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Appendix A Commissioned Papers
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Using the RTOP to Evaluate Reformed Science and Mathematics Instruction1 Anton E. Lawson Department of Biology, Arizona State University INTRODUCTION The Arizona Collaborative for Excellence in the Preparation of Teachers (ACEPT) Program is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored program aimed at improving undergraduate science and mathematics instruction at Arizona State University (ASU) and in the surrounding community colleges. The primary reform mechanism has been summer workshops in which college faculty experience reformed teaching methods and then attempt to implement those methods in their courses. The reformed methods are based on the principles of effective teaching introduced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Science for All Americans (1989). In turn, the AAAS teaching principles (see Box A-1) are based on learning theory derived from years of cognitive research. That theory posits that learning results from active, learner-centered inquiry in which students construct new concepts and conceptual systems by connecting new information and concepts to what they already believe. Further, effective learning often requires restructuring, or even discarding, previous concepts and beliefs when they prove incompatible with, or contradictory to, new evidence and new concepts (e.g., Alexander and Murphy, 1999). The ACEPT program has attempted to incorporate reformed teaching methods into several courses for nonmajors and majors. These include 1 Based in part on Lawson et al. (2002).
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BOX A-1 Principles of Effective Teaching Teaching Should Be Consistent with the Nature of Scientific Inquiry: Start with questions about nature; Engage students actively; Concentrate on the collection and use of evidence; Provide historical perspectives; Insist on clear expression; Use a team approach; Do not separate knowing from finding out; Deemphasize the memorization of technical vocabulary. Teaching Should Reflect Scientific Values: Welcome curiosity; Reward creativity; Encourage a spirit of healthy questioning; Avoid dogmatism; Promote aesthetic responses. Teaching Should Aim to Counteract Learning Anxieties: Build on success; Provide abundant experience in using tools; Support the role of girls and minorities in science; Emphasize group learning. Science Teaching Should Extend Beyond the School. Teaching Should Take Its Time. SOURCE: AAAS (1989, pp. 200–207). Reprinted with permission of Oxford University Press. Introduction to Physical Geology, Fundamentals of Physical Science, Theory of Elementary Mathematics, Patterns in Nature, The Living World, University Physics, and Methods of Teaching Biology. Evaluation has focused on two central questions: What effect, if any, have the summer workshops had on participant faculty’s use of reformed teaching methods? And what effect, if any, does the use of reformed methods have on student achievement? The following sections describe evaluation efforts in five courses and a brief evaluation of the teaching methods used by some recent graduates as they begin their elementary, middle, or high school teaching careers. COMPARING REFORMED INSTRUCTION WITH STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT Fundamentals of Physical Science (PHS 110) is an introductory course designed specifically for preservice elementary school teachers. A test of physics concepts, developed by course instructors and the ACEPT evaluation team, was administered to four experimental and two control PHS 110 sections at the beginning and again at the end of a recent semester. A member of the ACEPT Program at ASU (the principal investigator) taught one experimental section. Community college instructors who had participated
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in an ACEPT summer workshop taught the other three experimental sections. Importantly, these instructors were not selected at random. Rather, they were selected because they exhibited considerable variation in the extent to which they appeared to be embracing the reformed methods during the summer workshop. Community college instructors who had not participated in a summer workshop taught the two control sections. Instructional methods were evaluated using an ACEPT-developed instrument called the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP). The RTOP consists of 25 statements about the extent to which reforms are incorporated into instructional practice (see Box A-2; details available at http://ecept.net/rtop/). Each statement is scored on a 0–4 “Never Occurred” to “Very Descriptive” scale. Thus, the RTOP allows observers to rate instruction on a 0–100 scale. Details of RTOP development and administration can be found in Sawada (1999), Sawada et al. (2000a), and Sawada et al. (2000b). Estimates of inter-rater reliability have been obtained using seven trained evaluators as