The mission of the AAU-UCD partnership is to foster evidence-based, sustainable innovation in STEM instruction. We aim to do so through development of cultures of data and evidence around instruction and learning that encourage experimentation, build urgency, and enable change.
Large-lecture introductory STEM courses are the first target. Course specific pre/post content and skill assessments are being rolled out across STEM intro-course series. Full-scale experiments investigating the viability and impact of active-learning strategies within intro courses are already under way in biology and chemistry, with math and physics soon to follow. In engineering, we are supporting creation of an introductory design course that partners students with real clients and real design challenges. Such focus on applied practice in the first year engineering series has been shown to significantly improve persistence and future academic success.
A STEM-wide undergraduate classroom observation network (UCON) is under development with a full pilot study scheduled for Spring 2014. Utilizing the UBC COPUS instrument and mediated almost exclusively by highly trained undergraduate honors students, UCON will eventually enable real-time characterization of teaching practices across all intro STEM courses. UCON data, coupled with newly integrated and vast student information databases, will be critical for tracking change in instructional practice over time and identifying impact of instructional approaches on student learning gains. Departments will have more meaningful data about how their instructional systems are, or are not achieving desired student learning goals, informing decisions about course offerings and/or targeting of professional development.
To ensure sustainability of change efforts, we work directly with departments for extended periods, channelling substantial AAU and institutional support to develop faculty communities of practice that serve to recognize, strengthen, and sustain member’s achievements. For example, faculty participating in innovation efforts and experimentation at the intro course level are supported by the new Provost’s Fellowships in Innovative Teaching, as well as by iAMSTEM and other campus entities. The financial resources, collaboration, and exchange of ideas made possible by the AAU STEM Initiative have already yielded real and rapid positive change in instructional culture, with greater change to come.
To learn more about UC Davis's undergraduate STEM education reform efforts visit the Educational Effectiveness Hub.