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Teaching Resources for Postdoctoral Scholars
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Courtesy of Jason Feser, Ph.D., to whom the NPA expresses its apprecation for compiling this information.

Background Information on Learning, Instruction, and Evaluation

(all PDF downloads are free from the National Academies)


How People Learn

This popular trade book, originally released in hardcover in the Spring of 1999, has been newly expanded to show how the theories and insights from the original book can translate into actions and practice, now making a real connection between classroom activities and learning behavior. This paperback edition includes far-reaching suggestions for research that could increase the impact that classroom teaching has on actual learning.

Like the original hardcover edition, this book offers exciting new research about the mind and the brain that provides answers to a number of compelling questions. When do infants begin to learn? How do experts learn and how is this different from non-experts? What can teachers and schools do-with curricula, classroom settings, and teaching methods--to help children learn most effectively? New evidence from many branches of science has significantly added to our understanding of what it means to know, from the neural processes that occur during learning to the influence of culture on what people see and absorb.

How People Learn examines these findings and their implications for what we teach, how we teach it, and how we assess what our children learn. The book uses exemplary teaching to illustrate how approaches based on what we now know result in in-depth learning. This new knowledge calls into question concepts and practices firmly entrenched in our current education system.

Topics include:

  • How learning actually changes the physical structure of the brain.
  • How existing knowledge affects what people notice and how they learn.
  • What the thought processes of experts tell us about how to teach.
  • The amazing learning potential of infants.
  • The relationship of classroom learning and everyday settings of community and workplace.
  • Learning needs and opportunities for teachers.
  • A realistic look at the role of technology in education.

Evaluating and Improving Undergraduate Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Economic, academic, and social forces are causing undergraduate schools to start a fresh examination of teaching effectiveness. Administrators face the complex task of developing equitable, predictable ways to evaluate, encourage, and reward good teaching in science, math, engineering, and technology.

Evaluating, and Improving Undergraduate Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics offers a vision for systematic evaluation of teaching practices and academic programs, with recommendations to the various stakeholders in higher education about how to achieve change.

What is good undergraduate teaching? This book discusses how to evaluate undergraduate teaching of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology and what characterizes effective teaching in these fields.

Why has it been difficult for colleges and universities to address the question of teaching effectiveness? The committee explores the implications of differences between the research and teaching cultures-and how practices in rewarding researchers could be transferred to the teaching enterprise.

How should administrators approach the evaluation of individual faculty members? And how should evaluation results be used? The committee discusses methodologies, offers practical guidelines, and points out pitfalls.

Evaluating, and Improving Undergraduate Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics provides a blueprint for institutions ready to build effective evaluation programs for teaching in science fields.

Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment

Education is a hot topic. From the stage of presidential debates to tonight's dinner table, it is an issue that most Americans are deeply concerned about. While there are many strategies for improving the educational process, we need a way to find out what works and what doesn't work as well. Educational assessment seeks to determine just how well students are learning and is an integral part of our quest for improved education.

The nation is pinning greater expectations on educational assessment than ever before. We look to these assessment tools when documenting whether students and institutions are truly meeting education goals. But we must stop and ask a crucial question: What kind of assessment is most effective?

At a time when traditional testing is subject to increasing criticism, research suggests that new, exciting approaches to assessment may be on the horizon. Advances in the sciences of how people learn and how to measure such learning offer the hope of developing new kinds of assessments-assessments that help students succeed in school by making as clear as possible the nature of their accomplishments and the progress of their learning.

Knowing What Students Know essentially explains how expanding knowledge in the scientific fields of human learning and educational measurement can form the foundations of an improved approach to assessment. These advances suggest ways that the targets of assessment-what students know and how well they know it-as well as the methods used to make inferences about student learning can be made more valid and instructionally useful. Principles for designing and using these new kinds of assessments are presented, and examples are used to illustrate the principles. Implications for policy, practice, and research are also explored.

With the promise of a productive research-based approach to assessment of student learning, Knowing What Students Know will be important to education administrators, assessment designers, teachers and teacher educators, and education advocates.

Problem Based Learning (PBL)

In the PBL process, student learning is motivated using a problem, puzzle, or complex scenario presented in the same context, as it would be encountered in real life. Information needed to investigate the problem is not initially provided. Instead, when first presented with the problem, students organize their ideas and previous knowledge related to it, and attempt to define its broad nature. As they brainstorm initial hypotheses, the students find that they need to consult additional resources to fill in conceptual holes. They identify this needed information by posing questions that help to define why the information is needed โ€“ how it relates to the problem resolution.

Just in Time Teaching (JiTT)

Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT for short) is a teaching and learning strategy based on the interaction between web-based study assignments and an active learner classroom. Students respond electronically to carefully constructed web-based assignments which are due shortly before class, and the instructor reads the student submissions "just-in-time" to adjust the classroom lesson to suit the students' needs. Thus, the heart of JiTT is the "feedback loop" formed by the students' outside-of-class preparation that fundamentally affects what happens during the subsequent in-class time together.


