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Creating a Coherent Gateway for STEM Teaching and Learning

Our project focuses on changing the culture in our departments, by instituting reform of the gateway courses in biology, physics, and chemistry. This process began by engaging faculty in conversations about what they consider to be the most important ideas of the discipline, and how students should use those ideas. Our ultimate goal is the design and implementation of a set of coherent gateway courses where students learn how to engage with the core ideas of the discipline in scientifically plausible ways. We are assessing the outcomes of these reforms in multiple ways, including how faculty develop and use core ideas, cross-cutting concepts, and scientific practices in their teaching, and how these are integrated in course assessments.

The project has several distinct parts: 

  1. Engaging faculty in conversations focused on the core ideas of the discipline, and how that core knowledge should be used. Our theory of change relies on faculty coming to understand that mere acquisition of knowledge without the ability to use it is no longer appropriate (if it ever was). As faculty come to understand that students need to learn not only the core ideas of science, but also the practices of science, we believe that change will naturally occur. Our goal is to effect change from within disciplinary departments as a consequence of these discussions.

    Recent milestones:
    • Faculty in each of the three departments have developed a set of core ideas and scientific practices and are beginning to reflect on and develop assessments that are consistent with those.
  2. Creation of the STEM Gateway Fellowship: a two-year competitive fellowship for up to 10 faculty each year. These faculty will form the basis of a community of peers who are focused on reform of Gateway courses. The Fellowship will involve monthly meetings to review and discuss evidence-based approaches to reform, and a reform project in which the faculty member will target an aspect of a Gateway course.

    Recent milestones:
    • The STEM Gateway Fellowship has been established and has selected 9 fellows from biological sciences, chemistry, physics and statistics. The program will begin at the end of the Spring semester and continue for this cohort for two years. 
  3. Collection and assessment of baseline data for both classroom practice and the nature of the course assessments. (See following descriptions for more information) 

    Recent milestones: 
    • Over the course of this past year the team has recorded at least three classroom videos of all the Gateway courses offered in chemistry, physics and biology. 
    • We are collecting course objectives, assessments and activities for all of these courses. ​​​
    • The team has developed and is in the process of testing and validating two rubrics: (1) to capture the nature and quality of course assessments and (2) to capture the nature of classroom teaching practice in the context of teaching disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices and crosscutting concepts. 

The first year was focused on development of the instruments, recording and gathering of baseline data (video of lectures, course artifacts etc.), and faculty conversations about curriculum reform. Grant proposal activity facilitated by conversations begun as part of the AAU project and STEM Alliance include proposals to NSF WIDER, NSF IUSE, HHMI and Dow Foundation.