Instructional Resources, Online Curriculum Repositories, and Situational Barriers to Change
Individual faculty members, group, or departments that are considering changes to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education should carefully consider whether to try to develop new curriculum from scratch, a very time-consuming multi-year undertaking, or to take advantage of existing research-based curriculum. One legacy of the investment by funding agencies in research-based pedagogies is curricula, as well as curriculum and publications on the barriers and opportunities associated with implementing and sustaining them. In some STEM disciplines, funding agencies and national STEM organizations have organized online repositories for those curricula. ComPADRE in physics (Mason, 2007) and CourseSource in biology (Wright et al., 2013) are examples of resources for faculty interested in identifying new curriculum.
Some of the more prominent curriculum reform groups have developed resources for both new and experienced users. These may include electronic mailing lists, websites, or central resources for users, as well as topic-specific workshops or meetings for users, such as POGIL, BIOquest, the Academy of Inquiry Based Learning (IBL), and Sencer. Faculty interested in adopting one of these more prominent curricula can take advantage of these resources.
National discipline-based organizations are also an important support for faculty interested in implementing new curricula. Such organizations, including the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Mathematical Association of America, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), and the American Geophysical Union, have sponsored meetings and workshops that allow STEM educators to become more familiar with
research-based STEM curricula in a particular discipline. Manduca (2008) documents the importance of these meetings to discipline-wide STEM reform. At the broadest level, organizations such as the National Center for Academic Transformation offer support for revised cross-disciplinary STEM curricula, particularly at the introductory course level.
For validated STEM curricula, there are concept inventories, such as the force concept inventory (Hestenes et al., 1992), the chemistry inventory (Mulford and Robinson, 2002; Epstein, 2013), civil and environmental engineering (Sengupta et al., 2013), and the calculus concept inventory (Epstein, 2007). While these inventories have served as a source of critique of current STEM education, they can also serve as a resource for STEM reformers in communicating about successful curricula (Libarkin, 2008). Data from such inventories can be useful for improving curricular implementations and communicating the status and successes of STEM reform efforts to institutional and cross-institutional stakeholders.
Many successful and sustained curricular changes make significant changes to “situational barriers,” identified by Henderson and Dancy (2011). These changes may include new classrooms specifically for STEM group work, such as SCALE-UP1 or STUDIO classrooms,2 or significantly revised temporal course structures, such as the CLASP3 model, or completely reworked class structures, such as interdisciplinary programs at Pomona (Copp et al., 2012) or the paradigms model (Manogue and Krane, 2003) at Oregon State; or new or reconfigured buildings, such as maker-spaces and student design buildings, which many engineering schools now house. Some of these programs have been ongoing for a long time.
These programs suggest that there is a correlation between sites where STEM reform has been adopted and persisted over time and positive situational barriers that make it difficult to return to traditional lecture and laboratory approaches. Some research (Lasry et al., 2014) on a SCALE-UP implementation site suggests that the existence of a reformed curriculum with a barrier to reversion (in this case, the modified classroom and schedule) may lead faculty who are required to teach in reformed classes to reconsider their own teaching methods.
More research is needed to determine whether such “positive situational barriers” (schedule changes, physical changes to classroom, significant revision to the curriculum, required faculty curricular meetings) support the sustainability of STEM reform curriculum by presenting barriers to return to traditional lecture/lab instruction modes. It is also possible
3 For more information, see http://www.aps.org/units/fed/newsletters/spring2011/webb.cfm [July 2015].
that curriculum or programs that by design require faculty to regularly discuss the curriculum may lead not just to sustained reform, but to even greater innovation.
Copp, N.H., Black, K., and Gold, S. (2012). Accelerated integrated science sequence: An interdisciplinary introductory course for science majors. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 11(1), A76–A81.
Epstein, J. (2007). Development and validation of the calculus concept inventory. In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Mathematics Education in a Global Community, September 7–12. Available: http://bit.ly/bqKSWJ [February 2016].
Epstein, J. (2013). The calculus concept inventory—Measurement of the effect of teaching methodology in mathematics. Notices of the AMS, 60(8), 1018–1026. Available: http://www.ams.org/notices/201308/rnoti-p1018.pdf [February 2016].
Henderson, C., and Dancy, M.H. (2011). Increasing the Impact and Diffusion of STEM Education Innovations. A White Paper commissioned for the Characterizing the Impact and Diffusion of Engineering Education Innovations Forum, February 7–8, New Orleans, LA.
Hestenes, D., Wells, M., and Swackhammer, G. (1992). Force concept inventory. The Physics Teacher, 30(March), 141–158. Available: http://modeling.asu.edu/R&E/FCI.PDF [February 2016].
Lasry, N., Charles, E., and Whittaker, C. (2014). When teacher-centered instructions are assigned to student-centered classrooms. Physical Review Special Topics Physics Education Research, 10(1), 010116-1–010116-9. Available: http://journals.aps.org/prper/pdf/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.10.010116 [February 2016].
Libarkin, J. (2008). Concept Inventories in Higher Education Science. A manuscript prepared for the National Research Council Promising Practices in Undergraduate STEM Education Workshop 2, Washington, DC, October 13-14. Available: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/cs/groups/dbassesite/documents/webpage/dbasse_072624.pdf [February 2016].
Manduca, C.A. (2008). Working with the Discipline: Developing a Supportive Environment for Education. Presented at the National Research Council’s Workshop Linking Evidence to Promising Practices in STEM Undergraduate Education, Washington, DC. Available: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/cs/groups/dbassesite/documents/webpage/dbasse_072635.pdf [April 2015].
Manogue, C.A., and Krane, K.S. (2003). Paradigms in physics: Restructuring the upper level. Physics Today, 56, 53–58.
Mason, B. (2007). Introducing ComPADRE. Forum on Education. 2007. Communities for Physics and Astronomy Digital Resources in Education. Available: http://www.compadre.org [April 2015].
Mulford, D.R., and Robinson, W.R., (2002). An inventory for alternate conceptions among first-semester general chemistry students. Journal of Chemical Education, 79(6), 739–743. Available: http://modeling.asu.edu/ModChem_web/Evaluation/CCI-old/p739.pdf [February 2016].
Sengupta, S., Cunningham, J.A., Ergas, S.J., Goel, R.K., Ozalp, D., and Reed, T. (2013, June), Development of a Concept Inventory for Introductory Environmental Engineering Courses. Paper presented at 2013 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA. Available: https://peer.asee.org/19426 [February 2016].
Wright, R., Bruns, P.J., and Blum, J.E. (2013). CourseSource: A new open-access journal of scholarly teaching. The FASEB Journal, 27(Meeting Abstract Supplement), lb242. Available: http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/27/1_MeetingAbstracts/lb242 [February 2016].