STEM Educational Change Efforts in Higher Education: A Meta-Synthesis of Activities, Strategies, Concepts, and Theories across Disciplines

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

This Synthesis of Research and Evaluation project proposed to critically review, integrate, and align the research literatures and perspectives of the SER, FDR, and HER communities to clearly articulate processes for promoting fundamental changes in STEM instructional practices in higher education that are consistent with available empirical and historical evidence as well as theoretical perspectives about human and organizational change.

This project involved an in-depth literature review focused on the empirical and practice-based published work within each area, and data collection from selected key experts regarding the accumulated knowledge and practice that may not have been highlighted in the literature due to a lack of empirical work.

Research Design: 

This project involves a synthesis of Literature and Delphi Process with national experts. Original data will be collected using the collection and analysis of literature and e-mail based Delphi Questionnaires.

The analysis plan for this project involves multi-phased analysis of the literature using inductive coding process. Delphi process with experts -- multiple rounds of questions with responses grouped and re-submitted to participants. Analysis with this process is ongoing, included in the questionnaire process. Synthesis of results of both analyses.

Findings: 

Based on the extensive, multi-researcher, multi-phase qualitative content analysis of 300 journal articles identified as potentially addressing STEM instructional change, we are able to draw some strong conclusions about the state of the literature at this point in time. Our analysis points to four core strategies that change agents use to promote change in the teaching practices used in undergraduate STEM instruction. These four core strategies can be identified by answering two questions from the perspective of the change agents. We were quite surprised that there were only a few articles that could not be easily categorized into one of the four categories, and that this phenomenon persisted beyond the first round of coding to the entire data set of 300 articles. Further examination of the articles elicited a lack of grounding in change literature, and a general lack of strong evidence for the success of strategies described. These findings will be further described and discussed in the full paper. This analysis and synthesis of the literature on STEM instructional change will allow researchers in SER, FDR, and HER communities to have a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the literature to date, within their own community’s traditional focus and beyond it.

The results of the Delphi process did not support our initial assumption that there is significant knowledge of practice that is not represented in the published literature. The Delphi also supports the findings of the literature review, in that each of the three research communities favors a particular set of change strategies. This supports our calls for the importance of interdisciplinary work, since, the available evidence suggests that each of the three research communities has a unique and important perspective that complements the weaknesses of the other perspectives.

In the three year time period this grant was active, we presented the initial and final results in 18 national and regional conference presentations, one conference proceeding, four book chapters and one-time publications, and in four outreach venues. The change strategy model we developed is already being cited by other STEM education scholars, and is the basis of further NSF proposal from our research team.

Publications & Presentations: 

Journal Publications
Henderson, C., Beach, A.L., & Finkelstein, N. (submitted June 2010, under revision August, 2010). Facilitating Change in Undergraduate STEM Instructional Practices: An Analytic Review of the Literature, Journal of Research in Science Teaching.

Henderson, C., Finkelstein, N. & Beach A. (2010). Beyond dissemination in college science teaching: An introduction to four core change strategies. Journal of College Science Teaching, 39 (5), 18-25.

Books (or other non-periodical, one-time publications)
Henderson, C., & Dancy, M. (2011). Increasing the Impact and Diffusion of STEM Education Innovations, A White Paper commissioned for the Characterizing the Impact and Diffusion of Engineering Education Innovations Forum, New Orleans, LA, Feb 7-8, 2011.

Henderson, C., Beach, A.L., & Finkelstein, N. (accepted for publication). Four Categories of Change Strategies for Transforming Undergraduate Instruction, submitted September 2009 to Transitions, Transformations and Transgressions in Learning and Education, edited by Päivi Tynjälä, Marja‐Leena Stenström & Marjatta Saarnivaara.

Froyd, J., Beach, A., Henderson, C., & Finkelstein, N. (2008). Improving educational change agents’ efficacy in science, engineering, and mathematics education. In H. Hartman (Ed.), Exporting Sociology to STEM Fields. [Part of the Elsevier series on Research in Social Problems and Public Policy.]

Henderson, C. Beach, A., Finkelstein, N. & Larson, S. (2008). Preliminary Categorization of Literature on Promoting Change in Undergraduate STEM. White paper for participants of “Facilitating Change in Undergraduate STEM: An Invitational Symposium Integrating Multiple Perspectives” and grant report for first year of NSF-REESE grant project #0723699.

Conference Proceedings
Henderson, C., Beach, A. Finkelstein, N., Larson R. S. (2008). “Facilitating Change in Undergraduate STEM: Initial Results from an Interdisciplinary Literature Review”, Proceedings of the 2008 Physics Education Research Conference, AIP Conference Proceedings Volume 1064, p. 131-134.