they observed several math and science instructors and independently scored several lessons. Inter-rater reliabilities have been high as evidenced by the following pairs of independent observations and respective coefficients (16 pairs, r = 0.94; 4 pairs, r = 0.99; 7 pairs, r = 0.97; 6 pairs, r = 0.94; 5 pairs, r = 0.93; 9 pairs, r = 0.90). Mean RTOP scores for each PHS 110 instructor and the respective normalized pre- to posttest achievement gains (i.e., percent gain/percent gain possible) for each instructor’s students (n = number of students in each section) were calculated. Among the experimental sections, mean RTOP scores varied from 27 to 73. Mean RTOP scores for the two control instructors were 28 and 37. Normalized achievement gains varied from 0–57 percent across all sections. Importantly, mean instructor RTOP scores correlated strongly with student achievement gains (r = 0.88, p < 0.05). This result supports the claim that reformed teaching methods promote higher achievement. Figure A-1 shows instructor RTOP scores and normalized gains on the test of physics concepts for ACEPT (experimental) and control sections. Theory of Elementary Mathematics (MTE 180) is an introductory course designed specifically for preservice elementary school teachers. Four MTE 180 instructors participated in the initial ACEPT summer workshop. Subsequently, one of those instructors (from ASU) helped two additional ASU MTE 180 instructors develop reformed teaching methods. During a recent
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BOX A-2 Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) Lesson Design and Implementation The instructional strategies and activities respected students’ prior knowledge and the preconceptions inherent therein. The lesson was designed to engage students as members of a learning community. In this lesson, student exploration preceded formal presentation. The lesson encouraged students to seek and value alternative modes of investigation or problem solving. The focus and direction of the lesson was often determined by ideas originating with students. Content Propositional Knowledge The lesson involved fundamental concepts of the subject. The lesson promoted strongly coherent conceptual understanding. The instructor had a solid grasp of the subject matter content inherent in the lesson. Elements of abstraction (i.e., symbolic representations, theory building) were encouraged when it was important to do so. Connections with other content disciplines and/or real world phenomena were explored and valued. Procedural Knowledge Students used a variety of means (models, drawings, graphs, concrete materials, manipulatives, etc.) to represent phenomena. Students made predictions, estimations, and/or hypotheses and devised means for testing them. semester, six sections of MTE 180 participated in a study. Three ACEPT-influenced instructors taught three sections at ASU and control instructors taught three sections (one at ASU and two at a nearby community college). A test measuring concept understanding, number sense, and computational skills was administered at the beginning and again at the end of the semester. During the semester, each instructor was evaluated at least twice using the RTOP. Instructor mean RTOP scores and student posttest scores on the concept-understanding test were calculated for each section. Instructor mean RTOP
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Students were actively engaged in thought-provoking activity that often involved critical assessment of procedures. Students were reflective about their learning. Intellectual rigor, constructive criticism, and the challenging of ideas were valued. Classroom Culture Communicative Interactions Students were involved in the communication of their ideas to others using a variety of means and media. The instructor’s questions triggered divergent modes of thinking. There was a high proportion of student talk and a significant amount of it occurred between and among students. Student questions and comments often determined the focus and direction of classroom discourse. There was a climate of respect for what others had to say. Student/Instructor Relationships Active participation of students was encouraged and valued. Students were encouraged to generate conjectures, alternative solution strategies, and ways of interpreting evidence. In general, the instructor was patient with students. The instructor acted as a resource person, working to support and enhance student investigations. The metaphor “instructor as listener” was very characteristic of this classroom. NOTE: Each item is scored on a 0–4 “Never Occurred” to “Very Descriptive” scale. SOURCE: Lawson et al. (2002, p. 390). Reprinted with permission of National Science Teachers Association. scores and student posttest scores were found to correlate strongly (r = 0.94, p < 0.001). Mean RTOP scores and normalized gains also correlated strongly (r = 0.86, p < 0.001). A very strong positive correlation was also found between instructors’ mean RTOP scores and student posttest number sense scores (r = 0.92, p < 0.001). These results further support the claim that reformed teaching methods improve student achievement. As predicted, no relationship was found between instructors’ mean RTOP scores and student posttest performance on the computational skills section. This result was
