A community of enhanced assessment facilitates reformed teaching

TitleA community of enhanced assessment facilitates reformed teaching
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsLemons, PP, McCourt, J, Knight, J, Merrill, JE, Nehm, RH, Prevost, L, Smith, MK, Sydlik, MAnne, Urban-Lurain, M
Conference NameAAAS Envisioning the Future of Undergraduate STEM Education
Date Published04/2016
PublisherAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science
Conference LocationWashington, DC
KeywordsAACR, automated scoring, faculty development, faculty learning communities, Lexical analysis
AbstractNeed: Changing teaching strategies remains a challenge for faculty; faculty need longterm support with the opportunity for feedback and reflection. Our project supports college biology faculty who are changing their teaching by participating in the Automated Analysis of Constructed Response (AACR) project. AACR offers constructed response questions about biological concepts that can be analyzed by computers to generate reports about student thinking. Thirty-one biology faculty at six research institutions participate in Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) engaged in teaching reform. The project also benefits the STEM higher education community because it generates new knowledge about the impact of teaching professional development. Goals: Project goals include: (1) identifying ways to support faculty to use AACR questions and reports, (2) identifying essential components of FLCs designed to facilitate AACR use, (3) describing the progression of teaching practices and conceptions while faculty are engaged with AACR. The following activities are meant to accomplish these goals: faculty (1) meet in local FLCs three times per semester, (2) participate in cross-institutional curriculum development teams, (3) ask AACR questions and receive reports, and (4) the research team collects data from participants, including classroom observations, surveys, and interviews. Approach: Our FLCs align with evidence for promoting teaching reform in university STEM. Our research is grounded in the innovation-decision model, which describes the adoption of innovations, like new teaching practices. Our overarching research question is: does participation in an FLC provide the impetus for faculty to change their teaching and sustain those changes? We use a mixed methods approach to investigate this question. Outcomes: First, all 19 faculty who started the project have remained for two years and we added 12 new faculty this year. We hypothesize persistence is high because the FLC offers a low-cost, high-utility environment for participants. Second, we have identified FLCs as a successful strategy for promoting adoption of AACR use and for priming faculty to use AACR reports to answer questions about student learning or to modify their teaching. Facilitation of FLCs by experienced education researchers is essential. Third, we have learned that participants currently can be categorized into four quadrants in terms of their teaching practices and conceptions: (1) student-centered conceptions/practices, (2) student-centered conceptions/teacher-centered practices, (3) teacher-centered conceptions/student-centered practices, and (4) teacher-centered conceptions/practices. We hypothesize that in order to continue to improve as teachers, participants in each quadrant need unique types of support, which potentially can be offered in the FLC context. Key deliverables include: (1) two manuscripts in preparation about the persistence of faculty in FLCs and the teaching practices and conceptions of participants, (2) an in-class activity, developed by participants, to address misconceptions about stop codons in molecular biology. Broader Impacts: This project improves teaching because it supports diverse types of faculty at a variety of career stages, including lecturers, tenure-track, and tenured. Specifically, these faculty are learning about an assessment strategy that can provide greater insights to student thinking than traditional assessment strategies. They also are exchanging materials and ideas with each other that can immediately be applied to the classroom. This project also improves teaching because local FLC members are discussing and coordinating teaching and assessment across courses in their departments. In most cases, this level of discussion and coordination has not previously occurred. This project enhances the infrastructure for research and education because it has led to the establishment of a multi-institution collaborative group of researchers at many stages of development, e.g., undergrads, grad students, postdocs, and faculty, and from diverse demographics. All members of the team are actively engaged in achieving project goals.
Refereed DesignationRefereed


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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.