Grand Valley State University (GVSU), a comprehensive master's university, is conducting an internal inventory of the current awareness and use of evidence-based instructional practices. The project includes three primary activities: 1) an extensive faculty survey, 2) targeted faculty interviews and 3) pilot programs to increase adoption of evidence-based practices.
The faculty survey is informed by similar efforts reported in engineering, physics and geosciences undergraduate education. Questions are assessing faculty awareness of specific practices and how they learn about new teaching strategies. Demographic data are being collected to identify potential correlations: discipline, faculty rank, gender and part-time status. Face-to-face interviews include administrators, tenure-track faculty and part-time instructors that teach key STEM gateway courses.
Targeting part-time instructors is a key component of the project because they may be less aware of evidence-based practices compared to their tenure-track colleagues. Student engagement pedagogies have been shown effective at improving retention of all undergraduates but especially women and first-generation college students. Increasing the awareness and adoption of these practices by university instructors could have a significant effect on STEM education. This project is providing important results about a growing population of part-time and adjunct faculty members, and applying the findings to implement programs to increase the use of evidence-based practices in undergraduate STEM education.
The goal of this project is to increase adoption of evidence-based instructional practices that are effective at improving retention of all undergraduates, but especially women and first-generation college students. Grand Valley State University (GVSU), a comprehensive masterâ€™s university, completed a survey of STEM instructors (n = 300). Two hundred individuals responded (66%) including tenure-track and part-time faculty. Targeting part-time instructors was a key component of the project because they (1) may be less aware of evidence-based practices compared to their full-time colleagues, and (2) teach a larger percentage of the introductory STEM courses. Survey questions probed faculty awareness and use of specific instructional practices. Participants self identified by tenure status: part-time (34%), not yet tenured (14%), and tenured (52%). Awareness was selected from a range of "not at all" to "currently using the approach". The percentage of awareness and current adoption rate included: peer instruction (83%, 31%), collaborative learning (92%, 80%), inquiry-based instruction (74%, 47%), peer-led team learning (67%, 16%), just-in-time teaching (61%, 10%), and flipped classrooms (82%, 13%). Key findings of the study included: 1) part-time faculty are less likely to be aware of effective pedagogies or to participate in professional development compared to their tenure-track colleagues, 2) faculty are more likely to learn about new instructional practices from local colleagues than they are from other sources such as workshops, conferences or education-related journals and 3) lecture and other instructor-centered activities remain the dominant form of classroom practice. The most commonly stated motivations to use these practices include: increased student engagement (85%), improved student learning (72%), instructor satisfaction (32%) and increased attendance (29%). The most commonly reported barriers to trying new practices include: too much preparation time for the instructor (61%), too much class time is required (31%), limited information about how to get started (28%), and lack of resources to support implementation (26%). The most dominant teaching practices are: lecture (84%), instructor-led class discussions (63%), instructor demonstrations (59%), small group work (59%), individual problem solving (43%), and answering multiple-choice questions (14%). The most common ways faculty learn about new practices are talking with local colleagues (91%), reading (59%), attending workshops at GVSU (47%), talking with colleagues outside GVSU (47%), attending teaching workshops away from campus (44%) and attending discipline-specific conferences (44%). GVSU faculty and staff will use these results to develop more effective professional development for instructors. This will have a significant effect on STEM education at GVSU. Dissemination of developed best practices could have a positive influence at other institutions as well.