Assessment of Professional Development and Research-Based Instructional Strategies for Instructors of Online Undergraduate STEM Courses

Assessment of Professional Development and Research-Based Instructional Strategies for Instructors of Online Undergraduate STEM Courses

Karen Miner-Romanoff (New York University, New York City, USA), Yuerong Sweetland (Franklin University, Columbus, USA), Yi Yang (Franklin University, Columbus, USA) and Barbara Fennema (Franklin University, Columbus, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/IJOPCD.2019010104

Abstract

Professional development (PD) programs for faculty are critical for improvement of STEM instruction. Little research exists on the impact of such programs in the online environment. This article reports the pilot study results of an observation protocol (OP) on the development of an online PD program for STEM faculty grounded in research-based instructional strategies (RBIS) and the development plan for the program. The RBIS-based OP in place at Franklin University will be used to identify and assess online STEM instructors' teaching practices before and after the PD program. Pilot study results suggested that the OP yields valid and reliable evidence of STEM faculty's RBIS usage. Approximately 80 STEM course sections will be observed using the OP with data collected pre- and post-PD (3 year period). The mixed-method data will be analyzed by university researchers in conjunction with a community research partner. This project will test the success of an online professional development program with RBIS for higher education STEM faculty, aid determination of which RBIS can contribute most effectively to improving student outcomes and produce the first robust evidence of the impact of an online PD for STEM faculty.
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Introduction

The United States lags behind other nations in professional proficiency in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) (Bergeron & Gordon, 2017; DeJarnette, 2012; Jordan, 2014; National Science Foundation, 2015). Institutions of higher education must find solutions to improve the quality and teaching practices of STEM educators (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2013; Committee on Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Public Policy, 2016). Derting et al. (2016) noted, “Faculty professional development programs are critical components of efforts to improve teaching and learning in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines…” (p. 1).

Following from these observations, this paper reports on an Observation Protocol (OP) for online professors and development of a research-based professional development program grounded in research-based instructional strategies (RBIS) (Borrego, Cutler, Prince, Henderson, & Froyd, 2013; Froyd, 2008). The population will be undergraduate online STEM faculty at Franklin University, Columbus, Ohio.

Research-Based Instructional Strategies

Since the late 20th century, leading educational researchers, such as Gagne (1985) and Merrill (2002), have observed that active learning strategies lead to more engaged learners and, therefore, improved learning will take place. Such strategies are vital for STEM-based instruction (Avery, 2013; Borrego et al., 2013; Dede & Eisenkraft, 2016). Investigators (Borrego et al., 2013; Freeman et al., 2014; Froyd, 2008) have advanced the acceptance of active learning strategies teaching in undergraduate STEM courses through extensive research identifying the characteristics of these strategies (Early, Rogge, & Deci, 2014). The strategies include approaches such as inquiry learning, problem based learning, and collaborative learning, thus providing much needed support for the veracity of these strategies. As a result of this clarifying research, undergraduate STEM faculty are being challenged to integrate more active strategies into their STEM courses (Borrego & Henderson, 2014) rather than many commonly used passive strategies (Bonura, Bissell, & Liljegren, 2016).

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