Creating a Coherent Gateway for STEM Teaching and Learning

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Title of Abstract: Creating a Coherent Gateway for STEM Teaching and Learning

Name of Author: Diane Ebert-May
Author Company or Institution: Michigan State University
Author Title: Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: 1468, 1487, Cell Biology, Ecology and Environmental Biology, Evolutionary Biology, General Biology, Genetics, Math, Organismal Biology, Plant Biology & Botany
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Mixed Approach, Research driven
Keywords: assessment, learning communities, introductory science and math courses, change models, retention

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Tammy Long, Michigan State University Robert Pennock, Michigan State University Mark Voit, Michigan State University

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: At Michigan State University, we are focusing on the reform of gateway courses in not only in biology but also in chemistry, physics and mathematics involving over 4000 students in a typical semester. Using a model of change that depends upon a shared vision, teams of faculty from the disciplinary departments will come together to identify the disciplinary and cross-disciplinary core ideas and scientific and mathematical practices that, together, we will blend to develop performance expectations. We are developing assessments that emphasize both these core ideas and scientific or mathematical practices, which in turn will require that faculty change their classroom practices. In this way, we focus on the important ideas and practices of the STEM disciplines, and emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of modern science and mathematics. Learning communities composed of faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students will be supported as they contribute to the shared vision of the reformed gateway courses. This project is complementary to an existing project funded by AAU and was proposed to the recent NSF-WIDER competition, intended to lead to reform of gateway courses and changing the culture of research universities to emphasize the importance of teaching and learning.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: The reform of these courses is based both on current theories of teaching and learning, and on a change model that emerges from the shared vision of all the stakeholders and that evolves based on feedback from assessments about how we are meeting our goals.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Our reform efforts are driven by the following research questions: 1. In what ways do faculty transform their practices across the STEM gateway courses as new common outcomes and expectations are developed based upon core disciplinary ideas blended with scientific practices? 2. How does student understanding of core disciplinary ideas and science practices change, over time and across disciplines? 3. Are student changes in understanding and use of knowledge correlated with faculty practices, assessments and learning materials? 4. How does student retention, both in courses and majors, change as courses are redesigned?

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: As we answer these four research questions, we will develop a model for sustainable change in targeted gateway courses based on collective faculty engagement. This model will be transferable to other institutions.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Although it is not unexpected, faculty commitment and willingness to change is always a challenge.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The AAU project began in June. The reform of Organismal and Population Biology (see T. Long abstract) is complete (but always a work in progress) and disseminated to a number of faculty across colleges.

Acknowledgements: To all the faculty and administrators who are involved in the reform of the STEM gateway courses.