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Center For Teaching Excellence receives grant to improve evaluation of teaching

Friday, October 20, 2017

LAWRENCE — The Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Kansas has received a $612,000 grant intended to help STEM departments provide a richer evaluation of faculty teaching and, ultimately, expand the use of practices that have shown to improve student learning.

The grant, from the National Science Foundation, is part of a five-year, $2.8 million project that includes the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Michigan State University. It will involve departments that fall under the umbrella of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math.

Andrea Greenhoot, director of CTE, and Doug Ward, CTE’s associate director, will oversee the project at KU.

Universities have long relied on student surveys as the sole means of evaluating teaching, Greenhoot said. That approach has hindered the adoption of evidence-based teaching practices, which emphasize student learning as the central outcome of instruction. These practices have resulted in deeper learning and greater success for students, in addition to closing gaps between majority and minority groups.

The grant project, Framework for Teaching Effectiveness Project, will help STEM departments develop and adopt new evaluation frameworks that draw from multiple sources of evidence, including students, peers and instructors. CTE is accepting applications from departments and academic units to participate. Over time, Greenhoot said, CTE hopes to expand the program to departments beyond STEM.

“We see this as a great way to help departments think about what they value most in teaching,” Greenhoot said. “It’s also an opportunity for faculty members to share the great work they have been doing in improving their courses.”

Participating departments, which will receive grants from CTE, will have access to education specialists to work with faculty members and administrators. They will work to create a shared vision of good teaching in their discipline, identify appropriate forms of evidence of good teaching and use the resulting framework in evaluating faculty teaching. Faculty members in those departments will also meet with colleagues from Colorado and Massachusetts, allowing them to share experiences in modifying the evaluation process. 

The project grew from conversations at meetings of the Bay View Alliance, a group of North American research universities working to improve teaching and learning on their campuses. KU, Colorado and Massachusetts are all members of the alliance and will recruit departments on their campuses for the project. Michigan State will lead the evaluation of the project, creating case studies that show how similar approaches to cultural change work in different environments.

“This project would never have happened if not for our connection to the BVA,” Greenhoot said. “The rich discussions among our BVA colleagues have provided great inspiration and an important means of collaboration.”

Greenhoot is the leader of another NSF-funded project that grew from work with the Bay View Alliance. That project, Transforming Education, Stimulating Teaching and Learning Excellence, or TRESTLE, is based on a model that Greenhoot developed and implemented at KU that uses evidence-based teaching methods that improve learning. It involves using embedded experts — faculty leaders or specially prepared postdoctoral scholars — in STEM departments to collaborate with faculty on incorporating proven methods into their courses. The project, which received a $2.5 million NSF grant, is in its third year.

For more information, contact Andrea Greenhoot, 785-864-4193, or Doug Ward, 785-864-7637.

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