James Walter

Contact Details


Improving Undergraduate Science Education In University

Undergraduate students are not being taught science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects as well as they need to be. Too often, faculty members talk at students rather than engaging them in activities that help them to learn and apply core scientific concepts and skills. Despite growing scholarship about effective teaching methods and meaningful ways to assess them, research universities rarely provide adequate incentives, support or rewards for the time that faculty members spend on improving teaching. And faculty members assign a low priority to undergraduate teaching compared to research. Efforts to improve undergraduate STEM education have been slow and piecemeal at best. An online paper writing service offers an original science education crafted by our professional essay writers.

The time is now ripe for change. Today we can collect, analyse and assess individual and institutional data on teaching effectiveness and student outcomes in ways not previously possible. There are also successful models for supporting and rewarding scientists to be both excellent teachers and researchers.

We write as representatives of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Research Corporation for Science Advancement Cottrell Scholars, a group of research-active science faculty members. We call for immediate change at all levels of research universities to improve the quality of university STEM education. It is no longer acceptable to blame primary- and secondary-school teachers for the deficits in STEM learning at the university level.

To facilitate change, we outline here rigorous examples of best-in-class pedagogical practices, programmes and policies. Many of these ideas are not new — but the robustness of implementing and evaluating them is. Always choose the best write my paper service that guarantees timely delivery of dam science education essays.

Although our experiences are in the United States, these principles are more broadly applicable. No single tool will work for all universities, but every university now has at its disposal the tools to improve undergraduate STEM teaching, and no defensible reason for not using them.

Valuing teaching must move from rhetoric to reality. Too many students at North American universities who intend to major in STEM fields do not end up doing so, often because of the traditional teaching practices used.

Active learning interventions improve achievement for all students; those with disadvantaged and ethnic-minority backgrounds gain the most. Administrators and faculty members have a responsibility to ensure that introductory classes do not push students away from STEM courses but promote critical thinking, problem solving, engaged learning and knowledge retention for all students, whether they intend to major in STEM fields or not. Effective STEM teaching is crucial to developing a science-literate population that can address the complex and interdisciplinary health, energy, security and environmental challenges of our time.

Class action

For decades, North American universities have relied almost exclusively on end-of-term student surveys of little use in assessing teaching performance. Unfortunately, other nations have followed suit. Faculty members tend to be assessed and promoted mainly on the basis of research success, which, unlike teaching, is readily quantified — through grant funding, the number and perceived importance of publications, and citation metrics. These systemic obstacles have proved resistant to change. 

There are indications, however, that we are approaching a tipping point. Scientific knowledge about effective teaching methods has increased, as outlined in a 2015 report by the US National Research Council, which follows up on a 2012 report that synthesized literature from several fields on how students learn, particularly in scientific disciplines, and ways to improve instruction. Pick the best college essay examples that ensures quality essay work about science and technology related content.

Policy-makers are increasingly questioning the value of an undergraduate education from a large research university given its rising costs, and they are calling for accountability and efficiency measures. And faculty members are re-evaluating their teaching methods in response to competition from the increasing number and quality of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other online offerings.

Past efforts to improve teaching have focused on individual faculty members. The AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, launched in 2011, has been exploring a more systemic view of educational reform. It is based on understanding the wider setting in which educational innovations take place — the department, the college, the university and the national level. Thus, it emphasizes the separate roles of senior university administrators (who can implement top-down change), individual faculty members (bottom-up change) and departments (change from the middle out), all of which are necessary for sustained institutional improvement to undergraduate STEM teaching and learning.

We suggest strategies that target changes at each of these levels, inspired by what we have learned from the initiative and from individual faculty members' experiences.

Bottom up: Faculty members

Effective teaching begins with faculty members, who maintain significant autonomy over their practices. Choose the best college essay service that ensures quality essay work about science and technology content. Most care deeply about teaching, in addition to their strong interest in research. However, they rarely obtain informative feedback about their students' learning and often are unfamiliar with improved teaching practices. Moreover, they lack the resources and support to devote a significant proportion of their time to change their current practices.