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University of Michigan STEM Education Initiatives

REBUILD Team

REBUILD is led by a committee of faculty and postdoctoral researchers from the core STEM departments of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics; the School of Education; and senior staff from the U-M Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.  The role of this committee is to study the literature of evidence-based instruction and discuss best practices for its implementation within large introductory STEM courses at U-M. They distill this information and present it to faculty and students at departmental colloquia each semester. These presentations include specific data about student performance and persistence in each discipline, which is prepared by a learning analyst who works full-time for the REBUILD project. 

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In addition to the faculty committee, REBUILD has hired 1-2 postdocs in each core STEM department to lead reform efforts. In biology, these efforts include largely restructuring one of the introductory courses, wide implementation of pre/post-testing to assess student learning gains, and organizing an informal biweekly teaching circle. In chemistry, the postdocs are interviewing students and faculty to understand how students are using course resources in an effort to improve alignment between student and instructor learning goals. In math, efforts have been focused on redesigning tutorial and lab sections for Calculus III, both in terms of content and the physical layout of the lab. In physics, introductory courses are transitioning to a primarily flipped format, and physics courses for the life sciences are incorporating case studies to teach students how physics might apply to real-world scenarios that they would face in the medical profession.  These reforms introduced active learning pedagogies and new curricula such as authentic research in introductory chemistry labs, writing to learn activities implemented at scale, an atoms-first approach to teaching introductory chemistry, cooperative project-based learning in introductory calculus, computational modeling in physics for engineers, a transition to frequent testing strategies rather than high-stakes exams in introductory biology, and use of case studies in an introductory electricity and magnetism course.   

The REBUILD reform teams are multi-generational, i.e. composed of faculty members, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates who all contribute to the effort. Through this structure, an overarching goal is to show faculty to approach their teaching as they would their research; i.e. constantly refining their teaching methods based on evaluating student performance and learning outcomes. The REBUILD project’s overarching goal is to provide knowledge and resources to assist people working in these large introductory courses in order to make evidence-based instruction the new normal. 

For more information, please contact: 

Timothy McKay 
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of PhysicsAstronomy, and Education 
Faculty Director of the Digital Innovation Greenhouse 
Principal Investigator of the ECoach project 
Principal Investigator of the REBUILD project 
Email: [email protected] 

Matt Kaplan 
Executive Director 
Center for Research on  Learning and Teaching (CRLT) 
Email: [email protected]