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FIGURE A-1 Instructor RTOP scores and normalized gains on the test of physics concepts for ACEPT and control sections of PHS 110. SOURCE: Lawson et al. (2002, p. 390). Reprinted with permission of National Science Teachers Association. predicted because items in this section required only routine algorithmic procedures. The Living World (BIO 100) is an introductory biology course enrolling about 750 students per semester. A faculty member presents three 50-minute lectures each week. Graduate teaching assistants (TAs) teach the labs. Labs meet once each week for two hours. Students must enroll for both the common lectures (all delivered by the faculty member) and one of several lab sections (each taught by one of the several TAs). TAs are introduced to reformed teaching methods during a three-day summer workshop followed by two-hour TA meetings each Friday during the fall semester. A primary goal of BIO 100 is to improve students’ reasoning skills. Consequently, during the past several semesters, a 25-item pre- and posttest of reasoning skills has been administered (Lawson et al., 2000). Figure A-2 shows the frequency of students at each score on both the pre- and posttest and reveals substantial and statistically significant pre- to posttest gains from a recent semester (dependent T = 14.9, p < 0.001).
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FIGURE A-2 Pre and posttest scientific reasoning scores for students enrolled in BIO 100. SOURCE: Lawson et al. (2002, p. 391). Reprinted with permission of National Science Teachers Association. During that semester, the nine TAs were independently evaluated using the RTOP. Regardless of the fact that all TAs were introduced to teaching reforms in the same manner, and all the BIO 100 labs are inquiry (learning cycle) based, TA mean RTOP scores varied from 42 to 90 (inter-rater reliability of r = 0.90, p < 0.001). Importantly, TA mean RTOP scores correlated significantly with normalized gains in student reasoning (r = 0.70, p < 0.05). University Physics 1: Mechanics (PHY 121) is an introductory course designed for physics majors that focuses on mechanics. A course evaluation was conducted using three experimental sections of PHY 121 (i.e., sections taught by ACEPT-influenced instructors). Two experimental sections were taught at ASU and one was taught at a community college. A non-ACEPT-influenced instructor taught the control section at a community college. A diagnostic test of mechanics concepts called the Force Concept Inventory (Halloun and Hestenes, 1985) was administered to all sections to assess pre- to posttest gains. Instructors’ mean RTOP scores and normalized gains were compared and a strong positive correlation was found (r = 0.97, p < 0.01). Once again, this indicates that reformed teaching methods promote student achievement.
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BOX A-3 The Nature of Science Survey Next to each item write the number that best reflects your current belief: 1 = strongly disagree 2 = disagree 3 = don’t know 4 = agree 5 = strongly agree __1. The primary goal of modern science is to describe and explain natural phenomena. __2. Hypotheses are derived from controlled observations of nature. __3. A hypothesis is an educated guess of what will be observed under certain conditions. __4. A conclusion is a statement of what was observed in an experiment. __5. Hypotheses/theories cannot be proved to be true beyond any doubt. __6. Hypotheses/theories can be disproved beyond any doubt. __7. To be scientific, hypotheses must be testable. __8. To test a hypothesis, you need a prediction. __9. A hypothesis that gains support becomes a theory. __10. A theory that gains support becomes a law. __11. Truth is attainable through repeated supporting observations. __12. The primary goal of modern science is to discover facts about nature. __13. Scientific statements that are “just a theory” are of little value. SOURCE: Lawson et al. (2002, p. 391). Reprinted with permission of National Science Teachers Association. Methods of Teaching Biology (BIO 480) is taught at ASU each spring for preservice biology teachers after they have completed, or are about to complete, an undergraduate biology major. In addition to using reformed methods to teach the preservice teachers about those reformed methods, the course attempts to help students develop their reasoning skills and improve their understanding of the nature of science (NOS). During a recent semester, students’ reasoning skills (classified into developmental stages 3, 4, and 5) were assessed using the previously mentioned reasoning test (Lawson et al., 2000). Students were also pre- and posttested using a 13-item ACEPT-developed survey of the nature of science (see Box A-3). The survey includes items that focus on the meaning of terms such as hypothesis, prediction, theory, law, proof, truth, fact, and conclusion. These are terms that are not only central to the business of doing science but are also terms that are used inconsistently and sometimes even contradictorily by many, if not most,
