The project is to enact a transformation to the adoption of evidence-based teaching & learning practices in all core mathematics, science, and engineering science courses taken by engineering students in their first two years, with approximately 500 students entering engineering each year. The project provides support to enable the faculty who teach these critical core courses to understand and adopt evidence-based practices, iteratively redesign their courses and assess the impact of those changes, and target deep and transferable learning within and across disciplinary domains. Strategies to support faculty change include ongoing discussions of the principles of teaching and learning and discipline-based education research; trained peer assistants to facilitate active-learning pedagogies in lectures and recitations; midterm course evaluations as formative feedback; and advocacy with colleagues to catalyze diffusion beyond these early courses.
The project has to date engaged two cohorts of faculty, nine supported in summer 2016 and eight in 2017, who teach the core Calculus, Chemistry and Physics courses, together with the foundational engineering science courses in Engineering Thermodynamics and Engineering Mechanics. Eight of the twelve core courses that will ultimately be targeted have so far been impacted to some degree. The faculty engaged to date are heavily weighted towards teaching stream, but our theory of action anticipates these being the champions to effect diffusion through sharing their experiences and successes with the tenure-stream faculty who tend to teach upper-level courses.
The extent of participating faculty and classroom transformation is being examined through the lens of limiting-factor analysis, which identifies and addresses those factors that need to be in place if the project is to be sustainable. Faculty are interviewed before and after implementing changes. A study is also being conducted on the institutional climate factors that support/hinder the transformation to evidence-based teaching. A baseline survey which investigated several climate factors was administered to all faculty of the institution at the start of the program. The cultural supports for change have also been addressed with the Faculty Senate and senior academic administrators. Midterm and end-of-course evaluations provide student input on their perceptions of the changes introduced by faculty.
Consistent with the literature, the baseline survey showed evidence-based practices were generally perceived as not supported or rewarded, not easy to implement, and require development of new skills. Where faculty had a positive view it was correlated with perceived relative advantage and compatibility with current practices. A significant project outcome has been the incorporation of an explicit goal to implement evidence-based teaching practices in the University’s most recent revision of its strategic plan. The results from the faculty surveys, after changes to their course delivery, showed that well-prepared peer mentors and TAs are an essential component of the ecology of active learning. Midterm and end-of-course surveys show large variability in student perceptions of the changes and how they impacted their own understanding.
This project is supported by the National Science Foundation EHR/DUE IUSE:EHR Program
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