Like most of my colleagues, I began teaching using the same instructional techniques that my professors used on me: lecture, homework, exams. The occasional project. Around the time I started developing the Flow Vis course, I started hearing about the idea that faculty could apply the techniques of their discipline, of research, to improving education. An iterative process is at the heart of both science and engineering; see where you are, where you want to go, go there, then check to see if you made it.

This iterative process goes under many names in the context of education, with varying levels of specificity and rigor: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL), Disciplinary Based Education Research (DBER), Physics Education Research (PER), Engineering Education Research (EER), Legacy Cycle, Teaching-As-Research, Design-Based Teaching, Professionalizing the Professoriate and probably many more that I haven’t come across yet. Some folks are firmly dedicated to a particular flavor, but to me it’s all good, and I participate in a range of activities.  I think it is important, and I try to promote it where possible. Here’s a list of activities I’m involved in:

  • CIRTL This is a network of 25 universities with the goal of preparing STEM graduate students and postdocs for teaching in higher education before they become assistant professors, before they invest in traditional pedagogies that are probably not the best for their students. I like this approach, knowing first-hand how hard it is to get my colleagues to change their instructional styles (or to change my own). Get ’em young, instead. The network has a number of free on-line courses restricted to network participants, and they also have a lot of online resources and online seminars etc that anybody can join. I’m currently one of the two co-leaders of our ‘local learning community’:
  • FTEP, Faculty Teaching Excellence Program. I am happy to be a ‘Faculty Associate’ for FTEP. We do consultations with individual faculty who request our services for videotaping, surveys and classroom interviews. This program has given me wonderful opportunities to meet faculty from across campus, as well as spread the word about professionalization.
  • STEM Education Initiative (aka the AAU project). “CU Boulder is one of eight project sites chosen for AAU’s Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative. Our project, housed in the Center for STEM Learning, aims to improve undergraduate STEM education by professionalizing educational practice through measurement, assessment, and cultural change.” Sound familiar? I am helping implement this in the ME department. We have a ‘Departmental Action Team’ working to improve assessment of teaching. So far we have published a writing guide for teaching statements, and established a protocol for doing peer observations of lectures, both important ingredients of promotion and tenure packages.
  • CSL/ DBER: the Center for STEM Learning is the umbrella for dozens of these kind of efforts here at CU, including the ones listed above. One more that I particularly enjoy is our Discipline-Based Education Research group.
  • PTLC President’s Teaching and Learning Collaborative. The PTLC did a lot to get me started on this road. Part of FTEP, it provides a mentored SOTL experience for faculty. I’m not currently officially involved, but I want to recommend it.

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