Mapping the spread of collaborative learning methods in gateway STEM courses via communities of practice

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Mapping the Spread of Collaborative Learning Methods in Gateway STEM Courses via Communities of PracticeThe recent literature reviews and studies of Henderson and colleagues have highlightedanew the critical difficulties of creating large scale, sustainable change in Science,Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) instruction. They have shown that,while faculty are often aware of Research-Based Instructional Strategies (RBIS), theyrarely try, or maintain their use of, these RBIS. Borrego and colleagues have furtherrevealed that maintaining the fidelity of the implementation of these RBIS providesanother critical challenge in the successful adoption and translation of RBIS acrossinstructors and courses. In summary, there are two key challenges for educationalreforms: spreading innovations and sustaining adoption.Under a campus-wide NSF-funded WIDER (Widening Implementation & Demonstrationof Evidence Based Reforms) project, we are addressing these two challenges by formingseveral Communities of Practice (CoPs) of faculty and lecturers. These CoPs are creatingcollaborative joint ownership of sets of gateway STEM courses so that communities offaculty rather than individual faculty are responsible for implementing RBIS andsustaining their use. Additionally, these CoPs are interconnected by embedding facultyand observers across departments to cross-pollinate RBIS between CoPs.In this paper, we present part of an evaluation of this CoP-based approach to institutionalchange by tracing the spread and adoption of one RBIS through the WIDER effort:collaborative, context-rich problem solving. The use of this RBIS originated inCalculus 2 and spread to other STEM courses as shown in Figure 1. We summarize thepath and history of this spread, and identify the two key factors that enabled efficientdissemination and sustainability: (1) the use of CoPs as “concentrators”, and (2) theembedding of faculty across departments. Comp Arch Calculus 2 ECE CoP Intro to EE CS CoP Data Struct Dynamics TAM CoP Disc Math MatSE Mech Statics CS1 non-major Solids MatSE CoP Thermal & Mech Figure 1: Spread sequence of the RBIS innovation from the source in Math 231E (top left) to ten other courses, via four Communities of Practice (CoPs) in TAM (Theoretical and Applied Mechanics), MatSE (Materials Science and Engineering), ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and CS (Computer Science).
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for Society
Issue number122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for...
StatePublished - 2015
Event2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Seattle, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2015Jun 17 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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