Matthew West

Mapping the spread of collaborative learning methods in gateway STEM courses via communities of practice

M. West and G. L. Herman

in Proceedings of the 122nd American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition (ASEE 2015), 26.1132.1-26.1132.11, 2015.

The recent literature reviews and studies of Henderson and colleagues have highlighted anew the critical difficulties of creating large scale, sustainable change in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) instruction. They have shown that, while faculty are often aware of Research-Based Instructional Strategies (RBIS), they rarely try, or maintain their use of, these RBIS. Borrego and colleagues have further revealed that maintaining the fidelity of the implementation of these RBIS provides another critical challenge in the successful adoption and translation of RBIS across instructors and courses. In summary, there are two key challenges for educational reforms: spreading innovations and sustaining adoption. Under a campus-wide NSF-funded WIDER (Widening Implementation & Demonstrationof Evidence Based Reforms) project, we are addressing these two challenges by forming several Communities of Practice (CoPs) of faculty and lecturers. These CoPs are creating collaborative joint ownership of sets of gateway STEM courses so that communities of faculty rather than individual faculty are responsible for implementing RBIS and sustaining their use. Additionally, these CoPs are interconnected by embedding faculty and observers across departments to cross-pollinate RBIS between CoPs. In this paper, we present part of an evaluation of this CoP-based approach to institutional change by tracing the spread and adoption of one RBIS through the WIDER effort: collaborative, context-rich problem solving. The use of this RBIS originated in Calculus 2 and spread to other STEM courses as shown in Figure 1. We summarize the path and history of this spread, and identify the two key factors that enabled efficient dissemination and sustainability: (1) the use of CoPs as “concentrators”, and (2) the embedding of faculty across departments.

DOI: 10.18260/p.24469

Full text: WeHe2015.pdf