About Course 2: Advancing Learning Through Evidence-Based STEM Teaching

This course will be offered starting summer 2016 with offerings in the fall and spring as well. This eight-week course prepares science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instructors to develop and implement teaching practices that advance the learning experiences and outcomes of both students and teachers. The course will be offered again during the spring of 2018.


This course will provide graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) who are planning college and university faculty careers with an introduction to “teaching as research”—the deliberate, systematic, and reflective use of research methods to develop and implement teaching practices that advance the learning experiences and outcomes of both students and teachers. Participants will learn about effective teaching strategies and the research that supports them, and they will learn how to collect, analyze, and act upon their own evidence of student learning.

The course will draw on the expertise of experienced STEM faculty, educational researchers, and staff from university teaching centers, many of them affiliated with the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a network of research universities collaborating in the preparation of STEM graduate students and post-docs as future faculty members. The eight-week course will be highly interactive, with many opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. Learning communities are at the heart of CIRTL’s activities, and this open, online course is intended to foster a large, healthy learning community of those interested in undergraduate STEM teaching—including current STEM faculty.

“Advancing Learning through Evidence-Based STEM Teaching” has been developed by faculty, staff, and students at Vanderbilt University, Michigan State University, Boston University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The course is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1347605.


Will I get a Verified Certificate after completing this course?
Not at this time. We are working on making this option available. Please check back soon.

Are there any required readings for this course?
There’s no textbook, but during a few of the weeks participants will be directed to journal articles or websites that are freely available online. Most of the content for the course will be found in the course videos.

Do I need to be teaching a class in order to benefit from this course?
No, this course is designed primarily for future STEM faculty, that is, graduate students and post-docs planning faculty careers. If you happen to be in a teaching position of some kind (even as a teaching assistant) while the course runs, you may find it useful to “pilot” some of the teaching strategies discussed in the course, but that’s not essential to participation in the course.

Is this course open to those at institutions not affiliated with the CIRTL Network?
Yes! Although the course has been developed by faculty, staff, and students at CIRTL Network institutions, it is intended for anyone interested in becoming a more effective undergraduate STEM teacher, regardless of institutional affiliation.

Do I need to be part of a local learning community to participate in the course?
No. Meeting with a local learning group or study group is a great way to get more out of the course experience, but it is not required.

Do I need to be a graduate student or post-doc (in a STEM field) to enroll?
No. Anyone is welcome to enroll, but the course is designed for graduate students and post-docs with aspirations of teaching STEM courses in higher education.

Where can I find this course on Twitter?
You don’t need to use Twitter to participate in the course, but if you are on Twitter, you’re welcome to follow the course account,@CIRTLMOOC. Also, if you tweet about the course, please use the hashtag #STEMTeaching so that we can find your tweets more easily.

Do I need to have completed “An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching” to take this course?
No, this is an independent course. However, if you are interested in learning more about evidence-based teaching strategies we recommend taking our introductory MOOC.

What is a Teaching-as-Research or TAR project?
A teaching-as-research (TAR) project typically involves asking one or more questions about teaching and student learning in a particular teaching context, exploring the literature to see how others have addressed similar questions, designing a set of teaching activities and learning assessments to investigate those questions in one’s own class, analyzing evidence of student learning generated by those activities and assessments, then using the results of that analysis to inform future teaching.

How will this course prepare me to do a TAR project?
The first module in this course will introduce you to teaching as research (TAR), giving you a sense of the TAR process and why it’s valuable and sharing examples of TAR projects. Subsequent modules will explore various evidence-based teaching strategies and learning assessments one might employ in a TAR project. The final module will focus on the steps of a TAR project, and the final assignment in the course will involve designing a TAR project you could implement at some point in the future.

Will I receive feedback on my TAR proposal?
Yes! The final assignment, in which you design a TAR project proposal, is a peer-graded assignment. You’ll receive structured, qualitative feedback on your project proposal from several peers in the course. In addition, you’ll be welcome to share your project ideas on the course discussion boards for more informal feedback and suggestions.

Why should I take this course, with its focus on teaching-as-research?
There is a rich literature on teaching and learning in higher education that teachers can leverage to increase their teaching effectiveness. As we apply and adapt teaching strategies described in the literature in our own classrooms, to ensure our effectiveness as teachers it is important to gather and analyze evidence of our own students’ learning. Teaching-as-research (TAR) provides a mindset and process for doing just that.

Do I need to have local contacts to complete my TAR project?
Once you’ve designed a TAR project (as you will do by the end of this course), it is possible to implement it on one’s own. However, most instructors engaged in TAR projects, particularly first-timers, benefit greatly from support and feedback from others. We recommend that, if you choose to implement your TAR project, you seek out a local community of STEM educators to consult with, even if that’s just one like-minded colleague.

If you are a graduate student or post-doc, you may have rather limited teaching opportunities in which to implement your TAR project. If that’s the case, then partnering with a faculty member might be essential to conducting your project.

Do I need an idea for a TAR project in order to start the course?
No, however, you might begin to think about a question you have about teaching and learning that is associated with a subject in your discipline. For example, have you ever wondered how to get undergraduate students in your discipline engaged in class discussions or what method(s) could you used to help encourage students to read materials before class? To help you come up with a question that could be developed into a TAR project think about your experiences as a teacher or a student.

What is included in a TAR proposal?
A TAR proposal usually consists of objectives, a description of how your objectives will be evaluated and then a description of the activities you’ll use in class to meet your objectives.



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