional best practices surrounding the transformation of undergraduate teaching and learning process. The project under study selects and supports cohorts of faculty (approximately 60 per year) at a large Midwestern research university through the process of course transformation. To examine perceived barriers to successful and sustained transformation, participating faculty and instructors are surveyed and interviewed periodically beginning with their entrance to the program and continuing yearly after they have first implemented their redesign.

We report on data collected from multiple cohorts who have implemented their redesigned courses. Descriptive and thematic analysis, triangulated across cohorts and between quantitative and qualitative data sources reveal that faculty and instructors encounter several types of barriers including student resistance, resistance from fellow faculty, lack of resources (e.g., instructional space, teaching assistants, and time), and difficulties with technology. The proposed presentation will further describe and categorize these barriers and spur discussion of possible solutions. For example, our results suggest that, in addition to faculty development, outreach to students and non-participating faculty by university administrators may be important for reducing cultural barriers (e.g., due to prevalent norms and expectations of college teaching and learning) to course reform in higher education.


TITLE: A Disciplinary Teaching and Learning Center: Applying Pedagogical Content Knowledge to Faculty Development

PRESENTERS: Gili Marbach-Ad, University of Maryland - College Park; Laura C. Egan, University of Maryland - College Park; and Katerina V. Thompson, University of Maryland - College Park

Undergraduate education is in the midst of a major transformation to improve its quality and relevance. Accordingly, institutions of higher education have placed increasing emphasis on professional development in teaching. At the University of Maryland, we have taken a discipline-specific approach through the creation of the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC), which supports chemistry and biology faculty members, postdocs and graduate students. Our program is deeply integrated into the missions of the departments, and our emphasis on pedagogical content knowledge makes our activities highly relevant to the community we serve. This is demonstrated by our high participation rates and growing evidence of change in our undergraduate instruction.

The TLC has three overarching goals: to provide opportunities to collaborate with science education experts, to incorporate training in teaching science into the standard graduate program, and to support faculty learning communities (FLCs). To accomplish these goals, we provide a wide variety of resources: consultation, seminars/workshops, acculturation activities for new faculty, and teaching preparatory courses as well as a certificate program for graduate students.

We conduct ongoing program evaluation to enhance our transformative impact on undergraduate education using a holistic evaluation model to assess short- and long-term outcomes. This evaluation includes surveys, interviews and observations to measure participants’ awareness and implementation of evidence-based teaching practices, as well as surveys and exams to assess the impact on student learning. We will provide an overview of our programming and evaluation process, evidence of the effectiveness of the TLC model and suggestions for replicating this model.