Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt Improving Stem Teaching Scientifically

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt Improving Stem Teaching Scientifically

Article excerpt

The art of teaching is going under the microscope.

The University of Pittsburgh announced last week that the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences has created the Discipline Based Science Education Research Center, which aims to improve teaching methods in the school's natural science departments.

Chandralekha Singh, professor of physics and astronomy, will serve as director for the center, nicknamed dB-SERC. She has researched sources of student difficulties in learning physics for nearly a decade and a half. She said the practice of teaching can be studied with the same research methods as other scientific disciplines.

"Scholarship of learning and research go hand in hand," Ms. Singh said. "We're looking to promote innovative teaching and become a leader in research-based instruction."

The center will use research-based practices for teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields, to better measure students' understanding. Faculty are encouraged to set goals of student learning and progress to improve comprehension.

The "dB" in the acronym takes on another meaning, according to Ms. Singh. While it does stand for "discipline based," dB is also the scientific abbreviation for decibel, a unit of measurement that records amplification, or measure of gain.

Measuring gain is exactly what Ms. Singh looks to accomplish.

"It's important to treat teaching and learning in a scholarly manner, as a science with measurable goals," she said."

Ms. Singh said many teachers are interested in improving students' learning, but they often don't have the tools to do so.

"Many people haven't been trained to be a teacher the way they've been trained to be a researcher," she said. "Our job is providing support for faculty members and make sure they have the tools to do well."

Ms. Singh said the center will develop faculty learning communities for teachers to discuss their experiences and compare tips and styles across departments. …

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