Teaching and Learning STEM
Educational research has repeatedly shown that compared to traditional teacher-centered instruction, certain learner-centered methods lead to improved learning outcomes, greater development of critical high-level skills, and increased retention in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Teaching and Learning STEM presents a trove of practical research-based strategies for designing and teaching courses and assessing students' learning. The book draws on the authors' extensive backgrounds and decades of experience in STEM education and faculty development. Its engaging and well-illustrated descriptions will equip you to implement the strategies in your courses and to deal effectively with problems (including student resistance) that might occur in the implementation. The book will help you: Plan and conduct class sessions in which students are actively engaged, no matter how large the class is Make good use of technology in face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses and flipped classrooms Assess how well students are acquiring the knowledge, skills, and conceptual understanding the course is designed to teach Help students develop expert problem-solving skills and skills in communication, creative thinking, critical thinking, high-performance teamwork, and self-directed learning Meet the learning needs of STEM students with a broad diversity of attributes and backgrounds
The strategies presented in Teaching and Learning STEM don't require revolutionary time-intensive changes in your teaching, but rather a gradual integration of traditional and new methods. The result will be continual improvement in your teaching and your students' learning.
Teaching and Learning STEM
Introduction to College Teaching
1.0 Welcome to the University, There's Your Office, Good Luck
As everyone knows, skilled professionals routinely receive training before being certified to practice independently. Electricians, machinists, and chefs get preliminary instruction and then serve for months or years as apprentices. Accountants, psychologists, physicists, and physicians spend years earning degrees in their fields, and the physicians spend additional years in supervised internships and residencies. It would be unthinkable to allow people to practice a skilled profession without first being trained for it, especially if their mistakes could cause harm to others ... unless they are college faculty members.
The standard preparation for a faculty career is taking undergraduate and graduate courses in your discipline and completing a research project on a topic someone else has defined. Once you join a faculty, your orientation may consist of nothing but the heading of this section, and perhaps a half-day or a day on such things as health and retirement benefits and the importance of laboratory safety. The unstated assumption is that if you have a degree in a subject, you must know how to teach it at the college level.
Anyone who has ever been a college student knows how bad that assumption can be. What student has never had a professor who taught at a level ridiculously above anything the students had a chance of understanding, or put entire classes to sleep by droning monotonously for 50- or 75-minute stretches with no apparent awareness that there were students in the room, or flashed PowerPoint slides at a rate no human brain could possibly keep up with?
Instructors like these unfortunately abound on college faculties. If you teach like any of them, no matter how much you know and how accurately you present it, you probably won't enjoy looking at your students' test scores or your end-of-class student ratings. Being an excellent or even just a competent teacher requires knowing many things graduate school doesn't teach, such as how to design courses and deliver them effectively; write assignments and exams that are both rigorous and fair; and deal with classroom management, advising problems, cheating, and an uncountable number of other headaches teachers routinely encounter. Figuring out all those things on your own is not trivial. Although there is something to be said for trial-and-error learning, it's not efficient-and in the case of teaching, the ones making the errors are not the ones suffering the consequences. Many new faculty members take years to learn how to teach well, and others never learn.
It doesn't have to be that way. Proven methods for teaching effectively-that is, motivating students to learn and helping them acquire the knowledge, skills, and values they will need to succeed in college and their professions-are well known. Many of those methods are not particularly hard-you can just learn what they are and then start using them. That doesn't mean they make teaching simple: teaching a course-especially for the first time-is and always will be a challenging and time-consuming task. The point is that teaching well does not have to be harder than teaching poorly. The purpose of this book is to help you learn how to teach well.
1.1 Making Learning Happen
Brainwave: What Goes on in Our Brains When We Learn?
Learning is shorthand for encoding and storing information in long-term memory, from which it can later be retrieved and used. According to a widely-used model of this process, new information comes in through the senses, is held for a fraction of a second in a sensory register, and is then either passed on to working memory or lost. Once in working memory, the information is processed, and after a fraction of a minute (or longer if the information is repeated)