K: Institutional Supports and Barriers for Transformation


TITLE: Planning Transformation of STEM Education in a Research University

PRESENTERS: Gerry G. Meisels, Ph.D., University of South Florida; Robert L. Potter, Ph.D., University of South Florida; Peter Stiling, Ph.D., University of South Florida; Jennifer Lewis, Ph.D., University of South Florida; Catherine Beneteau Ph.D., University of South Florida; Kevin Yee Ph.D., University of South Florida; and Richard Pollenz, Ph.D., University of South Florida

Attraction and retention of STEM majors, especially those from underrepresented groups, requires a comprehensive approach. Factors and practices that shape outcomes are identified and shared through a process that relies on a planning team that is broadly constituted from STEM and Education faculty, department chairs, and college administrators. Six key steps include 1. Developing a data base on students who leave the STEM major, including an analysis of their fates; 2. Establishing Planning Team understanding of how to achieve institutional change, identify and implement effective practices; 3. Institutional policies that encourage or inhibit success and proposing changes to reduce the latter; 4. Designing an action plan that recognizes the continuum of student experience from high school or community college to the university; 5. Analyze separately resources needed to initiate and to sustain the planned program of interventions; and 6. Establish and secure broadly-based institutional support and commitment to a long-term program.

The opportunity for success of this approach is enhanced by recent institutional priorities on student success, the alignment of resource allocations with this objective, and by the declaration of Discipline Based Education Research as a priority of the College of Arts and Sciences.


TITLE: The Role of Social Capital in the Retention of First-Generation Undergraduate Women in STEM

PRESENTERS: Deborah A. Tully, University of Sydney

First-generation college students are twice as likely to exit STEM and leave college altogether than their peers whose parents completed college. Their personal backgrounds and academic preparation place them at increased risk for attrition. More often than not, first-generation college students come from minority and lower socio-economic groups. This study focuses on first-generation undergraduate women who have completed at least two years in their STEM major and looks at those factors that have contributed to their persistence. Drawing on a theoretical framework of social capital, the purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of how social networks may provide agency that affects the retention of first-generation women in STEM.

As private colleges have exhibited higher retention rates for students in STEM than do public universities, this research was undertaken at three different private liberal arts colleges (two women’s colleges, one coeducational college). Although first-generation women in STEM at each of these colleges had lower GPAs (p<.05) than their female peers whose parents had graduated college, they were four times more likely to be involved in a formal or professional mentoring relationship. The results of this study highlight how first-generation women in STEM may appropriate new sources of cultural capital through resource-rich relationships with faculty and peers that in turn positively affect academic outcomes. Exploring the sources of both cultural and social capital in these academic settings may illuminate how future university policies and practices can be shaped to further promote successful gains for first-generation women in STEM.


TITLE: From Grassroots to Institutionalization: RIT’s CASTLE

PRESENTERS: Scott Franklin, Rochester Institute of Technology

Overcoming institutional barriers to a culture of transformative STEM education requires a concentrated strategic effort. Critical hurdles at RIT included faculty skepticism toward classroom transformation, concern for impact on tenure and promotion, and defining the place of education research within a technologically-oriented institution.

In 2010, five STEM faculty from three College of Science departments came together to form the Science and Mathematics Education Research Collaborative (SMERC) devoted to rigorous discipline-based education research (DBER). At the same time, the group made a conscious effort to bring about broad culture change. SMERC faculty created a community of practice among other STEM faculty and a learning lssistant program to support course transformation. As a result, the 2013 College of Science strategic plan explicitly cited SMERC as a model interdisciplinary research group and incorporated SMERC goals into the college’s strategic plan. The group now includes 10 faculty (five departments, three colleges) and enjoys recognition and support across the College.

At the institute-level, these efforts were framed as lying at the intersection of important institutional strategic priorities. DBER simultaneously advances basic research and discovery while driving pedagogical change and assessments that result in improved student learning and retention. Recognition of these synergies led RIT to create the Center for Advancing Science/Math Teaching, Learning & Evaluation (CASTLE) to integrate the many programs originally developed by SMERC. By highlighting the complementary nature of institute priorities, CASTLE has carved a unique position as broadly interdisciplinary, rigorous in research and pedagogy, and embedded in institute culture.


TITLE: Measuring Postsecondary Teaching Practices and Departmental Climate: The Development of Two New Surveys

PRESENTERS: Emily M. Walter, Ph.D., Western Michigan University; Andrea L. Beach, Ph.D., Western Michigan University; Charles Henderson, Ph.D., Western Michigan University; and Cody T. Williams, Western Michigan University

This paper will discuss the measurement of institutional supports and barriers for transformation related to postsecondary teaching practices in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) [Priority 1].

Although most faculty have knowledge of evidence-based teaching practices and have access to resources to employ them, efforts to transform postsecondary instruction have had only modest success (e.g. Dancy & Henderson, 2007; MacDonald, Manduca, Mogk, & Tewksbury, 2005; Prince, Borrego, Henderson, Cutler, Froyd, 2013). One of the reasons for this may be underlying institutional environments and structures, such as the climate for teaching in a department (Beach, Henderson, & Finkelstein, 2012; Henderson, Beach, & Finkelstein, 2011).

The purpose of our study was to develop and validate two research-based surveys to measure (a) departmental climate for teaching improvement and (b) postsecondary instructional practices. We also trained faculty observers on the Teaching Dimensions Observational Protocol (TDOP; Hora, Oleson, & Ferrare, 2012) to triangulate the results of the teaching practices instrument. Our pilot process has involved 19 departments our institution as well as cohorts of STEM departments at three other institutions.

The goals for this presentation are to share our research tools (two newly developed surveys and the TDOP observational protocol) and preliminary results, explain our development process, provide suggestions for use of the instruments and note future directions of our work. We know that many department- and institution-level change initiatives struggle with measurement of relevant aspects of the local environment. Thus, we expect the paper to be of wide interest to the Transforming Institutions audience.

Select References
Beach, A. L., Henderson, C., & Finkelstein, N. (2012). Facilitating change in undergraduate STEM education. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 44(6), 52–59. doi: 10.1080/00091383.2012.728955

Henderson, C., Beach, A. L., & Finkelstein, N. (2011). Facilitating change in undergraduate STEM instructional practices: An analytic review of the literature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48, 952-984. doi: 10.1002/tea.20439

Hora, M. T., Oleson, A., & Ferrare, J. J. (2012). Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol (TDOP) user’s manual. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Center for Education.