The evaluation of learning is an integral part of CIRCLE’s mission to integrate scholarship in cognitive science with classroom teaching and learning.

Red pen on stack of paperCIRCLE develops scholarly projects that are designed to improve teaching and learning at Washington University. This aspect of CIRCLE’s mission includes working with faculty to design, implement, and evaluate new teaching methods that are informed by recent research on teaching, learning, and cognitive science and to disseminate the results of classroom-based evaluations.

Current projects include analyzing the effect of concept-building approaches and active-learning strategies in introductory science courses at Washington University.

  • The STEM Education Initiatives are helping to establish a collaborative culture of active-learning pedagogies and scholarly teaching at Washington University.
  • The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence Project seeks to create an inclusive learning environment in STEM by working with STEM faculty, advisors and student-affairs professionals, and undergraduate peer leaders at Washington University in St. Louis. Drawing on psychosocial and metacognitive studies; workshops, trainings, and interventions are being developed, implemented, and evaluated as part of this collaborative five-year grant.
  • The Concept-building Approaches in STEM study asks whether students’ general concept-building approaches (theory- based vs. rote) predict performance in introductory Chemistry courses and other STEM courses at Washington University and collaborating institutions.
  • The Studies in Introductory Physics center around understanding student attitudes, conceptual gains, problem-solving performance, and knowledge structures in introductory physics courses.
  • The Studies in Introductory Psychology entail the creation of an assessment tool for student learning of core concepts in introductory psychology as well as investigation of the impact of active-learning strategies on student learning in introductory psychology.
  • For the Studies in Biology, CIRCLE and the Department of Biology are collaborating on evaluation of evidence-based curricular innovations in the introductory biology sequence and an upper-division biology course.
  • Using a mixed-methods approach, including our observation protocol (OPAL), the Clicker-Based Active Learning study describes various ways WashU STEM faculty have implemented active learning with clickers.
  • The Psychological Interventions in General Chemistry explore the effects of promoting a growth mindset and fostering social belonging on student performance in the course. A growth mindset is an outlook that sees ability and intelligence as fluid and built through practice, rather than predetermined and fixed. Social belonging involves a feeling of connectedness and a sense of having positive relationships with others.
  • The Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education (PULSE) Project assesses the progress of life sciences departments nationwide as they implement and sustain pedagogical improvements.

CIRCLE also consults with Washington University faculty to evaluate and develop active-learning pedagogies for upper level courses.

Please contact Gina Frey if you are interested in conducting evaluative studies of your teaching.