Using faculty learning communities to promote the development of student‐centered biology instructors

TitleUsing faculty learning communities to promote the development of student‐centered biology instructors
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMcCourt, J, Andrews, TC, Crumbs, T'cherie, Knight, JK, Merrill, J, Merrill, S, Nehm, R, Pelletreau, K, Prevost, LB, Smith, MK, Urban-Lurain, M, Lemons, PP
Conference NameSociety for the Advancement of Biology Education Research
PublisherSABER
AbstractFaculty Learning Communities (FLCs) have been promoted as a way to encourage positive changes in college teaching. The innovation-‐decision model has been used to describe the process by which college science instructors adopt new teaching practices. A recent revision of this model based on data from college biology instructors proposes that dissatisfaction and prioritization of teaching lead instructors to enter a change cycle of knowledge acquisition, implementation, and reflection. Our research question derives from the innovation-‐ decision model: does participation in an FLC provide the impetus for instructors to change their teaching and the support needed to sustain those changes? To address this question, we are conducting a five-‐year, longitudinal study of FLCs at six Research I universities with 19 biology faculty. The FLCs compliment the Automated Analysis of Constructed Response project (www.msu.edu/ aacr). In the first year, we collected and analyzed data in the form of semi-‐structured interviews, online surveys, and classroom observations. Interviews revealed participants’ perceptions of instructor and student roles as well as their frustrations related to teaching. Based on these perceptions, we placed participants along a spectrum of student-‐centered to teacher-‐centered thinking. For example, student-‐centered instructors expected to provide structure and guidance while their students worked inside and outside of class to make meaning of the material. In contrast, teacher-‐centered instructors rarely spoke of student roles. Survey and observation data corroborate these findings. Student-‐centered participants scored at least five points higher on the conceptual change/student focused scale of the Approaches to Teaching Inventory. The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM confirmed the relatively active nature of the classrooms of student-‐centered participants. Based on our Year 1 findings, we hypothesize that interactions in the FLCs among faculty who differ in their thinking about teaching and their teaching practices will prompt teacher-‐centered instructors to initiate change while providing the necessary encouragement for student-‐centered instructors to overcome burn out and continue in the change cycle.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (DUE grants: 1438739, 1323162, 1347740, 0736952 and 1022653). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.