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FIGURE A-3 Pretest and posttest performance on BIO 480 students at each developmental level. SOURCE: Lawson et al. (2002, p. 392). Reprinted with permission of National Science Teachers Association. scientists. The assumption is made that these inconsistencies and contradictions are confusing to students who are trying to better understand the research process. As shown in Figure A-3, pretest NOS scores were low and unrelated to developmental level. However, posttest NOS scores were considerably higher. Further, posttest NOS scores were strongly related to developmental level (F3,22 = 7.38, p < 0.01). These results are important because they suggest that: (1) without explicit NOS instruction, biology majors learn very little about the nature of science, (2) inquiry instruction that includes explicit NOS instruction is effective at improving NOS understanding, but (3) substantial gains in NOS understanding depend, at least in part, on students’ developmental level. Although current research on this last point is preliminary, a plausible prediction is that becoming a skilled inquiry teacher requires advanced reasoning skills and a good understanding of the nature of science. If this is indeed the case, then additional changes in the undergraduate curriculum will need to be made to insure that all students, particularly those who will become teachers, develop advanced reasoning skills.
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the successful STEM education innovators featured here include a number of our “radicalized seniors.”16 These people are important because faculty, however ungovernable, are inclined to learn from respected peers and to notice the values and actions of the most esteemed and altogether credible members of their disciplines. In conclusion, I venture that, as STEM faculty innovators—“radicalized seniors” and many, many others— expand their spheres of influence, they are reshaping and redefining what it is that “the faculty” takes as acceptable norms for teaching STEM courses. And (coming full circle), to the degree that this paper helps restructure how we perceive these innovators among us, helps make them visible in new ways, it participates in this process of reshaping what we take for granted in STEM education. REFERENCES Bateson, M.C. (1994). Peripheral visions: Learning along the way. New York: HarperCollins. Brown, J.S., and Duguid, P. (2000). The social life of information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Courter, S.S., and Millar, S.B. (1995). Final evaluation report of first-year design course 1994–95: Introduction to engineering. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Learning through Evaluation, Adaptation, and Dissemination Center. Available: http://www.cae.wisc.edu/~lead/pages/internal.html [March 26, 2003]. Covey, S. (1990). The seven habits of highly successful people. New York: Simon & Schuster. Hutchings, P. (1996). Building a new culture of teaching and learning. About Campus, 1, 4–8. Jonassen, D.H., and Land, S.M. (2000). Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Hillside, NJ: Erlbaum. Lave, J., and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Leamnson, R. (1999). Thinking about teaching and learning: Developing habits of learning with first year college and university students. Sterling, VA: Stylus. Millar, S.B. (2002, November). Effecting faculty change by starting with effective faculty: Characteristics of successful STEM education innovators. Paper commissioned for National Research Council’s workshop Criteria and Benchmarks for Increased Learning from Undergraduate STEM Instruction, Washington, DC. Millar, S.B., Alexander, B.B., and Lewis, H.A. (1995). Final evaluation report on the pilot Wisconsin Emerging Scholars Program, 1993– 1994 (vol. 1). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison, LEAD Center. Palmer, P.J. (1992). Divided no more: A movement approach to educational reform. Change, 24(2), 10–17. Palmer, P. J. (1993). Good talk about good teaching: Improving teaching through conversation and community. Change, 25(6), 8–13. Palmer, P. J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Rogers, E.M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.). Westport, CT: Free Press. Schön, D.A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books. 16 At Zemsky’s suggestion, I have added a suffix to Seymour’s term (“radical seniors”) to indicate that these people either actually became more radical, or allowed themselves to develop and act on their peripheral vision, once they became “seniors.”
