Utilizing Professional Development Across Institution Types to Promote Research-based Instruction

Patrick Shabram
Professor of Geography
Front Range Community College

The Promoting Research-based Instructional Methods for Enhancing and Reforming STEM Education (PRIMERS) project was funded by NSF to facilitate the movement of college-level STEM education away from teacher-centered instruction toward more learner-centered instruction that utilizes research-based instructional strategies (RBIS). The project also seeks to better understand how to support the propagation of RBIS across institutions of higher education. To achieve these objectives, three institutions of higher education with different settings, the University of Colorado Boulder (a R1 research university), Front Range Community College (a primarily two-year college), and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (a Hispanic serving institution and emerging research university) have engaged in a three-pronged approach. First, an evidence-based professional development program based on an existing program first tested at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was adapted to each institution to support instructor use of active learning principles in the classroom. Second, a series of roundtable discussions have been held at all three campuses to discuss aspects of department and institutional culture related to teaching and student learning, professional development, evidence-based instruction, and faculty evaluations based on these research-based techniques. Finally, research focused on the adaptation of active-learning instruction, department culture, and student outcomes is ongoing to test the effectiveness of these programs. The faculty teaching and learning professional development program was successfully adapted to and implemented at each of the three institutions. Results show cultural shifts around greater acceptance of active learning techniques have taken place across all three campuses, with varying levels of success. Research of classroom adoption of active learning techniques and institutional/departmental acceptance of course design around these techniques is ongoing. The professional development variations at the three institutions, which have already helped transform courses offered at all three institutions, may serve as models for transformation at other institutions, and Front Range Community College’s adaptation of the initial professional development program is now planned at other community colleges in Colorado.


Patrick Shabram, Front Range Community College, Fort Collins, CO; Leilani A. Arthurs, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO; Chu-Lin Cheng, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, McAllen, TX; Ming-Tsan Lu, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX; Carly Flaagan, Front Range Community College, Fort Collins, CO