This course provides preparation for current and future STEM faculty members in effective teaching strategies and the evidence that supports these strategies. You will learn how to (a) engage students in active learning in classrooms using strategies such as peer instruction and problem-based learning, (b) develop methods to help their students think more like experts in their fields using inquiry-based labs and similar activities, (c) turn their classrooms into learning communities through cooperative learning and using the diverse perspectives of their students, and (d) use approaches like flipped classrooms that make it possible to build active and collaborative learning into their classes.
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 52 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, Northwestern University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The course is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1347605.
Week 1: Practice and Feedback – Peer Instruction
We know that for students to build skills in a particular domain, they need practice using those skills and receive useful feedback on that practice. One way to create opportunities for practice and feedback during class is a teaching strategy called “peer instruction.” This module by Dr. Bennett Goldberg (Northwestern University) provides an introduction to peer instruction along with case studies exploring how individual faculty members use peer instruction to create active learning environments in their classes while meeting their teaching and learning goals.
Week 2: Practice and Feedback – Problem-Based Learning
For students to take the skills they learn in our courses and apply them to solve real-world problems, they need a chance to practice transferring or using what they are learning to new contexts. “Problem-based learning” or PBL describes a set of strategies aimed at providing students this kind of practice. This module by Dr. Rique Campa (Michigan State University) shows what problem-based learning looks like in different disciplines, provides principles for implementing problem-based learning in the classroom, and offers suggestions for assessments.
Week 3: Thinking Like a Scientist – Inquiry-Based Labs
Depending on our discipline, we might want our students to think like a scientist, an engineer, or a mathematician. Helping our students develop those disciplinary ways of thinking can be challenging. In this week’s module from Dr. Cynthia Brame (Vanderbilt University) we consider how inquiry-based labs can help students start to think like scientists. And in this week’s peer-graded assignment, you are asked to identify what it means to think like an expert in their fields and consider inquiry-based assignments and activities that might develop that kind of expertise.
Week 4: Learning Communities – Cooperative Learning
Our students need not learn in isolation. We can turn our classrooms into learning communities, where students are able to learn not just from their instructor or textbook, but also from and with each other. This module by Dr. Rique Campa (Michigan State University) explores the concept of cooperative learning and offers strategies for developing in-class and out-of-class learning activities that leverage the power of groups to meet teaching and learning objectives.
Week 5: Learning Communities – Learning Through Diversity
Our students bring a wide variety of perspectives, experiences, and skills to the classroom. If we are to turn our classrooms into learning communities, we need to teach in ways that invite and encourage all students to participate in the learning process. This module from Dr. Cori Fata-Hartley (Michigan State University) discusses strategies for teaching inclusively and for leveraging the diversity of perspectives among one’s students as a strength in the classroom.
Week 6: Course Design – The Flipped Classroom
How can we make time during class for active learning instruction and the building of learning communities? That is the question that motivates the idea of the flipped classroom. This module by Dr. Derek Bruff (Vanderbilt University) explores the flipped classroom as a way to make more intentional and effective use of class time—and engage our students in deep learning.
Week 7: Principles and Practices
The final course activity asks you to reflect on what you’ve learned in the course and make plans for applying it in your own teaching in the future. This week, you will respond to a series of prompts asking you about your goals for student learning, what teaching methods you plan to use to reach those goals, why those methods are likely to be effective, and how you plan to create inclusive learning environments. This final peer-graded assignment will serve as a way to synthesize what you have learned and prepare you to describe your teaching philosophies in more formal documents such as applying for academic positions or teaching awards or tenure and promotion in the future.
Week 8: Conclusion
During the final week of the course, you’ll provide feedback to your peers on their Principles and Practices project and, in turn, receive feedback on your project.
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