Discipline-Based Faculty and Curriculum Development Program

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Title of Abstract: Discipline-Based Faculty and Curriculum Development Program

Name of Author: Stanley Lo
Author Company or Institution: Northwestern University
Author Title: Lecturer
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development
Approaches: Adding to the literature on how people learn, Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development, Mixed Approach
Keywords: authentic research experience, curriculum development, evidence-based methods, faculty development, institutional cultural change

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Stanley M. Lo, Northwestern University Su L. Swarat, Northwestern University Gregory J. Light, Northwestern University Denise L. Drane, Northwestern University

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Vision and Change and other commissions have called for evidence-based pedagogical methods in biology education, but transforming engrained practices can be challenging. We designed and implemented a faculty development program that is meaningful to participants’ teaching contexts and aims to change conceptions of teaching in addition to approaches. Faculty development is coupled with a curriculum revision of our introductory biology course sequence.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Rather than focusing on teaching strategies (approaches), the program aims to foster reflection on teaching. Participants engage in workshops that reconsider teacher-focused paradigm in favor of learner-focused paradigm (conceptions). Faculty development is situated in practical context of redesigning and teaching an introductory biology curriculum (300-500 students). Peer-review meetings promote reflections on teaching methods that participants have implemented. In addition, the program follows the Henderson model of effective change strategies as theoretical framework: developing curriculum and reflective instructors, creating shared vision (collaboration among 10 instructors), and enacting policy (program supported by senior administration and external funding).

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Our program is evaluated by a quasi-experimental design with historical comparison groups of faculty and students. For faculty teaching, pre/post interviews uncover changing conceptions, and pre/post surveys reveal significant gains in approaches aligned with learner-focused paradigm. Classroom observations triangulate that participants shifted from lectures to evidence-based methods, and laboratories transformed from cookbook exercises to student research projects. Analysis of exam questions by Bloom’s taxonomy tracks how faculty assess student learning over time. For student learning, pre/post concept inventories and surveys indicate improved cognitive and affective learning. Focus groups and interviews reveal deeper student approaches to learning, away from memorized algorithms. Evidence for institutional cultural change includes program adaptation in other departments.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: For faculty colleagues, their conceptions of teaching changed from transmission-based ones to beliefs that are more aligned with student learning. Their approaches also changed to incorporate student interactions that promote learning, and they adapted many evidence-based practices in their classrooms. At the course level in the department, introductory courses changed to be more active-learning environments, and laboratory courses changed into include open-ended research projects. For students, their approaches to learning changed from memorized algorithms to more conceptual approaches. Their view of the purpose of laboratory changed from reinforcing lecture content to learning to become scientists. Their learning of course concepts improved, and their motivation and interests in biology are also enhanced compared to the historical baseline. For the institution, other departments are beginning to consider adapting these approaches, including open-ended research projects in General Chemistry Laboratory.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Student resistance to change was unexpected and continues to be a challenge. However, we are observing over time that students are becoming more aware of the changed teaching methods, and support from senior students who went through the old, lecture-based courses have been helpful. In addition, faculty resistance to change was one of the most prominent challenges in this project. Willingness to listen to our colleagues’ concerns was important. We engaged senior administration to provide additional support, and we asked senior students to sit on a panel for faculty to ask them their experiences in the old, lecture-based courses. We also engaged our Office of Change Management to discuss continuing strategies in providing support for faculty and curriculum changes in our teaching culture.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The results of this program have been presented at the American Educational Research Association (paper presentation), Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (keynote address), and the Chicago Symposium for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (workshop, breakout session). We will continue to present these results at similar conference, and manuscripts based on previous presentations are in preparation.

Acknowledgements: This work was made possible by an institutional award from HHMI.