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KU partnering in initiative to improve undergraduate STEM instruction

Mon, 11/19/2012

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas is part of a new collaborative initiative to improve undergraduate teaching and learning, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The initiative, called the Bay View Alliance (BVA), has been granted $803,942 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation over four years to support its efforts. The alliance is made up of six other top research universities besides KU: Indiana University-Bloomington, Queen's University, University of British Columbia, University of California-Davis, University of Saskatchewan, and University of Texas-Austin. The BVA is an innovative and unique collaboration both within universities (among administrators, department leaders and faculty) and across its partner campuses.

Research has identified effective instructional practices in STEM fields, but typical teaching has changed little as a result of these findings. The goal of the BVA is to test new approaches to academic leadership at partner campuses to find strategies to encourage innovation in STEM instruction. The alliance will look at how teaching skills are encouraged at the partner campuses, implement new institutional initiatives in teaching and learning, and analyze the effectiveness of the programs to gauge the likelihood that these approaches to leadership might be adopted by other research universities.

At KU, departments will consider identifying educators with disciplinary and pedagogical expertise to help faculty redesign large STEM courses for more active learning. The KU project will evaluate the achievement of learning goals, and a BVA research team will compare results and explore how such an intervention could be institutionalized more widely.

The implementation of the KU Core may provide additional opportunities for trying new approaches, such as involving an entire department in the planning and coordination of multisection survey courses, rather than leaving the responsibility to individual faculty members.

"The Bay View Alliance is a valuable network and resource that will benefit our faculty and students, enhance our teaching and learning mission, and expand knowledge of the types of interventions that support a culture of teaching and learning in a university setting," Provost and executive vice chancellor Jeff Vitter said. "The research focus on transferring knowledge about what works in education into the classroom is particularly important, as it meshes wonderfully with the goals of our strategic plan, Bold Aspirations."

The BVA project is supported through the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's STEM Higher Education program, which aims to increase the quality and diversity of higher education in STEM fields.

"Innovation in teaching is critical to supporting learning in key STEM disciplines," said Sloan Foundation Program Director Elizabeth Boylan. "The Foundation is excited to partner with the Bay View Alliance in its efforts to learn and disseminate information on the best ways to spread the adoption of evidence-based teaching methods in undergraduate STEM education, efforts that will, in turn, provide benefits to both the faculty and their students."

Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant making institution that supports original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance. More information can be found at www.sloan.org.

More information about the Bay View Alliance can be found online.




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