The overarching goal of our STEM education initiatives is to transform the teaching and learning culture in STEM at Washington University so that evidence-based approaches, such as active-learning pedagogies and inclusive teaching, are incorporated into all of our STEM courses. A “growth mindset” that sees learning as a continuous process that involves risk-taking and reflection is central to this process (Dweck, 2006; Fisher, Dufault, Repice, & Frey 2013).
Transforming teaching and learning in STEM is complex and requires a multifaceted approach. We are accomplishing this goal through the following integrated activities:
1) A multi-strategy approach that encourages faculty to integrate evidence-based techniques that fit their teaching styles and course objectives.
2) Faculty-development programs that are designed to help instructors refine how they implement and evaluate evidence-based learning in their classrooms. These programs provide opportunities for discussion and collaboration with colleagues.
3) A collaborative teaching culture throughout the university to sustain the development, implementation, and evaluation of innovative, evidence-based teaching in STEM.
Research shows that active learning not only increases student engagement, but also results in deeper conceptual understanding and long-term retention of knowledge—all of which can increase student success and persistence in the STEM disciplines (e.g., Cahill et al, 2014; Freeman, 2014; Prince, 2004). Evidence-based teaching has been central to The Teaching Center philosophy for many years, and our staff brings to this project expertise in scholarly research on active-learning pedagogies as well as experience in collaborating with faculty to implement diverse approaches that fit their respective course objectives and teaching styles.
The Teaching Center is working with departments and faculty to create a culture of scholarly teaching by furthering ongoing discussions about teaching and learning across the STEM disciplines. Indeed, one of the most exciting aspects of the initiative is its emphasis on learning communities composed of faculty who come together within and across departments to study and discuss approaches to teaching.
Evaluation is integral to the refinement and improvement of our work in each of these three areas. More specifically, the evaluation of the STEM education initiative programs aims to produce new knowledge about which common elements of various evidence-based approaches are correlated with increased student learning, engagement, and persistence in STEM majors.
We are partnering with research scientists in the Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education (CIRCLE) to explore these questions. We also are investigating which faculty-development programs are most effective in supporting faculty as they design, implement, and assess active-learning approaches in their courses. This knowledge will contribute to a broader conversation that is advancing STEM education beyond Washington University’s classrooms. Find out more about the role of evaluation in refining teaching innovation and excellence at WashU.
If you are a faculty member interested in participating in these programs, please contact Teaching Center Executive Director, Gina Frey.
Initial funding for the STEM education initiatives at Washington University was through a four-year grant from the American Association of Universities (AAU). This work continues through the Transformational Initiative for Education in STEM (TIES), which is supported by the Office of the Provost.
If you have general questions about the TIES project, please contact Erin Solomon.
Cahill, M. J., Hynes, K. M., Trousil, R., Brooks, L. A., McDaniel, M. A., Repice, M., Zhao, J., & Frey, R.F. (2014). Multiyear, multi-instructor evaluation of a large-class interactive-engagement curriculum. Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research, 10(2), 020101. Accessible online here.
Dweck. C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. NY: Ballantine.
Fisher, B. A. and R. F. Frey. (2011). Adapting a laboratory-Research Group Model to Foster the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. To Improve the Academy: Resources for faculty, instructional, and organizational development, 30, 99-111.
Fisher, B.A., Dufault, C.L., Repice, M.D., & Frey, R.F. (2013). Fostering a growth mind-set: Integrating research on teaching and learning and the practice of teaching. To Improve the Academy: Resources for faculty, instructional, and organizational development, 32, 39-56.
Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (n.d.). (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/05/08/1319030111.full.pdf+html
Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93, 223-232.