L: STEM Education Initiatives


TITLE: Building a Model of Change: Outcomes from Eight Years of Educational Transformation at the Science Education Initiative

PRESENTERS: Stephanie Chasteen, University of Colorado Boulder; Katherine K. Perkins, University of Colorado Boulder; and Carl E. Wieman, Stanford University

We will provide a broad, summative perspective on the Science Education Initiative (SEI) at the University of Colorado Boulder as well as results from its sister program at the University of British Columbia. The SEI served to inform the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, and is a multi-million dollar university-funded program aimed at improving undergraduate education, and the program at Colorado is coming to a close. Departments receive SEI funding through a proposal process, resulting in 7 funded departments at each institution. A key element of the program is its departmental focus; postdoctoral fellows work within SEI-funded departments, partnering with faculty to transform courses using the principles of backwards design, including written learning goals, assessment of student learning and research-based instructional practices. Thus, the SEI incorporates research in the design of its programmatic structure (educational change, principles of learning), as well as in its implementation (student learning, program outcomes).

The SEI aims to improve student learning by supporting widespread, effective use of research-based instructional practices both locally and nationally, through development of instructional resources and faculty expertise, as well as through testing of this model of change at two institutions. This talk will identify the key outcomes of the initiative at the faculty, course, departmental and programmatic level, and indicate what aspects of the initiative supported those outcomes. We will examine what we have learned from this educational experiment, through both successful and less-successful aspects of the initiative, including the proposal process, the role of the postdoctoral fellows, departmental culture and sustainability.


TITLE: Towards a Model of Systemic Change in University STEM Education

PRESENTERS: Joel C. Corbo, University of Colorado at Boulder; Melissa H. Dancy, University of Colorado at Boulder; Stanley Deetz, University of Colorado at Boulder; Noah Finkelstein, University of Colorado at Boulder; and Daniel L. Reinholz, University of Colorado at Boulder

Despite numerous calls for the transformation of undergraduate STEM education, there is still a lack of successful models for creating large-scale, systemic cultural changes in STEM departments. To date, change efforts have generally focused on one of three areas: developing reflective teachers, disseminating curricula and pedagogy, or enacting institutional policy. These efforts illustrate many of the challenges of departmental change; in particular, they highlight the need for a holistic approach that integrates across all three of these levels: individual faculty, whole departments and university policymakers. To address these challenges, as part of our campus-wide AAU-sponsored effort in STEM education transformation, we import and integrate models of change from multiple perspectives. We draw from models in organizational change, from departmental and disciplinary change in STEM education, and from efforts to support individual efforts such as the development and dissemination model. As a result, our departmental cultural change efforts are an attempt at holistic reform. We will discuss our theoretical underpinnings and report on the impact of our efforts to date.


TITLE: Creating Conversations: Engaging Biology Faculty in Transformation of the Gateway Curriculum

PRESENTERS: Cori L. Fata-Hartley, Michigan State University; Sarah E. Jardeleza, Michigan State University; Rebecca L. Matz, Michigan State University; Melanie M. Cooper, Michigan State University; Joseph S. Krajcik, Michigan State University; Diane Ebert- May, Michigan State University; Marcos D. Caballero, Michigan State University; James T. Laverty, Michigan State University; Sonia M. Underwood, Michigan State University; and Lynmarie A. Posey, Michigan State University

The Michigan State University AAU STEM Initiative Project, Creating a Coherent STEM Gateway for Teaching and Learning, is focused on transforming gateway biology, chemistry, and physics courses. A diverse group of faculty from MSU’s five biology-related departments participated in the effort to transform the large enrollment, multisection Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology course. The conversations were structured to develop a shared vision of the course that emphasizes three-dimensional learning—using disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and scientific practices to explain biological phenomena and solve problems.

Early results suggest this model may facilitate meaningful and sustainable change by circumventing previously reported obstacles, including skepticism about education research and perceptions that education research is dogmatic. Facilitators deflected these concerns by focusing on what we teach and assess, not on how we teach. The faculty were particularly receptive to reforming formative (e.g., in-class activities, homework) and summative (e.g., exam questions) assessments. As a result, the group identified a set of disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices and crosscutting concepts that will be used to develop assessments centered on explaining phenomena. The conversations also encouraged transformative reflection as faculty considered how to cover content in the context of disciplinary core ideas and addressed situational factors that hinder reform of large enrollment courses. A recent survey revealed that all the course instructors plan to make substantive changes in their courses. The instruments being developed for MSU’s AAU STEM Initiative Project will be used to both facilitate and evaluate these changes.