Facilitating Widespread Implementation of Teaching Strategies Known to Promote Student Success throughout a State System of Colleges

Michelle Withers
Binghamton University

Need: The pandemic and civil unrest of the preceding two years have focused much-needed attention on the systemic inequities in higher education. While decades of education reform have fomented change, the need to speed diffusion of inclusive teaching strategies that improve student learning and success is dire. Educators once comfortable with traditional teaching and assessment strategies witnessed their inadequacy in remote settings and are looking for alternatives even as they return to in-person settings. We have an opportunity and obligation to harness the current sense of urgency to create a turning point in STEM education. Guiding Question: How do we capitalize on this moment and accelerate broad adoption of inclusive, evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs) in STEM higher education? Outcomes: Our reality is that STEM educators receive very rigorous post-graduate training in their disciplines but little to no pedagogical training, leaving them to rely on traditional lecture approaches that have been shown to be less effective in driving student learning or retention in STEM majors. This Level 1 Institutional and Community Transformation project will develop and evaluate the impact of a tiered program of professional development and mentoring which leverages connections within a state school system: the State University of New York (SUNY) system, which is the largest state system of post-secondary schools in the US. The project is building on the success of two national professional development programs – the Mobile Summer Institutes on Scientific Teaching (MoSI) and the Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER) – that are joining forces to provide three tiers of training and support to faculty in the SUNY system. The project intends to employ three important levers for change – professional development, agents of change, and communities of support – to accelerate adoption of high impact practices (HIPs) already occurring within pockets in this system. Participants in the program will receive general training in the use of EBIPs and specific training in implementation of one of the three HIPS – project-based learning (PBL), course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) or vertically integrated projects (VIPs) – of their choice by local change agents who have successfully deployed these strategies. Finally, participants will join a faculty mentoring network (FMN) of their peers and two expert leaders who will provide support and guidance as they begin the process of implementing HIPs on their own campuses. This longer-term support through community is emerging as an important lever to promote full adoption of innovative teaching strategies. Participation in the project training programs will be tracked and changes in teaching beliefs and behaviors will be measured to determine the efficacy of this approach in fostering widespread change in teaching. Broader Impacts: This project aims to serve the national interest by promoting widespread use of evidence-based, equitable teaching practices that promote learning, success and persistence for our students, particularly those from historically excluded groups. Equipping diverse STEM graduates with the knowledge and skills to address complex societal challenges like climate change is critical for sustainable growth and development of our economy and democratic society.


Robert Bills, Binghamton University, Xinnian Chen, University of Connecticutt, Mark Graham, Yale University, Suann Yang, SUNY Geneseo, Eliza Reilly, NCSCE/SENCER, John Gergen, Stony Brook University