Bridging to STEM Excellence: Leveraging a Consortium of Nation STEM Initiatives

Cailin Huyck Orr
Associate Director
SERC at Carleton College

The “Bridging to STEM Excellence” project (BTSE) aims to accelerate changes in teaching through formation of a consortium of national professional development organizations. The BTSE consortium organizations are filling a needed gap by integrating their respective strategies that support faculty members and encourage broader use of evidence-based practices by institutions, departments and programs. Our goal is to accelerate STEM education improvement in higher education and understand how integrating disciplinary and institutional approaches can provide holistic support for faculty as scientists and educators. By coordinating a group of professional development organizations (BioQuest at QUBES, Traveling workshop from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the POGIL project, the SENCER program and the National Institute on Scientific Teaching) to work together as consultants across all programs, we increase the breadth of knowledge of each consortium member. This allows for consultations that can plan and design a bespoke professional development plan that is hand-picked for an institution’s unique circumstances. This approach best serves institutions that have an idea of the issues at hand but do not have a directed course of action toward addressing those issues. Building on the success of this initial effort, the long-term vision for BTSE is to effect positive change through outcomes at three levels: Faculty outcomes in increased adoption of evidence based teaching practices, Institutional outcomes in policy adoption that incentivizes and rewards impactful practices in STEM courses and student outcomes in increased student retention and success in STEM. Examples from five pilot consultancies (Bakersfield College, California State University at Chico, Georgia State University, the Ohio State University and University of Richmond) led to the development and testing of a consultancy playbook and successful practices for institutional visits. More information is available on the project website To support the efforts of the consultancy program, a 19-item readiness for change survey was developed and administered to faculty members who participated in pilot consultancies at the institutional sites. Readiness for change describes the process wherein individuals come to acknowledge that change is necessary and begin to believe that efforts to enact change are likely to be successful in achieving some desired outcome. The survey presented a statement of challenge identified by each institution and to which faculty assessed the degree they believed that making changes to address this challenge were appropriate, beneficial, supported, and likely to be successful. The BTSE instrument was modeled on an existing measure developed for use in business settings (see Holt et al., 2007). Items were adapted based on feedback from BTSE project leaders, institutional contacts, and consortium consultants to better fit the higher education context. The four-factor structure proposed by Holt et el. was retained, namely: 1) appropriateness, the degree to which individuals feel a change is needed, 2) institutional support, the degree to which individuals feel that institutional leaders support the change, 3) change efficacy, the degree to which individuals feel they have the resources to enact change, and 4) personal valence, the degree to which change is perceived to be personally beneficial.


Cailin Huyck Orr, Ellen Iverson, Ellen Altermatt, Bradlee Cotton, Carleton College, Northfield, MN; Rick Moog, The POGIL Project, Lancaster, PA