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Schön, D.A. (1995). The new scholarship requires a new epistemology: Knowing-in-action. Change, 27(6), 27–34. Seymour, E. (2002a). Tracking the process of change in U.S. undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Science Education, 86, 79–105. Seymour, E. (2002b, November). Barriers to change: Resistance is the normative mode. Talk presented at Criteria and Benchmarks for Increased Learning from Undergraduate STEM Instruction Workshop, Committee on Undergraduate Science Education, National Research Council, Washington, DC. Seymour, E., Hunter, A-B., Laursen, S., and DeAntoni, T. (2002). Establishing the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates: First findings from a three-year study. Manuscript submitted for publication. Shulman, L.S. (1993). Teaching as community property: Putting an end to pedagogical solitude. Change, 25(6), 6–7. Stevens, E. (1988). Tinkering with teaching. Review of Higher Education, 12, 63–78. Wertsch, J. (1993). Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Boston: Harvard University Press. Wiggins, G., and McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Wilshire, B.W. (1990). The moral collapse of the university: Professionalism, purity, and alienation (SUNY Series in Philosophy of Education). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Wright, J.C., Millar, S.B., Kosciuk, S.A., Penberthy, D.L., Williams, P.H., and Wampold, B.E. (1998). A novel strategy for assessing the effects of curriculum reform on student competence. Journal of Chemical Education, 75(8), 986–992. Zemsky, R. (2002, November). On encouraging faculty to pursue instructional reform. Paper presented at Criteria and Benchmarks for Increased Learning from Undergraduate STEM Instruction Workshop, Committee on Undergraduate Science Education, National Research Council, Washington, DC.
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On Encouraging Faculty to Pursue Instructional Reform Robert Zemsky Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania When challenged to defend the staying power of their institutions, university presidents often invoke Clark Kerr’s (1987) observation: About 85 institutions in the Western world established by 1520 still exist in recognisable forms, with similar functions and with unbroken histories, including the Catholic church, the Parliaments of the Isle of Man, of Iceland, and of Great Britain, several Swiss cantons, the Bank of Siena and 70 universities. Kings that rule, feudal lords with vassals, and guilds with monopolies are all gone. These 70 universities, however, are still in the same locations with some of the same buildings, with professors and students doing much the same things, and with governance carried on much the same ways (p. 184). Kerr was testifying to the enduring nature of the university—its ability to survive when challenged, to adopt when necessary. For defenders of the faith, nothing more is needed; however, for the naysayers among us, the image suggests something more than Kerr intended. What many see as enduring resilience, others perceive to be the academy’s early resistance to alteration and later its resistance to change. DEFINING THE CHALLENGE Kerr’s observation also suggests the near impossibility of the assignment I have accepted: to explore “some of the options that university administrators— presidents, deans, department chairs— have at their disposal to encourage and support their faculty in instructional reform.” What Kerr and his appeal to the historic university make clear is that change in the academy is slow, probably imperceptible, and not likely to be the result of the strategies of individual presidents, deans, or department chairs.
