Three universities in the Bay View Alliance are part of a $2.8 million federal grant intended to help STEM departments provide
a richer evaluation of faculty teaching and, ultimately, expand the use of practices that have shown to improve student learning.
The grant, from the National Science Foundation, is part of a five-year project that includes the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst, the University of Colorado, Boulder, the University of Kansas (all members of the BVA), and Michigan State University. It will involve departments at UMass, Colorado, and Kansas that fall under the umbrella of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math. A researcher at Michigan State will coordinate research on the process through which universities change their approaches to evaluation of teaching.
Universities have long relied on student surveys as the sole means of evaluating teaching, said Gabriela Weaver, vice provost for faculty development and director of the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development at UMass, who will oversee the project. That approach has hindered the adoption of evidence-based teaching practices, which emphasize student learning as the central outcome of instruction. These practices have resulted in deeper learning and greater success for students, in addition to closing gaps between majority and minority groups.
The grant project will help STEM departments develop and implement new evaluation frameworks that draw from multiple sources of evidence, including the instructor’s materials, peer feedback, and student voices.
“This grant has enormous potential for helping both faculty and students,” Weaver said. “Academic departments, by better identifying the elements of teaching they value most, can create incentives for innovative teaching. That, in turn, will provide recognition for good teachers and ultimately provide better instruction for students.”
UMass, Colorado, and Kansas will recruit STEM departments to participate in the project, which will provide access to education specialists to work with faculty members and administrators. Departments will work to create a shared vision of good teaching in their discipline, identify appropriate forms of evidence of good teaching, and use the resulting framework in evaluating faculty teaching. Faculty members in those departments will also meet with colleagues from the other participating universities, allowing them to share experiences in modifying the evaluation process.
The grant project grew from conversations at meetings of the Bay View Alliance, a group of research universities in the United States and Canada working to improve teaching and learning on their campuses. This is the second large grant that has emerged from the work of the alliance. A project called Transforming Education, Stimulating Teaching and Learning Excellence, or TRESTLE, received a $2.5 million NSF grant in 2015.
Lorne Whitehead, program director of the Bay View Alliance and a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia, said the grants demonstrated the potential of universities working together to improve teaching on their campuses.
“BVA members have been making great strides in improving teaching and learning at their universities,” Whitehead said. “By pooling their talents and creating a collective vision for improved teaching, they have become international leaders in empowering instructors and demonstrating the importance of student learning. This grant is proof of that.”
Work on the project will begin this fall.
Noah Finkelstein, professor of physics and co-director of the Center for STEM Learning at Colorado; Andrea Greenhoot, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Kansas; and Doug Ward, associate professor of journalism and associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Kansas, will oversee the project on their respective campuses. Ann Austin, associate dean for research at Michigan State’s College of Education and a professor of higher education, will lead the research aspects of the project, creating case studies in how the universities approach culture change differently.
About the Bay View Alliance
The Bay View Alliance is a network of nine research universities in the United States and Canada working to identify more effective approaches to teaching and learning, and to foster cultural change that leads to the adoption of improved teaching methods at universities.
Its member institutions are: University of British Columbia, Queen’s University, and University of Saskatchewan in Canada; and University of Colorado; University of California, Davis; Indiana University Bloomington; University of Kansas; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the University of Texas, Austin, in the United States.
Gabriela Weaver Lorne Whitehead
413-545-1225 (604) 822-3075