Collaborative Research: Extending A Coherent Gateway to STEM Teaching and Learning

Melanie Cooper, Ph.D.
Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education and Professor of Chemistry
Michigan State University

Need: Introductory STEM courses have been the target of transformation efforts because of the role they play as the gateway (and obstacle) to STEM careers for many students, yet most are still focused on factual recall and algorithmic problem solving, rather than engagement with scientific practices. We have used the vision laid out in National Academies Framework for K-12 Science Education as the basis for transformation efforts that focus on the use of knowledge, particularly in the context of 3D-Learning (that is the integration of core ideas, scientific practices and crosscutting concepts). The goals of our project are both to support faculty to focus on both what students know and what they should do with that knowledge, and to determine whether these transformation efforts are being incorporated into courses, and whether they are having an impact on student outcomes. Guiding Questions: Two research questions guide this activity. RQ1: What supports faculty in applying the three-dimensional framework to their courses, and how can barriers to adoption be addressed? And RQ2: In what ways does participating in three-dimensional courses change outcomes for students? These questions are built on two foundational activities which are the extension of a STEM Fellows learning community to include faculty from a wider range of courses, and the development of a protocol to characterize the extent of 3D instruction in classrooms. Outcomes: To date over 50 instructors have participated in the STEM Fellows program. Using interviews and surveys and with expectancy-value theory as the key theoretical framework, we identified perceived supports and barriers that participants discussed in implementing three-dimensional learning and, based on a cluster analysis of instructor motivational profiles, conjecture that these themes apply to the broader population of participants. We are also using these ideas as we implement the next cohort of STEM Fellows. The project has developed two related protocols, the 3D learning assessment protocol (3D-LAP), and the 3D Learning observation protocol (3D-LOP). We have coded assessments (using the 3D-LAP), and instructional sequences (3D-LOP) and have found that generally 3D instruction aligns with 3D assessment. On the other hand we also find that instructional activities that we might designate as “active learning”, do not necessarily engage students in knowledge use, whereas 3D-learning segments are also likely to be active. We have also compared student learning outcomes in 3D courses with those in more traditionally designed courses and find that students in transformed courses are more likely to construct appropriate explanations and models for a range of phenomena.Broader Impacts: By identifying the factors that lead to measurable and meaningful transformation of STEM courses, it will be possible to develop productive approaches to sustainable change in such courses, and ways in which this transformation could spread into upper-level courses. Expansion of this model to other institutions will allow the identification and testing of support factors and barriers that promote effective propagation. These efforts will contribute to broader efforts to understand institutional change in higher education.


Melanie M Cooper, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Lynmarie Posey, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Cori Fata-Hartley, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Diane Ebert May, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI;Danny Caballero, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Jon Stoltzfus, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Ryan Sweeder, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Paul Nelson, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Paul Bergeron, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Stuart Tessmer, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Deborah Herrington, GVSU Grand Rapids MI; J.T. Lavery, Kansas State University, Manhattan KS; Sonia Underwood, FIU, Miami, Florida; Justin Carmel, FIU, Miami Florida.l