The aim of Essential Questions & Data Sources for Continuous Improvement of Undergraduate STEM Teaching and Learning is to use evidence to facilitate continuous improvement of undergraduate education in a more coherent and efficient manner for all students.
Essential Questions identifies key questions institutions can use to:
- engage institutional leaders and faculty members in discussions about teaching and learning;
- establish strong measures of teaching effectiveness both to describe program performance and to incorporate in meaningful ways into faculty reward structures;
- ensure quality and inclusive educational experiences for all students across all programs;
- support the development or redesign of learning spaces; and
- demonstrate the institution's commitment to the importance of evidence-based, student-centered teaching to faculty members, students, and other relevant internal and external audiences.
Essential Questions: Institutions
- Which schools/colleges and departments at the institution make the most use of evidence-based pedagogical educational practices? How are they being rewarded? How are other departments encouraged to follow their lead?
- What is being done across schools and departments to ensure that all students are succeeding? Are measures of student success disaggregated demographically? How are improvements reflected in data over time?
- What measures does the institution use to assess student progression/retention/ completion and other relevant factors? How often do top institutional leaders look at these data and discuss them with deans, department chairs, students, and others?
- How are needs to support the use of evidence-based pedagogy, as well as projected future enrollments and demographics, factored into facilities planning (e.g.,learning spaces) at the institutional level?
- What expectations have top institutional leaders articulated for each school/college and department to develop measures of evidence-based teaching beyond student evaluations?
- How are measures of teaching excellence included in a meaningful way in annual/merit review, promotion, and tenure processes for all instructors at the institution?
Essential Questions: Schools/Colleges
- How has the school/college assured that all departments have made dedicated efforts to define core competencies and skills and to connect these outcomes to learning goals?
- How much do departments within the school/college vary in the amount of time instructors are spending on various kinds of activities in the classroom? Is there a relationship between these activities and student success?
- How well are students doing in their progression/retention/completion in STEM courses? How does this success rate compare across groups, over time, and with similar programs at peer institutions? How do the progression/retention/ completion rates for students broken out by relevant demographic categories vary between departments and with peer institutions?
- What resources support instructional improvements and what effects do these efforts have on reducing the gap in student achievement across demographic groups? What is the relationship between student achievement data and instructional practices, and how can these data further inform changes in instructional practices?
- In what ways do deans use data on student progression/retention/completion to inform discussions with department chairs and instructors to facilitate program improvement?
- How do deans make clear that they expect evidence-based pedagogy from potential new faculty hires?
Essential Questions: Departments
- Do all of the courses in the department have articulated learning goals, and are these made clear to students? What process exists to ensure that individual course learning goals connect to learning goals for the program, major, and department?
- What are the demographics of students in the department? What are the progression/retention/completion rates for students in the department or major broken out by relevant demographic categories? How do these compare with other departments and what steps are being taken to improve these rates?
- What actions has the department chair taken to encourage instructors to take advantage of both on-campus and off-campus (e.g., through relevant disciplinary societies) resources and professional development related to pedagogy? How many instructors have taken advantage of these resources and what notable improvements have occurred as the result?
- What resources are available to instructors in the department for encouraging all students to succeed, and what steps have been taken to ensure all instructors take advantage of these resources?
- To what extent do departmental instructors have access to learning spaces that support evidence-based pedagogy? What training in the use of those facilities is available to instructors in the department?
- What is the department chair’s and distinguished faculty members’ support of evidence-based pedagogy? How well-known is this support to instructors and students?
- What are the biggest barriers to evidence-based pedagogy for instructors in the department and how is the chair working to address them? How often does the chair discuss these issues with the dean or other institutional leaders?
- How are all faculty who participate in annual/merit, promotion, and tenure evaluations educated about the meaningful inclusion of measures of teaching excellence in those processes? How closely does the chair review the outcomes of those processes to ensure teaching is indeed meaningfully included?
Essential Questions: Course Level
- Are learning goals clearly stated on the syllabus? To what extent do students in the class understand the course learning goals? What steps has the instructor taken to ensure that class activities and assignments are linked to learning goals?
- How much time does the instructor spend on various kinds of activities in the classroom? How are these activities assessed?
- To what extent does the instructor understand the biases he/she may bring to the classroom, and what steps has the instructor taken to mitigate these to ensure that all students are succeeding?
- To what extent does the instructor take advantage of both on-campus and off- campus resources and professional development related to pedagogy?
- To what extent does the instructor participate in discussions about using data to help drive program improvement? To what extent are they aware of data about their students and courses?
- Does the instructor believe that meaningful measures of teaching will factor into their own performance, promotion, and tenure reviews? If so, do they have a clear understanding of how teaching fits into the overall review process? How frequently are these measures discussed with peers and those who will be evaluating performance?