Peer-Led Team Learning

Under the PLTL model, undergraduate students who have done well in the class previously are recruited and trained as workshop leaders or peer leaders who guide the efforts of a group of six to eight students. These peer-led groups meet weekly (separate from the lecture and the instructor) to work together on problems that are carefully structured to help the students build conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills. There are no answer keys for either the students or the peer-leaders; the emphasis is on learning to find, evaluate, and build confidence in answers. Simultaneously, the workshops and the peer leaders provide a supportive environment that helps each student participate actively in the process of learning science. Thus, PLTL offers a mix of active-learning opportunities for students and a new role for undergraduate peer leaders that is appropriate for their stage of development.

Flip Classroom

The changes introduced in the present academic year are based around a pair of well-documented teaching methodologies: Just-in-Time-Teaching (Novak et al, 1999) and Peer Instruction (PI) (Mazur, 1997), both of which have disciplinary roots within physics. The former involves students completing outside-class reading and assignments, the results of which are used by the instructor to influence and inform the direction of subsequent teaching sessions such as lectures. The latter is an in-class methodology developed to promote student discussion and learning in lectures, based on discussions around conceptual questions posed by the instructor. The combination of the two techniques has recently been referred to as inverting, or "flipping" the classroom structure: moving content coverage outside the classroom, in order to spend precious in-class time on more demanding tasks.

Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CITRL)

The CIRTL mission is to enhance excellence in undergraduate education through the development of a national faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse learners as part of successful and varied professional careers.

Change Model
Nearly 4000 institutions in the United States offer STEM undergraduate education. Most of their faculty come from graduate programs at ~100 research universities. Thus training graduate students at these universities is a powerful leverage point for change throughout STEM undergraduate education.

CIRTL has created a network of diverse research universities committed to advancing the professional development of future STEM faculty. Each member of the CIRTL Network develops, implements, and evaluates programs and learning communities for graduate-through-faculty development in STEM higher education. In addition, the universities contribute to a cross-network learning community and associated programs that allow all future faculty to draw on the diversity of the CIRTL Network.

Three pillars underlie all CIRTL Network activities: teaching-as-research, learning communities, and learning-through-diversity. CIRTL programs prepare STEM faculty to apply systematic and reflective use of research methods to enhance learning outcomes. This preparation is done within a community of shared learning and discovery, and explicitly recognizes that effective teaching capitalizes on the rich array of experiences, backgrounds, and skills among the students and teachers.

Network Development
The CIRTL Network comprises the University of Colorado at Boulder, Howard University, Michigan State University, Texas A&M University, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. By design, these institutions represent a broad diversity โ€” private/public; large/moderate size; majority-/ minority-serving; and geographic location.

Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL)

Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) is one of the leading advocates in the United States for what works in building and sustaining strong undergraduate programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). PKAL is an informal alliance taking responsibility for shaping undergraduate STEM learning environments that attract undergraduate students to STEM fields, inspiring them to persist and succeed by giving them personal experience with the joy of discovery and an awareness of the influence of science and technology in their world. From the work of the extensive PKAL community, resources are available that can be adapted by leaders on campuses across the country working to ensure robust STEM learning of all their students.

Vision & Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action, 2011 report

Highlights major changes in biology education and the need to change education to meet the future needs. A resource to demonstrate tools, materials, and information to promote active based learning in the classroom.

Professional Societies

Many discipline specific professional societies have specific projects and content appropriate to that discipline. Additionally, there is often an education person or group within the society full time staff. These contacts will prove to be invaluable resources for accessing education information about current practices and news within that discipline. Many society annual meetings have education sections that will help network you to other educators in that discipline.

Eric Mazur

Eric Mazur is the Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University and Area Dean of Applied Physics. An internationally recognized scientist and researcher, he leads a vigorous research program in optical physics and supervises one of the largest research groups in the Physics Department at Harvard University. Eric Mazur actively engages in opportunities improve undergraduate physics education using a model of peer instruction.

Peer Instruction

Confessions of a Converted Lecturer: Eric Mazur

Carl Weiman

Dr. Carl Wieman was confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in September 2010. Dr. Wieman has conducted extensive research in atomic and laser physics. His research has been recognized with numerous awards including sharing the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001 for the creation of a new form of matter known as "Bose-Einstein condensate." Dr. Wieman has also worked extensively on research and innovations for improving science education; he was the founding Chair of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Science Education. He also is engaged in the Science Education Initiative at the University of Boulder Colorado and the University of British Columbia.

Cathy Manduca

Director of the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College where I am involved in a variety of projects that support improvements in undergraduate education and geoscience education (K-gray). My work includes organizing workshops and other activities for faculty and educators of all types, developing web-resources that link teaching resources, pedagogy and discussion, and researching learning by geoscientists, faculty and students. Topics of focus include bringing research results on teaching and learning into broader use in the geosciences, understanding geoscience expertise, and building strong geoscience departments. Much of this work contributes to the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT), and the National Science Digital Library (NSDL).

The Cutting Edge โ€“ Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
Teaching Entry Level Geoscience