Environmental influences and individual characteristics that affect learner-centered teaching

Diane Ebert-May
University Distinguished Professor
Michigan State University

Research-based teaching practices can improve student learning outcomes in a variety ofcomplex educational environments. The implementation of learner-centered teaching practicesin STEM can both benefit from or be constrained by different factors related to individualinstructors and the teaching environment. Additionally, we know little of how theinstructional climate varies across institutions and how this climate affects teaching practices.Our study sought to examine the relative importance of environmental influences andindividual characteristics on learner-centered teaching practices across institutions. Wealso assessed differences in our study population and departmental climate for 35 UShigher education institutions across the country. We found that self-efficacy in teaching andprofessional development exert a strong influence on faculty teaching practices in biology.While departmental climate did not emerge as a significant predictor of teaching practices,there was consistently low support for teaching, and institution size was negatively correlatedwith leadership and evaluation of effective teaching. We also found that intensive professionaldevelopment programs, such as the Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (FIRST) program, may prepare instructors to teach learner-centered courses in differentcollegial teaching climates. Our results suggest that through cultivating self-efficacy and participating in iterative professional development, instructors can implement effective teachingpractices in a variety of institutional environments. (Emery, Maher, Ebert-May 2021)


Nathan Emery, Michigan State University; Jessica Middlemis Maher, University of Wisconsin, Madison