Using Discipline Based Education Research as a resource for professional development activities in STEM

Peter Riegler, Claudia Walter, Christian Kautz

9:00 – 17:00 (Full-day workshop)

Professional development of STEM faculty is challenging at times. STEM disciplines have a fame of being particularly resistant to changes in teaching. There is a seeming cultural clash between the perceived rigidity of the Sciences and Engineering faculty and the constructivist mindset of educational developers. Also in many countries, student failure and drop-out rates in the STEM disciplines are considered to threaten economic development, bringing reforms in STEM education on the political agenda.

On the other hand, over the last decades the STEM disciplines have seen an unprecedented interest in Discipline Based Education Research (DBER) and the development of effective research-based teaching innovations. By and large, such teaching innovations address discipline-specific issues in the first place, such as students’ misconceptions or beliefs about learning STEM content. DBER thus provides a unique access point for faculty development, directly addressing issues which STEM faculty either find problematic already or recognize to be relevant for their teaching.

Yet, DBER informed teaching reforms make their way into professional development programs only on a rather small scale. The reasons might be manifold: There is a perceived need for discipline independent curricula of faculty development programs serving cross-disciplinary populations. Also educational developers might find it difficult or impossible, or even presumptuous, to familiarize themselves with DBER findings in order to work with STEM faculty.

The workshop aims at providing participants with proven models and resources for working with STEM faculty. Participants will experience and analyze selected building blocks (i.e. sample activities) for the professional development of STEM faculty. Specifically, participants will

  • learn about methods and important results of DBER
  • familiarize themselves with an example of a systematic conceptual difficulty in STEM
  • experience sample instructional and/or testing sequences
  • analyze and reflect how these activities and results can be (a) integrated into professional development workshops or (b) used for advising individual STEM instructors

     

Some of the professional development activities require some familiarity with the most relevant findings of DBER. To this end, the workshop will give an overview of significant findings of various branches of DBER. Other building blocks can or should be implemented by non-STEM experts, as in the case of Decoding the Disciplines. The latter is a structured process for decoding implicit disciplinary expertise of instructors in order to make it accessible for teaching.

Overall, the workshop is intended to provide research-based impulses for the participants’ work with STEM faculty.