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Board 358: Post-COVID Professional Development and Community Building for a Pedagogical Change Project

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Jill K. Nelson George Mason University

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Jill Nelson is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at George Mason University. She earned a BS in Electrical Engineering and a BA in Economics from Rice University in 1998. She attended the University of Illinoi

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Jessica Rosenberg George Mason University

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Jessica Rosenberg is an Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy and the Director of Education for the Quantum Science and Engineering Center at George Mason University. She is as an astrophysicist focusing on what we can learn about galaxy evolution from the gas and star formation properties of galaxies. She is also working to improve STEM education with a focus on the education and retention of a diverse group of students in the STEM disciplines. She has developed and implemented education programs that span K-20, researched improvements to STEM classroom education, and is working to develop a career-ready quantum workforce.

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This project, funded through the Institutional and Community Transformation Track of the NSF IUSE Program, aims to transform the culture in STEM departments at the home institution to one that values and prioritizes active and inquiry-based learning. The theoretical framework for the project builds on existing work on grassroots change in higher education (Kezar and Lester, 2011) to study the effect of communities of practice (Wenger, 1999) on changing teaching culture. Through project efforts, we have established course-based communities of transformation (CCTs) in three STEM departments. CCTs are focused on highly enrolled gateway courses in each of the departments and include faculty teaching the courses as well as other faculty interested in improving teaching and learning. Two of the CCTs have established change plans and records of activity; one joined the project recently and is developing plans this fall.

Over the past year, we have focused significant effort on implementing new professional development opportunities for GTAs in the targeted courses and reflection/re-planning activities for CCTs. The activities we have introduced are motivated by observations over the first few years of the project. While projects often evolve differently than what was originally envisioned, our project trajectory changed more than we could have imagined due to COVID. This year has represented a return to normal, and we have used it as an opportunity to roll out activities that serve both as professional development and as ways to rebuild community after COVID separation and with many new people involved.

This paper will describe a pre-semester GTA training piloted for new GTAs in the participating departments and reflection/replanning workshops for the CCTs in each participating department. Introduction of a pre-semester GTA training workshop was motivated by the significant role GTAs play in implementing teaching change in large courses (leading recitations and labs, for example) and the need for GTAs to have structured professional development before the semester begins. In the early years of the project, GTAs met less regularly within their departments during the semester, but we found that new GTAs often arrived with little or no teaching experience and needed professional development before the semester began to put them on track for a successful GTA experience. The reflection workshops for CCTs were part of the original project plan and were designed to give CCTs a chance to review their change plans, reflect on progress, and strategize about next steps. Given the massive changes brought on by COVID, the CCTs’ change processes looked much different than planned, and reflection workshops were critical to helping CCTs understand what they had achieved in the transition to online instruction and how they could leverage those achievements moving forward.

Kezar, A., and Lester, J. (2011). Enhancing shared leadership: Stories and lessons from grassroots leadership in higher education. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity (1st pbk. ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Nelson, J. K., & Rosenberg, J. (2023, June), Board 358: Post-COVID Professional Development and Community Building for a Pedagogical Change Project Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--43002

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