Collectively Improving Our Teaching: Attempting Biology Department-wide Professional Development in Scientific Teaching
OPEN CBE life sciences education | 13 Jan 2018
MT Owens, G Trujillo, SB Seidel, CD Harrison, KM Farrar, HP Benton, JR Blair, KE Boyer, JL Breckler, LW Burrus, DT Byrd, N Caporale, EJ Carpenter, YM Chan, JC Chen, L Chen, LH Chen, DS Chu, WP Cochlan, RJ Crook, KD Crow, JR de la Torre, WF Denetclaw, LM Dowdy, D Franklin, M Fuse, MA Goldman, B Govindan, M Green, HE Harris, ZH He, SB Ingalls, P Ingmire, ARB Johnson, JD Knight, G LeBuhn, TL Light, C Low, L Lund, LM Márquez-Magaña, VC Miller-Sims, CA Moffatt, H Murdock, GL Nusse, VT Parker, SG Pasion, R Patterson, PS Pennings, JC Ramirez, RM Ramirez, B Riggs, RV Rohlfs, JM Romeo, BS Rothman, SW Roy, T Russo-Tait, RNM Sehgal, KA Simonin, GS Spicer, JH Stillman, A Swei, LC Tempe, VT Vredenburg, SL Weinstein, AG Zink, LA Kelley, CR Domingo and KD Tanner
Many efforts to improve science teaching in higher education focus on a few faculty members at an institution at a time, with limited published evidence on attempts to engage faculty across entire departments. We created a long-term, department-wide collaborative professional development program, Biology Faculty Explorations in Scientific Teaching (Biology FEST). Across 3 years of Biology FEST, 89% of the department’s faculty completed a weeklong scientific teaching institute, and 83% of eligible instructors participated in additional semester-long follow-up programs. A semester after institute completion, the majority of Biology FEST alumni reported adding active learning to their courses. These instructor self-reports were corroborated by audio analysis of classroom noise and surveys of students in biology courses on the frequency of active-learning techniques used in classes taught by Biology FEST alumni and nonalumni. Three years after Biology FEST launched, faculty participants overwhelmingly reported that their teaching was positively affected. Unexpectedly, most respondents also believed that they had improved relationships with departmental colleagues and felt a greater sense of belonging to the department. Overall, our results indicate that biology department-wide collaborative efforts to develop scientific teaching skills can indeed attract large numbers of faculty, spark widespread change in teaching practices, and improve departmental relations.
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