ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators Promotes Change

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Title of Abstract: ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators Promotes Change

Name of Author: Kelly Gull
Author Company or Institution: American Society for Microbiology
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development, Introductory Course(s), Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Adding to the literature on how people learn, Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development, Mixed Approach
Keywords: Effective teaching strategies, Effective assessment strategies, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Discipline-based Education Research, and Faculty development

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Amy L. Chang, American Society for Microbiology

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Now in its 21st year, the ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE, gathers 400 biologists to share information about biology and science education research, improve their teaching, engage in teaching as a scholarly endeavor, and identify with a community. The goals of ASMCUE are to (i) improve teaching and learning in undergraduate biology; (ii) identify concepts, understanding, and skills in biology; and (iii) develop a robust community of practice. In 2013, conference attendees represented the diversity of higher education: 31% were from primary undergraduate institutions, 30% from doctoral-degree granting universities, 22% from community colleges, 11% from comprehensive universities, and 2% from other institutions. They taught introductory biology (27%), lower division microbiology (36%), upper division microbiology (29%), and human anatomy and physiology (8%). While 66% taught face-to-face courses, 25% taught a combination of blended online and face-to-face courses. About 10% of the participants receive travel grants. These grants generally target graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career faculty as well as faculty who teach underrepresented or underserved students and faculty from resource-limited countries.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: ASMCUE is an interactive, four-day working conference including plenary lectures, concurrent sessions, poster and paper sessions, exhibits, and networking. The conference program offers every level of scholarship, from best practices in introductory level biology to discipline-based education research. Sessions are divided into different tracks: science, pedagogy, assessments, and resources. Since 2009, ASMCUE has sponsored fifteen-minute ‘chalk talks’ for educators to share their best practices and solicit feedback from the community. This forum is designed for those starting out in teaching or implementing new techniques in the classroom. Abstracts for the chalk talks are published in the ASMCUE program, giving authors a citation for their work. Abstracts for posters are published in the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education. Strategies are used to encourage collaboration and highlight special events: social media, themed discussions, and a mobile app. Networking is encouraged through formal discussions eliciting feedback for standard laboratory protocols and society-backed guidelines on curriculum and safety. In addition, sessions help to connect participants to national initiatives like Vision and Change and PULSE. Bringing together like-minded participants is further encouraged through informal discussions on general topics such as online and hybrid teaching, investigative laboratories, classroom-based research, part time and adjunct positions, and community colleges. Since 2012, ASMCUE and the ASM General Meeting have sponsored overlapping sessions, sharing 1.5 days of programming. ASMCUE participants participate in a leading scientific meeting convening 7,000+ scientists fostering more opportunities to integrate the scholarship of discovery and teaching. Biologists at the ASM General Meeting have opportunities to learn about promising practices in teaching and connect with undergraduate educators, their students and classes.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: ASMCUE uses formative assessments to guide its development and improve its program. The ASMCUE mobile app allows for real-time feedback during the conference. Post-conference surveys are planned after each conference. Additionally, a summative assessment was issued after the 10th anniversary of the conference. It went to 759 participants who attended at least one conference in the preceding 10 years. The response rate was 25% and respondents reported that they developed professionally by changing their courses/programs based on information gained at the conference (85%), shared information learning with colleagues (61%), and attended to safety issues more regularly (57%). Results of the survey and the success of ASMCUE were highlighted in Vision and Change. The report acknowledges ASM's contributions to undergraduate education, particularly citing ASMCUE as a venue that will lead to ‘genuine reform in undergraduate biology education.’ ASMCUE will continue to monitor its yearly progress and is planning for another ten-year comprehensive evaluation in 2014.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: ASMCUE fosters further faculty development around promising practices, pedagogies and educational innovations. Based upon needs identified amongst ASMCUE participants, the ASM established several yearlong topical residencies in bioinformatics, functional genomics, student and course assessment, and the scholarship of teaching and learning for example, to allow more time for biologists to develop their understanding and apply new skills in their classroom under the guidance of peer mentors in a robust learning community. A structured mentoring program, such as the Science Teaching Fellowship, uses webinars and a virtual learning community to develop skills in science teaching at non-doctoral institutions. Online communities sustain the networking initiated at ASMCUE. Lastly, ASMCUE convenes leaders from other national groups such as Introductory Biology Project (IBP), the Science Case Network community, and the Cyberlearning at Community Colleges (C3) Project, exposing participants to national programs.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: ASMCUE attendees have been trained as STEM faculty and not as educational researchers; becoming more expert in educational research and evidenced-based teaching requires time, practice and a learning community. Attendees need (i) time to develop and implement new approaches, (ii) mentors to help navigate and persist in new and unfamiliar areas, and (iii) a community of supportive peers. The ASM learning communities and topical training programs are steps toward sustaining educational reform.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The ASM utilizes members and publications to disseminate information about the Conference. We strive to reach postdoctoral and early-career faculty, as they are an investment into the future. By exposing future faculty to evidenced-based practices, ASM supports sustained changes and generates commitment put forth by Vision and Change. Lastly, publishing ASMCUE abstracts in the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education provides authors a citation. By linking the expansive journal readership with the growing number of conference attendees, ASM disseminates scholarly work to a global audience.

Acknowledgements: We are indebted to the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) leadership for supporting this annual conference for the previous 20 years.