Increasingly in research universities today, a variety of pedagogies are being employed that enhance students’ depth of understanding and their ability to apply knowledge effectively and creatively. Combined with this are new methods that expand faculty members’ abilities to assess student learning and the effectiveness of their own teaching. Here are some examples:
This site describes the “re-engineering” of the introductory physics courses—both algebra- and calculus-based—undertaken at the University of Illinois in the mid-1990s. It documents how these course revisions can produce a sea change in outcomes and provides useful examples, including:
- Adopting new “best-practice” instructional techniques, based on physics education research, that emphasizes conceptual understanding.
- Utilizing state-of-the-art instructional media, including multimedia presentations, World Wide Web-based interactive course materials, and laboratory computer data acquisition and analysis.
- Promoting student opportunities for [research] collaborative learning and teamwork.
- Standardizing meaningful course content and effective pedagogical methods, so that good teaching does not depend on a single inspired instructor but is integral to all sections of all classes, while allowing room for faculty creativity and continuous improvement.
- Building an administrative/management infrastructure to support and sustain continued curriculum development as new methodologies evolve.
An article describing the actual process of the transition is available at
http://www.aps.org/units/fed/newsletters/aug97/articles.html#campbell also available as a PDF
A slide presentation in PowerPoint is also available from Boston University Provost Dr. Campbell entitled “Educating in Bulk: The Introductory Physics Course Revisions at Illinois”
This article describes the large-scale revision of MIT’s introductory physics course from a “traditional large introductory lecture [to] smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning.”
This is a useful introduction to the Duke revision of electric and computer engineering. From the homepage: “The overarching goal of the new curriculum is to expose students to the full breadth of electrical and computer engineering in their first year [with hands-on modules], and then build on the integrated sensing and information-processing orientation in successive courses. The new courses provide ample opportunity to design, build a prototype, test it until it breaks and then redesign to fix the problems —a crucial skill for engineers.”
These are very useful capsules describing a systemic change that has had the specific goal of attracting more women to STEM fields, which could also be one of our goals.
This collection of articles, esp. the section “Foundations for Systemic Change,” discusses the different rate at which students learn, and offers theories that can be applied across the academic spectrum.
Technology-mediated teaching: Faculty across the natural and social sciences and the humanities are using technology to introduce more interactive learning, hands-on exploratory learning, learning community opportunities, self-guided learning, and many other possibilities into the classroom and beyond-the-classroom experiences.
Originally used in a few fields, clickers (or “classroom response systems”) are now being used in a wide variety of fields to allow instructors to “poll” students in a classroom and project the distribution of answers on a screen. This technology can be used for instant feedback on learning, allowing discussion of common wrong answers or for initiating discussions, especially on difficult or “hot” topics.
Service learning is a pedagogy that integrates community service into a course in an integrated way, not just as an “internship” or source of a final paper, but in a way that is more central to the course experience.
Information about collaborative- or team-based learning projects.
Information about the incorporation of games, simulations, and virtual worlds.
This is an AAC&U partnership that resulted in a major grant dedicated to revising STEM teaching. The questions they asked—their “problematic”—provide some models for the framing of proposals, particularly in the alignment with institutional, rather than just discipline-related, goals. As the directors of the project point out, “A central thread through all of this is that the process, from asking questions to seeking and sharing expertise, should reflect a sure sense of institutional mission and identity. The following questions, adapted from PKAL Volume III: Structures for Science, illustrate one approach to linking institutional and facilities planning.”
* When was the last time we revisited, revised, or reaffirmed our institutional vision, in the context of our institutional mission and circumstances?
* What are our institutional priorities in regard to student learning in STEM fields? How have those priorities been determined?
* Do we have a current academic plan? Does it visibly reflect our mission? Is it compatible with our understanding of the future in which our students will live and work?
* Do the changes we envision for the sciences fit within our mission and our current academic plan? Do they reflect a common understanding of findings from cognitive science about how people learn and how those findings can influence how we shape programs, pedagogies, and spaces?
* Does our thinking about the future of the sciences for our community represent several independent visions or does it capture the sense of the community?