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FOUNDATIONS – Integrating Evidence-based Teaching and Learning Practices into the Core Engineering Curriculum: Retrospective on the Progress of Teaching-Track Faculty Participants

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

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July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

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NSF Grantees Poster Session

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NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Gail P. Baxter Stevens Institute of Technology

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Gail P. Baxter is the Co-Director, Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) at Stevens Institute of Technology. Baxter leads CIESE research and evaluation efforts and manages a program to support faculty adoption of evidence-based teaching practices in the core courses in the School of Engineering at Stevens. Before joining CIESE, Baxter was a Senior Survey Researcher at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Senior Research Scientist at Educational Testing Service, and an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Michigan. In addition, she served on National Academy of Sciences Committees on Foundations of Educational and Psychological Assessment and Evaluation of National and State Assessments of Educational Progress. She earned a PhD in Educational Psychology from UC Santa Barbara.

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Keith G. Sheppard Stevens Institute of Technology

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Dr. Keith G. Sheppard is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. His research interests have included electrochemical aspects of materials synthesis and environmental degradation of materials. His education in the U.K. included B.Sc. (University of Leeds) and Ph.D. (University of Birmingham) degrees in Metallurgy and a diploma in Industrial Administration (Aston University). He was the recipient of the Henry Morton Distinguished Teaching Professor Award in 2009. As Associate Dean, Prof. Sheppard had a leading role in the development of the undergraduate engineering curriculum at Stevens, including innovations in design education and initiatives to include entrepreneurship, sustainability, and global competency for undergraduate students.

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Susan Lowes Teachers College, Columbia University

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Dr. Susan Lowes is Director of Research and Evaluation at the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has conducted research at both university and K-12 levels, with a focus on STEM learning and on the impact of different technologies on teaching and learning. She has directed evaluations of multi-year projects funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education and the National Science Foundation, and served on Dept. of Education and NSF Advisory and Review panels. Dr. Lowes has worked extensively with Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Stevens Institute of Technology’s School of Engineering and Science. She has co-authored papers and presentations on STEM learning in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. Dr. Lowes is also Adjunct Professor in the Program in Computers, Communication, Technology, and Education at Teachers College, teaching courses on methodologies for researching technology in education and on online schools and schooling.

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To improve engagement and learning in introductory foundational STEM courses, many research-based institutions have invested in teaching-track faculty members. This NSF-supported project has been working with cohorts of teaching and tenure-track faculty who teach the core Science, Math and Engineering courses in the first two years. Each faculty cohort worked together over three years to change their instructional practices with the goal to increase the use of active learning approaches and facilitate development of deep and transferable learning. In this paper we focus on the ten teaching-track faculty who have been part of the Foundations project and their progress with respect to project goals.

The teaching-track faculty operate with different constraints to those on tenure-track. They have limited-term employment contracts and their reappointment is more heavily influenced by student course evaluations than that of tenure-track faculty, who have research performance as a significant factor. While this creates risk for teaching-track faculty changing their teaching, they are more likely to see teaching professional development, teaching innovation and associated research engagement as enablers of their academic success. It was expected therefore, that they would have a strong interest in learning about and adopting the evidence-based teaching practices that are the focus of the project, with an added potential benefit of them becoming project champions.

The project engaged fifteen teaching-track faculty members. However, only ten have fully engaged for at least 3 years during the project. We discuss the project’s impact on their implementation of active-learning approaches, strategies to promote development of deep and transferable student knowledge and efforts to support the spread of evidence-based approaches to their faculty peers.

Faculty interviews, surveys and progress reports in conjunction with student course surveys indicate important changes in instructional practices including: (a) Increased use of peer-to-peer learning; (b) Reorganization of large science lectures into smaller, more student-centered sections that favor pre-class worksheets, weekly quizzes, and group problem solving; (c) Decrease in faculty-led lectures to accommodate student led problem solving and reporting out of their solutions in class. Peer Leaders (i.e. undergraduate students to facilitate problem solving) have been a notable strategy found successful during the project. Faculty report that well-prepared peer leaders are a key component of the ecology of active learning.

To promote deep and transferable knowledge the faculty have articulated critical course concepts, reduced content, and discussed how key concepts are connected across courses. Depending on the nature and structure of the course, faculty employed one or more additional strategies such as: (a) Concept maps to connect concepts within a course; (b) Metacognitive strategies (e.g., minute papers, muddiest point, exam wrappers) to prompt student reflection on understanding; (c) In-class reviews to address erroneous conceptions.

Project faculty have formally shared knowledge and experience gained from the project with their peers internally and this forms an important spread path for further adoption. More informally they are initiating spread, such as in coordination of non-project faculty in large multi-section courses.

Baxter, G. P., & Sheppard, K. G., & Lowes, S. (2021, July), FOUNDATIONS – Integrating Evidence-based Teaching and Learning Practices into the Core Engineering Curriculum: Retrospective on the Progress of Teaching-Track Faculty Participants Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37203

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