How Does Your Professional Organization Lead Positive Change?

Pamela Brown
CUNY New York City College of Technology
Pamela Brown, CUNY New York City College of Technology
Author Profile
published Jan 5, 2018 8:18am

We are creating resources for the ASCN Working Group 4: Demonstrating Impact and others, interested in higher education systemic change efforts, by soliciting responses to important questions.

This month's question is related to professional organizations. We are interested to learn about activities different professional organizations in STEM disciplines are using to accelerate change.

Professional organizations/societies may have the authority, relationships and access to data to implement positive changes in specific disciplines. One example of an organization actively engaged with this mission is the Research Advisory Group of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences.

The report "The Role of Scientific Societies in STEM Faculty Workshops" recommended by Charles Henderson in his contribution is a great resource that provides insights into faculty professional development workshops across STEM disciplines.

The December/January question:

How does your professional organization try to lead positive change? What changes have your professional organization led or you would like to see them lead?

Share below in the comment section how is your professional organization addressing this and let us know what topics/questions you would like us to address in the coming months.

Charles Henderson

Charles Henderson
Western Michigan University
In undergraduate physics, some of the most productive positive changes in attitudes towards and use of research-based instructional strategies can be traced to the Physics and Astronomy New Faculty Workshop (NFW). The NFW is jointly administered by the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Astronomical Society, and the American Physical Society. It started in 1996 and currently brings approximately 40% of all new physics and astronomy faculty at four-year colleges and universities to a four-day immersive workshop. At the workshop, attendees participate in interactive presentations made by leading curriculum developers in physics. Small group sessions provide time for participants to talk about details related to implementation. Several pieces of research suggest that the NFW is very successful at increasing participant knowledge about research-based instructional strategies and motivating participants to try incorporating these strategies in their teaching. It is also my opinion that the NFW has helped to support the growth of Physics Education Research by exposing a large percentage of new physics faculty to the benefits of Physics Education Research.

For more information, see:

  • NFW Web Site
  • Workshop report with results from Physics and Astronomy New Faculty Workshop as well as other similar workshops in other disciplines: Council of Scientific Society Presidents. (2013). The Role of Scientific Societies in STEM Faculty Workshops. Washington, DC. Retrieved from
  • Journal article about the NFW: Henderson, C. (2008). Promoting instructional change in new faculty: An evaluation of the physics and astronomy new faculty workshop. American Journal of Physics, 76(2), 179.

David Bressoud

David Bressoud
Macalester College
While a great deal has been done by the professional societies that operate at the K-12 level, I will focus on the work of the five principal societies that focus on post-secondary mathematics education: American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC), American Mathematical Society (AMS), American Statistical Association (ASA), Mathematical Association of American (MAA), and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). In addition, I will mention the work of TPSE-Math (Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics, or simply TPSE) and the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS), of which I serve as Director.


In its vision statement, MAA describes itself as "the leading professional association in collegiate mathematics, the preeminent publisher of expository mathematics, the primary source of professional development programs for faculty, and the number one provider of resources for teaching and learning." It has been involved in issues of undergraduate mathematics education since the 1950s when it formed the Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics (CUPM) to shape what would become the standard undergraduate mathematics curriculum.

Roughly every ten years, CUPM has published its Curriculum Guide. Since the 1980s, these guides have called for a more active classroom. The most recent guide was published in 2015. To accompany the Curriculum Guide, MAA has just published a companion Instructional Practices Guide, that describes and gives extensive examples of evidence-based instructional practices.

Since 1994, MAA has run Project NExT (New Experiences in Teaching), a series of three workshops that run just over a year with cohorts of 80 to 90 new or recent PhDs. Much of the emphasis, especially in the initial three-day workshop, is on the use of evidence-based teaching practices. From the description on its home page:

It addresses all aspects of an academic career: improving the teaching and learning of mathematics, engaging in research and scholarship, finding exciting and interesting service opportunities, and participating in professional activities. It also provides the participants with a network of peers and mentors as they assume these responsibilities.


AMATYC has produced several guides to curricula, instruction, and assessment. The most recent is IMPACT (Improving Mathematical Prowess and College Teaching).


ASA has produced many reports on statistics education at all levels. Best known among these is the GAISE Report (Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education).


In the past few years SIAM has done a great deal to promote modeling throughout the mathematics curriculum. Their recommendations are explained and expounded in the GAIMME Report (Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Mathematical Modeling Education).


AMS, with its emphasis on research mathematics, has been slow to make recommendations on issues of undergraduate mathematics instruction, but following the highly critical PCAST report, Engage to Excel, members of the AMS leadership formed TPSE, as a vehicle for reforming undergraduate mathematics instruction at the leading research universities, with the intent to use their influence to facilitate needed changes throughout post-secondary mathematics education. TPSE has four foci: lower-division pathways for students who enter college with weak preparation, upper-division pathways that promote change to align these courses with career opportunities, teaching technologies and methodologies that works with Ithaka to promote the analysis of promising instructional approaches, and broader graduate education to promote the development of graduate pathways that lead outside of academia and to improve the training of graduate students to be effective teachers.


CBMS is the umbrella organization that serves to coordinate the efforts of all seventeen professional societies in the mathematical sciences headquartered within the United States, both K-12 and post-secondary. It has coordinated recommendations for the mathematical education of teachers and has held periodic forums on issues of undergraduate education and on the articulation between high school and college mathematics. In 2016 it issued a report, endorsed by the presidents of the member societies, calling for the use of Active Learning in Post-Secondary Mathematics Education within all mathematics courses.

In 2015, these five member societies, AMATYC, AMS, ASA, MAA, and SIAM, produced A Common Vision for Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences Programs in 2025, laying out recommendations for curricula, course structure, workforce preparation, and faculty development and support.

Suggested Citation:

Brown, P., Henderson, C., and Bressoud, D. (2018, January 2). How Does Your Professional Organization Lead Positive Change?. Retrieved from

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