Presentations
Henderson, C. Four Incomplete Change Strategies: A Review of the Literature on Promoting High Quality Teaching Practices, Invited Presentation, Drivers of Change: What Can We Learn by Comparing U.S. and EU University Education?, Warsaw, Poland, June 18, 2010.

Beach, A. L. & Henderson, C. Practice Knowledge vs. Literature-based Knowledge of STEM Education Change Agents: Results of a National Delphi Process. Paper presented at the 2010 conference of the American Educational Research Association, Division J – Postsecondary Education. Denver, CO, April 30, 2010.

Beach, A. L., Henderson, C., Finkelstein, N. & Lin, Y. Improving Undergraduate Science Instruction: Results of Multi-disciplinary Synthesis of the Literature. Paper presented at the 2010 conference of the American Educational Research Association, Division J – Postsecondary Education. Denver, CO, April 30, 2010.

Henderson, C. “Change Strategies in Higher Education”, Science Education Colloquium Presentation, Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel, March 11, 2010.

Henderson, C. “Aligning Faculty Beliefs and Practices in Physics”, Colloquium Presentation, Department of Physics, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland, February 26, 2010.

Henderson, C. “Change Strategies in Higher Education”, Colloquium Presentation, Finnish Institute for Educational Research, Jyväskylä, Finland, February 23, 2010.

Lin, Y., Henderson, C., Finkelstein, N., & Beach, A. “Examining Change Strategies in University STEM Education”, contributed talk, AAPT 2009 Summer Meeting, Ann Arbor, MI, July 28, 2009.

Finkelstein, N., Henderson, C., & Beach, A. “R13.00007: What's all the fuss about Adoption and Diffusion? Study and Improvement of Change Strategies in Physics Education”, contributed talk, American Physical Society April Meeting, Denver, CO, May 4, 2009

Henderson, C. “The Study and Improvement of STEM Change Strategies”, invited presentation, Physics Education Research Colloquium, University of IL, Champaign-Urbana, IL, Mar 5, 2009.

Henderson, C., Beach, A., Finkelstein, N. & R. S. Larson “An Overview of the Four Core Categories of Change Strategies for Reforming STEM Instruction”, invited talk, AAPT/AAAS Winter Meeting, Chicago, IL, Feb 14, 2009.

Henderson, C., Beach, A., & Dancy, M. Facilitating Change in Undergraduate Science Instruction: Making Progress by Improving Communication between Administrators, Educational Researchers, and Faculty Developers, contributed session, Association of American Colleges and Universities Engaging Science, Advancing Learning Conference, Providence, RI, November 7, 2008.

Beach, A. L. & Henderson, C. Identifying Connections within the Literature on STEM Instructional Change Using an Historiographic Approach. Poster presentation, the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) Annual Conference, Jacksonville, FL, November, 2008.

Beach, A. L., Henderson, C., Larson, R. S., & Finkelstein, N. Facilitating Change in Undergraduate Science Instruction: Synthesis of Change Strategies across Disciplines. Research paper, the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) Annual Conference, Jacksonville, FL, November, 2008.

Henderson, C., Beach, A., Larson, S., & Finkelstein, N. Facilitating Change in Undergraduate Science Instruction: Making Progress by Improving Communication between Administrators, Educational Researchers, and Faculty Developers. Seminar session accepted for “Engaging Science, Advancing Learning: General Education, Majors, and the New Global Century”, a conference of the American Association of Colleges &Universities’ Network for Academic Renewal, Providence, RI, November, 2008.

Henderson, C., Beach, A., Finkelstein, N., & Larson, R. S. “Facilitating Change in Undergraduate STEM: Preliminary Results from an Interdisciplinary Literature Review”, contributed talk, Michigan Section of AAPT 2008 Fall Meeting, Port Huron, MI, October 11, 2008.

Henderson, C., Beach, A., Finkelstein, N., & Larson, R. S. “Facilitating Change in Undergraduate STEM: Preliminary Results from an Interdisciplinary Literature Review”, contributed talk, AAPT 2008 Summer Meeting, Edmonton, Canada, July 21, 2008.

Henderson, C., Beach, A., Finkelstein, N., & Larson, R. S. Preliminary Categorization of Literature on Promoting Change in Undergraduate STEM. Invited presented, Facilitating Change in Undergraduate STEM symposium, Augusta, MI, June 17, 2008.

Other Products: 

Framework of literature in STEM Instructional Change