The Role of Course-Based Communities of Transformation in Moving Toward Active Learning: What We Learned about Supporting Change During the Pivot to Online Learning
Student engagement in active learning has been shown to improve retention and understanding, but effecting sustained change in STEM instruction has proven challenging, particularly in large courses. In this presentation, we share intermediate results from an NSF-funded effort that aims to scale and sustain adoption of active learning in highly enrolled STEM courses at a large public university. This effort, which has been underway since 2018, builds on work in grassroots change in higher education (Kezar & Lester, 2011) and leverages course-based communities of transformation (CCTs) to change the culture of teaching and learning in STEM departments by targeting gateway course sequences. The rapid shift to online instruction brought on by COVID-19 provided an opportunity to study how established CCTs operated in this transition and what role they played in faculty teaching practices as courses moved online. This presentation focuses on CCTs in two departments: physics and mathematics. Using interviews of faculty involved in the targeted courses, as well as reflections written by the CCT leaders (also department faculty), we explore how teaching change efforts were impacted by the shift to online instruction and how CCTs affected instructors' teaching decisions during the transition. Findings discussed will include the role of CCTs in supporting teaching and during the pivot to online instruction, as well as how CCTs impacted the pedagogies employed in the targeted courses after the pivot. The mathematics CCT had been active for roughly 2 years at the time of the transition and the physics CCT for less than one year. Studying these two groups allows us to examine how the role of the CCT in rapid teaching change relates to the maturity of the local change effort.