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For purposes of discussion, let me suggest three propositions that lend a practical perspective to this traditional tension between resilience and resistance. The first is simply that most universities—and almost all research universities—are presided over by faculty guilds. Membership is for life. Independence and autonomy are guaranteed, as long as the guild members respect the privileges and honor the obligations that membership confers, including the obligation not to meddle too deeply in the practices of one another. We teach largely as we were taught. When we experiment with new modes of instruction, we tend to do so quietly, not wanting to draw too much attention to ourselves. We tend to work alone, largely eschewing group projects. As in most guilds, acceptable practice is what everybody does—a kind of implicit regression to the mean—so that changes in curricula and instructional format require broad agreement that something, in fact, is broken and requires fixing. My second proposition concerns the nature of the offices that presidents, deans, and department chairs occupy. We know they are administrators; we can hope they are—or eventually become—leaders. What we cannot expect them to be, however, are managers. They seldom command significant resources. Most of their funds, regardless of the size of their budgets, are spent before they can make a single decision or investment. Beyond their immediate staffs, they, like the pope, command no troops. Even the very words that frame this session reflect the problems nearly every president, dean, and department chair face: they cannot enforce change but merely explore “options…to encourage and support their faculty in instructional reform.” At the University of Pennsylvania, Nichole Rowles is completing a dissertation (2003) that will update Cohen and March’s application of the garbage can model (Cohen, March, and Olsen, 1972) to describe decision making in the modern university. Rowles is documenting the extent to which presidents and their staffs, in particular, are attempting to adapt corporate models of decision making while their faculties cleave to the older, more established norms representative of guilds and garbage cans. The most striking differences involve the roles of strategy and data. In the corporate model, a strategy is what sport enthusiasts will recognize as a game plan: an envisioning of the job at hand, an enumeration of the resources available to achieve the desired goal, and a focusing on the tactics necessary to make one’s strategy operational. In all three modes, data play a critical role in defining possibilities, calculating risks, and measuring results. On the
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other hand, most faculty think in different terms—not of strategies, but of strategic plans that, for the most part, are lists of things other people should be doing. What is most striking, however, is the relative absence of calls for data from the faculty’s perspective. They enforce no culture of evidence for institutional decision making, despite the fact that most scholars spend their lives in pursuit of data and empirical observation. Instead, there are experiences and lessons learned—and, above all, principles derived from firmly held beliefs. In one institution in Rowles’ study, the faculty came to believe that athletes were being given preferential treatment and were being credited with higher grade point averages (GPAs) than they deserved. Despite the presence of a study conducted by that university’s office of institutional research, which documented that athletes’ GPAs were not being inflated by the suspect practice, the faculty overwhelmingly voted to outlaw the practice. When Rowles asked the head of the faculty senate why they had ignored the study, he responded simply, “You have to understand, it was not a matter of data but of principle.” Hence, the problem faced by presidents, deans, and department chairs. Curricular reform, like all academic decisions, becomes more a matter of principle than of strategy—a matter of what is intrinsically right as broadly understood by those vested with responsibility for determining what is to be taught and how. It is a perspective that is too easily caricatured, as when members of the faculty are quoted as saying, “It’s not a matter of what students want but what they need.” As faculty, we have spent our lives learning what students need; we are collectively responsible for the knowledge base they must master, as well as exemplars of the role free and unfettered inquiry needs to play within every educational institution. When a president or dean speaks of the need to update the curriculum, incorporate more technology in the classroom, or recruit different kinds of teachers, the faculty not surprisingly ask: “Why? Who says what we must do?” And if the president or dean says, “Because we need to pay attention to the market in order to enroll the kinds of students we want to teach,” the natural response is: “But markets do not know what we know.” Actually there is a better rejoinder which faculty are not likely to deliver, largely because, as a matter of principle, they seldom pay attention to the workings of the market for undergraduate education. What those of us who study those markets know is that there is no market for good teaching—and that is my third proposition. There is precious
