John Ziker, chair of the Department of Anthropology; Susan Shadle, vice provost for undergraduate studies; Karl Mertens, a doctoral student in the ecology, evolution, and behavior program; and Brittnee Earl, instructional transformation project manager for the Center for Teaching and Learning, have co-authored new findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The work focuses on a social network analysis of teaching networks in STEM departments and is the result of an NSF-funded collaboration with colleagues at the University of Nebraska, the University of Virginia, the University of South Florida and the University of Minnesota. The results contribute to the national dialogue about how to foster innovative teaching practices in STEM classrooms. Ziker and Shadle acknowledge the departments of physics, geosciences, biology, mathematics and chemistry, whose faculty participated in this study.
The paper reports that frequent users of evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs) are far more likely to engage one another than colleagues who are less familiar with such practices. Using mixed-methods including social network analysis of teaching discussions, a self-reported survey measure of individual use of evidence-based instructional practices, and qualitative interviews of a subset of faculty in three STEM departments at three research universities, the study aims to better understand the limits of dissemination of EBIPs through departments.
The paper finds that faculty networks alone are not enough to disseminate and drive the adoption of EBIPs that could improve undergraduate instruction and address inequities for students historically underserved by STEM classrooms.
For departments and universities hoping to improve STEM learning outcomes, the paper outlines a number of practical measures to incentivize the spread of EBIPs.