Guided by Evidence: Changing the Disciplinary Culture of Teaching and Learning

Thursday 2:15pm - 2:45pm Woodlawn I
Oral Presentation

Kaci Thompson, University of Maryland-College Park
Michelle Bertke, University of Maryland-College Park
Todd Cooke, University of Maryland-College Park
Joelle Presson, University of Maryland-College Park
Francisca Saavedra, University of Maryland-College Park
Patrick Sheehan, University of Maryland-College Park
Gili Ad-Marbach, University of Maryland-College Park
Students learn better when they are actively engaged in constructing knowledge, but teaching approaches that foster student engagement are far from widespread in undergraduate STEM classrooms. To remedy this, the Biological Sciences Program at the University of Maryland is using the Characteristics of Dissemination Success (CODS) model as a theoretical framework for changing the culture of teaching and learning. This framework acknowledges the complex interplay between the institutional context, student attitudes, and faculty beliefs and teaching practices. Approximately 20 faculty members within the first four courses in the biological sciences curriculum have been meeting regularly since January 2017 as a community of practice, with the goals of (1) developing progressive learning activities that employ evidence-based, student-centered teaching approaches, (2) gathering evidence for the effectiveness of these approaches, and (3) implementing strategies that help students recognize evidence of their learning, to increase student buy-in for approaches that require greater effort and engagement. We are using quantitative and qualitative methods to understand how student, faculty, and institutional characteristics interact to influence decisions about teaching. Our data indicate that student attitudes and academic backgrounds are heterogeneous, creating instructional challenges in the classroom. In particular, we identified clusters of introductory biology students who had generally negative attitudes towards learning biology and low receptivity to active learning. A pre/post survey of faculty participants (N=16) showed that faculty could be clustered into two groups based on their reported use of student-centered approaches at the beginning of the project, but 18 months later the two clusters no longer differed in teaching practices. Faculty members' teaching self-efficacy also increased significantly, with the initially less-confident individuals showing the largest gains. The CODS framework is widely adaptable to other institutional contexts and provides insight into effective strategies for fostering wider adoption of student-centered teaching approaches.