How do early-career mathematics instructors teach? First findings from Project Launchpad

Timothy Weston
Research Associate
U. Colorado Boulder

Many STEM organizations across STEM disciplines offer teaching-related professional development (TPD) to early-career faculty, and many people believe that they are important—often based on personal experiences. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, there is fairly little research about the impact of TPD on new instructors’ practices and careers. In this project, a study we call Project Launchpad, we are examining whether and how early-career teaching professional development aids participants’ growth as teachers, scholars and leaders. •Guiding QuestionWorking with well-established programs sponsored by two professional societies in mathematics, the research considers: What short- and longer-term outcomes arise from intensive, discipline-based professional development on teaching for early-career STEM faculty? In other words, What difference does early-career faculty development make? We are especially interested in how EC-TPD influences instructional practices, knowledge and beliefs early in faculty careers. We also want to know about longer-term effects, such as career achievements in teaching, service and leadership. How do these outcomes vary among individuals and institutions? And what features of EC-TPD lead to these outcomes?In this poster, we share first findings from the study. Using surveys, classroom observations and syllabi, we describe the range and variation of early-career math faculty before they take part in TPD. What practices are typical in mathematics classrooms? How common or rare is the use of active and collaborative learning practices aligned with research on learning? Is there any evidence suggesting that early-career instructors are more likely to use research-based instructional practices than did earlier generations of instructors?•Outcomes: The longitudinal study started in late 2018. Four sub-studies contribute in overlapping ways to answering our research questions. Together, the studies use surveys, interviews, classroom observation, and course materials to examine short- and long-term outcomes of early-career faculty development in some established programs. In this poster, we offer findings about the teaching practices of early-career mathematics faculty, based on findings from the Census Study and the Classroom Study:A.The Census Study assesses the short-term outcomes of early-career faculty development, through surveys, interviews, and course materials. B.The Classroom Study offers in-depth analysis of a subset of instructors’ teaching practices, using classroom observations, instructor and student surveys, and course syllabi. The poster will describe the teaching of early-career math faculty before they take part in a TPD program, drawing on surveys, classroom observations, and syllabi.Two other study components examine longer-term outcomes for program alumni, and features of the TPD programs that may help to account for the observed outcomes. Collectively, these studies allow us to examine all critical levels of impact of EC-TPD and to link to existing research about the relationship of teaching practices to student outcomes. •Broader ImpactsBy clarifying whether and how EC-TPD experiences help instructors launch careers as teachers and leaders, the research results will help leaders and funders of these programs make research-informed decisions about the design and implementation of their programs.


Tim Archie, Kyra Gallion, Sandra Laursen; all U. Colorado Boulder, Boulder CO