FOUNDATIONS: Integrating Evidence-based Teaching and Learning into the Core Engineering Curriculum
This is an institutional transformation project called the Foundations Program. It is operating in an increasingly receptive environment, building substantially on initial earlier efforts to use evidence-based teaching in lower division STEM courses. The project is working towards a major transformation in the education practices at Stevens Institute of Technology in the core courses in mathematics, science, and engineering taken by all engineering students in their first two years at Stevens Institute of Technology. It is leveraging the experiences of a core group of faculty and academic administrators in which improved teaching practices informed by educational research have been recently implemented. The Foundations Program will provide the training, support, and recognition to enable the participating faculty to make this changes systematically. Training and support include the provision of professional development for faculty participants related to the theory and practice of research-based course design and pedagogy as these are grounded in core STEM disciplines. Trained course assistants will be provided to reform instructors to aid in the transition. Reform instructors will be assisted during their transition by formative assessment experts. The necessary faculty time and internal structures needed to reflect and gauge progress and share this information will also be supported. The Foundations Program plans to use advocacy with colleagues, internally and externally, in order to catalyze diffusion beyond the early phases of this work. A distinctive feature of the program is to target deep and transferable learning, both within and across disciplinary domains. In order to achieve this result coherently, the team will begin with an emphasis on modeling. The associated expected improvement in student competency and self-efficacy is expected to lead to the strongest educational gains and also improve persistence to the bachelor's degree by all student groups. Integral to implementation of the Foundations Program, a set of policies and actions are being put in place to align the faculty recognition and rewards system to fully recognize the efforts being made by reform instructors. These changes in the reward system will support the advocacy efforts and are expected to gain traction with the faculty and administration, thereby becoming institutionalized and sustained
The proposed program will contribute to the knowledge base on how universities, especially those with a research focus, can first conceptualize and then implement an effective model to transition teaching in major core STEM courses to evidence-based approaches. It will further illuminate the key faculty enablers that can promote depth and spread of such approaches. A diffusion of innovations model is being employed to guide the research on this institutional transformation process. The team will investigate and assess the effectiveness of a strategy that simultaneously targets both individuals and the organizational environment and the planned evolution in later years from defined and prescribed changes to emergent or adaptive changes. The role of full-time, non-tenure track teaching faculty is explicitly included. The program will contribute to the identification and assessment of curricular content and the teaching practices, such as modeling, that can promote deeper and transferable learning within and across disciplines in the critical foundational STEM courses.