It is well documented that the use of Research-Based Instructional Strategies (RBIS) significantly improves learning and retention of students in undergraduate courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Yet, there are few large-scale efforts to document the use of RBIS and to explain why they are not more widely used by STEM faculty. This project aims to fill the knowledge gap by examining the use of RBIS and identifying factors that influence implementation of RBIS in undergraduate STEM education. During Phase I of the study, the project team will survey faculty who teach introductory STEM courses in mathematics (Calculus I & II), Chemistry (General Chemistry), and Physics (Introductory Quantitative Physics). The faculty will include people from four types of institutions (associate's colleges, baccalaureate colleges, master's colleges, and doctoral universities). During Phase II, a subset of survey respondents will be invited to participate in interviews that are designed to investigate important themes identified in the survey. The primary aims of the research project are to (1) build capacity to document changes in the implementation of RBIS; (2) estimate the importance of individuals, departments, institutions, and disciplines in shaping instructional decisions to implement RBIS; and (3) test a set of hypotheses on how and why instructors use RBIS.
The national survey followed by in-depth interviews will establish baseline data for mathematics and chemistry faculty, and will provide an updated and extended snapshot following a 2008 survey of physics faculty. Based on the nested structure of the data, hierarchical linear modeling will be used to examine the quantitative survey data. Qualitative interview data will be analyzed to identify the individual factors, themes, or patterns of factors influencing the implementation of RBIS. The design is well-suited for explaining the quantitative significance (or non-significance) of the results and for providing a more nuanced, qualitative understanding of the implementation of RBIS and reasons for their use across STEM disciplines and types of institutions.