Highlights from STEM FIT 2016

Faculty from 8 colleges and universities in 13 STEM disciplines all came together to learn about evidence-based teaching during STEM FIT 2016. This faculty institute on teaching focused on strategies for incorporating active learning into the STEM classroom to improve student learning and strategies for creating a more inclusive STEM classroom. Faculty discussed and tried out a wide variety of active-learning strategies such as using clickers, drawing to promote understanding, figure annotations, and reflective writing.

Several of the active-learning strategies included students’ use of peer instruction in small groups. Teaching Center Assistant Director, Denise Leonard, put faculty into their students’ shoes and had them adopt roles to demonstrate how the use of roles allows groups to work more equitably and efficiently. Faculty became the manager, recorder, reflector or spokesperson for their group as they reviewed a case study on how students perceive group work and discussed faculty strategies for successfully engaging a diverse group of students in group work.

Faculty from STEM disciplines across the region also shared some of their own teaching strategies with their colleagues such as creating a scavenger hunt from one’s class syllabus as a means of helping students learn about essential course policies and expectations.

On day three of the institute, STEM FIT alumni returned to learn about current research on peer instruction and students’ concept building approaches in their learning at WashU. In addition, the alumni participated in discussions of the challenges that bias and stereotypes can pose in the classroom and specific strategies for creating a more inclusive environment, such as using ground rules and providing feedback that fosters a growth mindset.

Wrapping up the institute was a Gallery Walk during which participants presented posters describing new active-learning strategies for their courses that they developed in their working groups. These activities ranged from using peer discussion groups to analyze data to understand enzyme kinetics in a biology course to using clicker questions and peer discussion along with drawing an application of the concept of optimization in an engineering course. STEM FIT creates the opportunity for the expansion of a regional faculty learning community on teaching and learning in STEM and this group of faculty shared their enthusiasm, passion, and ideas throughout the institute.