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:
- TQF : the Teaching Quality Framework. Assessment of teaching is in desperate need of improvement. Like many universities, we are working to broaden the type of data collected for assessment of teaching. The TQF provides a starting point, using a structured rubric. Our college is currently embracing the TQF, and has tasked each department to begin a tailored implementation. I’ve been leading an ad hoc TQF committee in our department since 2017 with the goal of “improving undergraduate STEM education by professionalizing educational practice through measurement, assessment, and cultural change.” So far we have published a guide for writing teaching statements, established a protocol for doing peer observations of lectures, written about best practices in mentorship, and created a model solicitation for student letters reviewing faculty.
- 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.