Faculty Engagement in Data and Stories to Build Capacity in Transforming STEM Education

Amy Chan Hilton
Director of CETL, Professor of Engineering
University of Southern Indiana

This NSF IUSE ICT project is designed to build capacity in supporting STEM faculty in collaborative inquiry processes to explore questions on student learning and success in introductory and gateway undergraduate STEM courses. Recognizing that simply providing faculty access to academic data or the literature will not inspire them to transform their courses, the project is motivating faculty to consider evidence-based teaching strategies by including them as co-designers of learning analytics tools and storytellers inspired by the data and their reflections. The project also builds and strengthens faculty communities and networks and develops a culture of inquiry and conversations that are data-informed – all to build readiness for transformation. We are exploring how a change framework for intentional capacity building through creating faculty communities with similar interests across disciplines and data infrastructure can establish the foundation for implementing change in their instructional practices and curriculum, with faculty members becoming change agents. The project tests three assumptions, grounded in theories of change, that guide this project: providing faculty with multiple ways to engage with challenges to student success and evidence-based teaching will cultivate motivation to consider changes in instruction and curricular design; data alone will not drive change, but rather developing connections with data and evidence will help motivate transformation; and systems thinking establishes an effective framework to organize efforts to facilitate change. This capacity-building project seeks to: 1) expand learning analytics tools with relevant and actionable academic data for faculty; 2) recruit and engage 24 STEM faculty members in learning communities that connect academic data with individual perspectives to motivate interest in STEM education transformation; 3) build community across STEM educators; and 4) refine theories of change and the framework for the design and implementation of programs to support faculty in transformation STEM curriculum. Broader Impacts: This project is increasing faculty engagement in issues related to student learning, success, and retention in STEM introductory and gateway courses. This is expected to increase their motivation to explore and try evidence-based instructional practices in their courses to support the success and retention of their students, including first-generation, low-income, women, and other underserved populations. Moreover, using learning analytical tools is an emerging approach to motivating STEM faculty to implement evidence-based teaching practices. These tools, together with reflective stories about how faculty participants’ perspectives and understanding of student success issues have evolved, can be used to motivate change. Through the results of formative and summative evaluation, this project also provides insights into effective strategies to engage STEM faculty in inquiry into how to support student success. While most transformation projects and frameworks have been conducted at large research institutions, the results from this project will contribute to the knowledge in STEM education change in the context of a public, regional, primarily undergraduate institution in the Midwest.


Shelly Blunt, Katherine Draughon, William Elliott, Gregory Johnson, and Zane Mitchell, University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN