The third major pillar of the AAU STEM Education Initiative focused on enacting cultural and institutional changes to improve STEM education. This was accomplished in two ways: 1) Creating support for faculty implementing new techniques and strategies and 2) Partnering with university administrators, department chairs, and faculty to resolve some of the issues observed in undergraduate STEM classrooms.
Our initial success with the AAU STEM Education Initiative led to increases in the number of faculty, courses, and departments implementing active-learning strategies in STEM at WashU. For example, over the grant period clicker use increased from 17 faculty members in 9 departments in year one to 50 faculty in 14 departments by year four. It also allowed CIRCLE to evaluate and publish on the impact of integrating active-learning strategies or other evidence-based pedagogies in the classroom, such as clicker usage in introductory STEM courses.
In addition, CIRCLE has evaluated social-psychological interventions in the introductory chemistry series to assist the college transition process and has developed new faculty-development tools and programs at the university. One instrument we developed is the Observational Protocol for Active Learning (OPAL), which is an observation tool used to observe instructor and student behaviors in the classroom. CIRCLE also co-developed a multi-day workshop called the STEM Faculty Institute on Teaching (STEM FIT) where faculty collaboratively design a plan to implement an innovation in their course. During the AAU grant, this institute grew to include STEM faculty from regional institutions.
Now that the AAU Initiative has ended, similar efforts are underway through the Transformational Initiative for Education in STEM (TIES) and the HHMI Inclusive Excellence Project. The TIES project focuses on engaging academic departments to facilitate broader change through the use of Education Specialists. The HHMI project was co-developed with STEM department chairs to increase the inclusivity of our undergraduate STEM education programs. It includes an advisory board with administrators, STEM department chairs, deans for undergraduate education, and the vice provost for diversity; all of whom are committed to improving STEM education on campus.