Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Improving Postsecondary STEM Education: Strategies for Successful Interdisciplinary Collaborations and Brokering Engagement with Education Research and Theory

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Improving Postsecondary STEM Education: Strategies for Successful Interdisciplinary Collaborations and Brokering Engagement with Education Research and Theory

Article excerpt

Postsecondary faculty members are expanding a movement to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning in dynamic and diverse ways (Bouwma-Gearhart, 2012a; Bush et al., 2008; Foster et al., 2010; Hamos et al., 2009; Handelsmann et al., 2004). Faculty efforts to improve postsecondary STEM education are increasingly involving collaborations between faculty from STEM departments, typically based in Colleges of Arts and Sciences (hereafter STEM faculty), and those from Departments and Colleges of Education (hereafter Education faculty), where pedagogy specialists are often located. The effects of collaborations of this sort have been the topic of recent studies (Bouwma-Gearhart, 2012a; Bouwma-Gearhart & Adumat, 2011; Foster et al., 2010; Frank & Shapiro, 2007; Hamos et al., 2009; Westat, 2009).

Yet the research literature concerning these collaborations, in fact concerning faculty work in general, most notably focuses on barriers and typically provides few practical recommendations that work within the current realities of modern universities (Bouwma-Gearhart, 2012b; Bouwma-Gearhart & Adumat, 2011; O'Meara, Terosky, & Neumann, 2008). The many barriers to successful interdisciplinary collaborations between postsecondary educators include the overwhelming power of discipline and department in faculty members' professional identity (Levine, 1993) and professional advancement (Holley, 2009), as well as philosophical and cultural differences between disciplines that impede collaborations (Braxton & Hargens, 1996; Frank & Shapiro, 2007; Hora, Millar, & Ramaley, 2010).

This article explores factors influencing the success of collaborative endeavors that meaningfully involve STEM and Education faculty at large public land-grant universities in the United States, institutions that produce 50% of STEM baccalaureates (C. Keller, personal communication, November 23, 2011) and are known for disproportionately rewarding faculty for research over teaching and teaching improvement activities (Bess, 1997; Healey, 2005; LaPointe, 2005).

Methodology

Setting and research focus

We studied five research-focused universities to examine how these institutions were successfully implementing undergraduate education reform, more broadly speaking, and specifically via active and successful interdisciplinary collaborations. Institutions demonstrated the following:

* evidence that postsecondary STEM reform initiatives were well underway and were making progress toward improving undergraduate STEM education, and

* potential to inform our interests regarding the professional realities of postsecondary faculty and instructors from different disciplines.

We sought to identify practices underlying successful reform that involved STEM and Education faculty in order to explore: How do STEM and Education faculty successfully collaborate to improve undergraduate education?

Research tools and methods

We created a semistructured interview tool to allow interviewees to recall, reflect on, and synthesize their experiences (Lattuca & Creamer, 2005; Livingston, 1997), specifically toward providing insight into the success and challenges of STEM reform initiatives from a systems perspective (see Appendix). Institutional Review Board approval was secured, and the study was determined exempt.

Institutional liaisons were asked to identify successful initiatives that involved important roles for STEM and Education faculty. (Note: The purpose of this research is not to explore the achievements of the actual initiatives, but the processes and factors underlying their perceived success.) Given their role in STEM reform initiatives on their campuses, institutional liaisons also served as interviewees. Institutional research participants were recruited via personal e-mail with a description of the study and invitation to participate. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.