Insights into Systemically Transforming Teaching & Learning
Historically, innovations in university-level teaching have often occurred as heroic efforts by individuals who pioneer change, or as part of an externally funded research project. More recently, institutions have begun to create centers to support innovations systemically. This study looks at the early efforts of a new center established to systemically advance STEM teaching and learning at an engineering university.
This paper explores the impact of targeted approaches on teaching practices across two STEM disciplines (electrical engineering and chemistry) by working with faculty who were interested in increasing student engagement and improving student end-of-course success.
Within this study, we focus on innovations around three target areas:
1. Course design to create a conceptually coherent and rigorous instructional sequence (Wiggans & McTighe, 1998)
2. Creating shifts in classroom and school culture towards an efforts-based learner (Resnick & Hall, 2000)
3. Active learning approaches that engage students in cognitive wrestling around key concepts (Prince, 2004)
Research indicates that innovative practices in these areas lead to significant changes in student understanding, perception, and skills. For the purpose of this paper, we focus on documenting shifts in instructor practices. We begin by describing the theoretical framework that informs the center’s efforts in working with faculty to change beliefs, understandings, and practices. We also discuss the approaches that the center utilized to encourage and support the innovations. These approaches engage the faculty in reflective practices, structure paths to dig into course designs and content, analyze student learning, and consider different course design and instructional approaches to enhance the course.
We include a discussion of student-level data that is being gathered, but the data analysis will be reported in separate papers as the analysis is completed. Factors that influence professional learning and shifts in practices are discussed to consider conditions that propagate systemic advances to STEM teaching and learning.
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