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little evidence that students choose where they enroll based on how faculty teach. Alverno College has learned that lesson all too well. Universally acclaimed for its pioneering curriculum and innovative ways of teaching, Alverno remains an institution that has proven far more successful at attracting academic visitors and foundation grants than students. Not surprisingly, the U.S. News and World Report rankings hardly bother to talk about teaching or curricula, choosing instead to focus on resources and reputations. Most presidents and deans know that the building of their institutions—and not so incidentally the building of their personal portfolios—depends fundamentally on increasing revenue and building reputations, neither of which rest on instructional reform. MAKING THE CASE Having defined the challenge, let me hasten to add that achieving instructional reform is not impossible, just very difficult. To understand what it might take to overcome the inertia of the guild, on the one hand, and the disinterest of the market in good teaching on the other, I want to focus on a few examples of success. They suggest the necessary conditions that an innovative president, dean, or department chair might exploit in pursuit of instructional reform. The first is medical education leading to the M.D. Schools of medicine were among the first to experiment with and then broadly adopt self-paced and computer-assisted instruction. They have adapted a host of strategies to cope with an exploding knowledge base that can no longer be mastered, in the sense that basic anatomy can be mastered. And they have welcomed—some would say shamelessly embraced— nonphysician and non-Ph.D. instructors. Why has medical education been able to achieve what most reformers of undergraduate education have only flirted with? There are several answers. In the first place, medical educators teach very smart, highly disciplined students for whom efficient learning is of enormous benefit. If self-paced, computer-assisted instruction promises that one can learn more and faster, then earnest students will believe it is worth a try. It is also the case that, in medical schools, teaching loads do not determine the size of the faculty group. In undergraduate education, learning efficiency all too often means the need for fewer faculty slots. And not to be overlooked is the fact that most medical schools have had and continue to have ample resources with which to experiment with new instructional technologies. Finally, there is a measurable
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premium attached to good or at least successful teaching: better performance on board exams and better placements for the class as a whole in the competition for residencies. Outcome measures spur reform, particularly when those both within and beyond the academy sense the value and appropriateness of the measures themselves. My second example derives from the growth of executive education programs at most of the nation’s leading business schools and their subsequent impact on the general business curriculum at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. In the early 1990s, when most of these programs were being launched, I asked the dean of one business school to account for the popularity of this particular form of education. Poised to build a hotel for his own new executive education program, he gave an answer that has stuck with me ever since. The trend began as a kind of copycat phenomena, after Northwestern’s Kellogg School and then Penn’s Wharton School had launched their big, expensive initiatives. Soon, more and more schools followed suit; as they began to attract seasoned executives and managers to their “exec-ed” classrooms, the deans and faculty of these schools made a crucial discovery. Enrolled executives and managers began telling them that their traditional bread-and-butter business programs were in danger of precipitating out of the market. As one executive was reported to have said, in the past we did not so much care what you taught your undergraduates and M.B.A. students. What we expected from you was screening and certification, and figured that what happened in the classroom could do no harm. Now we are not so sure. Maybe what you are teaching really is standing in the way of the kinds of companies we are trying to build. The result across this set of select business schools was a rush to introduce educational experimentation and reform—a development that eventually came to energize business faculty across a wide spectrum of schools. My last three examples are drawn from the world of undergraduate science and math instruction. In the 1980s, Bill Massy and I conducted a study of how departments make decisions about who teaches what (Zemsky, Massy, and Oedel, 1993). It was fundamentally an interview study, in which Bill and I spent upwards of an hour with every chair from a department that taught undergraduates at ten selective colleges and universities. What struck us was the degree to which physics departments seemed to be different; their chairs evidenced a passion for
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teaching and a willingness to be judged by the quality of both their curricula and their teaching efforts. Several years later I came across Jack Wilson’s experiments with Studio Physics (http://www.rpi.edu/dept/phys/education.html) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and was again reminded of the unique commitment to teaching evidenced across this discipline. What helped to make Studio Physics work at RPI was the presence of an established means of verifying the quality of this alternate form of instruction. All of the roughly 900 freshmen each year who take the basic introductory physics course sit for the same set of examinations, regardless of the section to which they were assigned. Studio Physics was able to win adherents because it could prove not only that it was more efficient in terms of the resources it consumed, but also that it produced as good or better results than teaching physics the old-fashioned way. Collegiate