Collaborative Research: Promoting Research-Based Instructional Methods to Enhance and Reform STEM Education

Project Leadership: Dr. Chu-Lin Cheng (Principal Investigator, College of Engineering and Computer Science) and Dr. Ming-Tsan Pierre Lu (Co-Principal Investigator)

Funding Amount: $634,612.00

Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Project Description: This project is a collaboration between the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Front Range Community College, and the University of Nebraska/Methodology and Evaluation Research Core Facility. The project aims to address the challenges institutions face as they seek to improve undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. To this end, the project will implement and investigate a comprehensive approach to transforming instruction and institutional culture. The project aims to increase the adoption of learner-centered, research-based instructional strategies through the Learning by Design professional development program. The Learning by Design program was developed through a previous Widening Implementation and Demonstration of Evidence-Based Reforms award. Project components include a professional development program focused on course-design principles and research-based instructional strategies, with follow-on mentoring, roundtable discussion, course improvement awards, and research and evaluation activities. 

The primary goal of this project is to move undergraduate STEM instructors away from traditional teacher-centered lecture-based instruction, toward learning-centered active learning-based instruction. The secondary goal is to create, test, and implement different versions of the Learning by Design program in ways that are sensitive to differences between institutions and their varied missions and contexts. The project team proposes to develop models for sustainability that will enable these versions to persist beyond the life of the project. Applying grounded theory and correlational analyses, the multiple-case study research study (mixed qualitative and quantitative methods) is designed to address the primary research question: How can evidence-based instructional methods and professional development programs be effectively propagated in different institutions of higher education to support STEM instructor implementation of learner-centered instruction? The design/implementation and research components of the proposed effort are grounded in the organizational change literature, primarily through the theoretical and practical work of Kezar (e.g., research-based principles of organizational change, change strategies, change foci, change models, and change outcomes). The project is designed to provide multiple ways by which faculty, academic departments and other units, institutions, and institutional consortia can support broader implementation of effective instructional strategies/practices, and thus improve undergraduate STEM education.