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An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching

“An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching” is an open, online course designed to provide future STEM faculty—graduate students and post-doctoral fellows—with an introduction to effective teaching strategies and the research that supports them.  The goal of the eight-week course is to equip the next generation of STEM faculty to be effective teachers, thus improving the learning experience for the thousands of students they will teach.  Development of the course was led by Rique Campa (Michigan State University), Derek Bruff (Vanderbilt University), Bennett Goldberg (Boston University), and Kitch Barnicle and Robert Mathieu (University of Wisconsin-Madison), with support from the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1347605 and the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning.

The course draws on the expertise of experienced STEM faculty, educational researchers, and staff from university teaching centers, many of them affiliated with the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a network of 21 research universities collaborating in the preparation of STEM graduate students and post-docs as future faculty members.  Topics include key learning principles such as the role of mental models in learning and the importance of practice and feedback; fundamental elements of course design, including the development of learning objectives and assessments of learning aligned with those objectives; and teaching strategies for fostering active learning and inclusive classroom environments.

The course is highly interactive, with many opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, both online (through discussion forums and social media) and face-to-face.  Indeed, the course instructors encourage participants to create learning communities at their home institutions, meeting in person during the course to discuss what they are learning about STEM teaching.  The instructors provide detailed facilitator guides, with suggested discussion questions and activities for use during weekly meetings, and communities, in turn, are asked to share ideas and perspectives from their local groups with the global learning community created by the course.

Over 4,000 grad students, post-docs, and faculty participated in the first offering of the course during the fall of 2014, with more than 500 going on to complete the course and earn statements of accomplishments.  At least 42 colleges and universities hosted local learning communities.  Feedback from participants and learning community facilitators was very positive, with many praising the high quality of the course learning materials, some of which can be seen in the Center for Teaching’s “Thinking STEM, Teaching STEM” blog series.

The Fall 2015 session of the course runs September 28 through November 19.  Those interested in the course can enroll here, and they can find out more about the course on the course website, which features an extensive preview — just click on “Course Content.”

Any Vanderbilt participants in the course are also welcome to join the learning community that the CFT is hosting this fall.  This group will meet once a week at the CFT to go deeper with the course material.  Those interested in the learning community should contact Noah Green, noah.h.green@vanderbilt.edu, the CFT post-doc facilitating the group.

This is the second offering of the course. To read about the first offering and about the changes made to the course for this fall, see CFT Director Derek Bruff’s blog post, “Version Two: Revising a MOOC on Undergraduate STEM Teaching.”