mathematics instruction provides the same pair of lessons: that a disciplinary commitment is required, paired with a way to ensure the discipline that alternate ways of teaching produce measurable improvement. In the 1980s, the mathematician I knew best was Mort Lowengrub, then dean of arts and sciences at Indiana University. I asked him one night over dinner what accounted for his discipline’s interest in improving mathematics instruction. His answer, as I best remember, went something like this: “We are an endangered species, and we know it. We are not educating enough young people to sustain ourselves. We are in a down-ward spiral: fewer young people interested in mathematics translates into less demand for mathematics instruction, which then increases the probability that among the next student cohort there will be even less interest in mathematics—and so the cycle repeats itself. To break the cycle we need to be in the business of actively seeking converts.” My last example derives from the experiences of undergraduate geology programs, particularly those offered at liberal arts colleges, over the last three decades. The oil and related energy crises of the 1970s resulted in a boom in geology majors, which in turn resulted in rapid increases in the sizes of geology departments. By the 1990s, however, the boom had gone bust, and the departments that had enjoyed rapid expansion suddenly found themselves teaching fewer students and warding off aggressive deans who wanted to shift their faculty billets elsewhere. At the time, I was engaged in a major study of the coherence of the collegiate curriculum, which examined the transcripts of graduates from more than 200 colleges and universities. Overall, we found what most observers expected: there was
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little coherence, little course sequencing, little sense of an ordered progression through an established body of knowledge. The principal exceptions were the sciences, primarily physics, chemistry, and engineering. Using the computer printouts of the statistical models that produced these results, the research team developed an elaborate parlor game in which we would look at the structure of courses and prerequisites and then try to guess the department and kind of institution to which the particular printout belonged. Although the output had been stripped of all departmental identifiers, we became very good at noticing the subtle differences among disciplines and between institutional type. But one profile stumped us nearly every time: those of departments of geology at liberal arts colleges, which for the most part we mistook for departments of English. When we followed up the statistical analysis with a set of interviews, I gingerly asked the first geology chair I encountered if he was surprised that the structure of his curriculum was indistinguishable from that of the English department. He replied, “Not at all. Actually we face the same challenge of convincing undergraduates that what we know and teach is intrinsically interesting—that it can be fun!” (Zemsky, 1989). LESSONS There are four basic lessons I would extract from these stories and observations, as a means of promoting the kind of discussion we need to have: The first is that the guild itself must feel threatened before it is ready to change. No amount of talking or trying to explain that instructional reform is “good for you” is likely to substitute for the cumulative experience of witnessing the marginalization of what you consider to be important. Curricular and instructional change, when it comes, is more likely to extend from the top of the institutional hierarchy down rather than bubble up from the bottom. What makes change so unlikely is the fact that it must come from those most advantaged by current arrangements and practices. Curricular and instructional change is easier to promote when the students to be taught differently are not only smart and disciplined but also have a vested interest in the outcomes of the experiment. Curricular change is inherently expensive, since the old ways of teaching will not be abandoned until the new means have fully demonstrated their staying power.
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And, finally, some advice: To deans, in particular, don’t tilt at windmills—rhetoric is nice, but the frustration of unfulfilled promises in the end overwhelms. While it sounds good, the recruitment of star teachers is likely to have little impact. Changing the tenure rules only serves as a long-term strategy when the goal is curricular and instructional reform. Pick your targets, spend your money. Invest in strong programs. Experiment with breaking the rules—particularly those governing the time and mode of delivery. Look for external markets to develop and then harvest those which provide visibility plus funds for experimentation. Three markets are readily available: The teaching of science in primary and secondary schools. Making corporate groups scientifically literate. Building a public policy understanding of science. REFERENCES Cohen, M.D., March, J.G., and Olsen, J.P. (1972). A garbage can model of organizational choice. Administrative Science Quarterly, 17(1). Kerr, C. (1987). A critical age in the university world. European Journal of Education, 22(2), 183–193. Rowles, N.S. (2003). Halfway in the can: An examination of data use in college and university decision making. Doctoral dissertation in preparation, School of Education, University of Pennsylvania. Zemsky, R. (1989). Structure and choice. Curriculum Data Base Series. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Zemsky, R., Massy, W.F., and Oedel, P. (1993). On reversing the ratchet. Change, 25(3), 56–62.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: