Notes from session III – Trinity HHMI conference on Integrative STEM Learning

Here are my notes from the third session of this weekend’s Trinity HHMI  conference on Integrative Learning in STEM.

iScience: mobilizing and integrating change in science education
Stasinos Stavrianeas and Mark Stewart (Willamette University)

  • cognitive, affective (attitude), psychomotor (skills)
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Quantititative Literacy
  • Just-in-time guest lectures; mentoring junior colleagues
  • more info at the Keck Foundation website

STEM learning communities at University of St. Thomas
Kerri Carlson (Biology), Melissa Loe (Mathematics), Dyius Turvold Celotta (University of St. Thomas)

  • Peer-led team learning in STEM communities
  • start building community and collaborative/ active learning in earliest courses
  • strengthen study skills
  • What’s the impact on faculty of this approach?
  • transformative learning?
  • learning community leaders (not tutors, teaching assistants) focus on problem-solving for 1-2 hours/week
  • Learning Community Liaisons: faculty content specialists
  • LC coordinator: logistics
  • Results:  LC participants better in Chemistry, Calculus, Statistics (pairwise comparison)
  • student feedback positive
  • faculty report that participation promoted shift to problem-solving over getting the correct answer; see a shift in their own teaching, build confidence to try new things in the classroom
  • Incentive:  offered extra credit, but program is hoping to phase this out
  • students in multiple LC courses can only enroll in one LC, often choose chem or calc, even though they might benefit more from bio
  • Assessment: students starting with C average see the biggest gains
  • shift to lecture-based lc so that all students on the same section at the same time;
  • faculty buy-n:  promote in classes
  • resources and space allocated from various departments
  • future: assess transfer of skills; seeing students form their own learning communities but not sure how to offer these groups support
  • Faculty Learning Communities: experience what students are experiencing; make high-impact teaching practices part of the culture in STEM deparments
  • 6-8 a good size for discussion meetings, over food, at least twice a month; expect a product: some sort of experiment involving new teaching practice
  • Will ask faculty LC participants to work through Effective Instruction for STEM Disciplines
  • students should be able to move into Calc II, organic chem, and second course in all 5 disciplines,

Integrated quantitative science at the University of Richmond
Lester Caudill, Lewis Barnett, Chris Stevenson (University of Richmond)

  • year-long first-year course cluster for prospective stem majors with strong high school prep  (counts as 4 classes)
  • incorporates bio, phys, chem, calc, compsci… teaching teams of 5!
  • computer science backgrounds tend to be the weakest of he 5 disciplines
  • motivation: train up scientists with multi-discipline skills
  • students should be able to recognize a problem as a physics question, for example, in order to know where to find an answer
  • themes: drug resistance, cell-to-cell signalling
  • assessment: comparison group is students who applied and were not accepted
  • how to scale and economize?  5 instructors for 20 students is not sustainable

Towards an integrative STEM education: strengthening transfer and application of learning
Gretchen Hofmeister and Cam Davidson (Carleton College)

  • trimester system requires students to be strong independent learners
  • Science Education Resource Center: 3-legged stool model: academic success results from passion for math/science, sense of belonging and support for learning
  • cohort programs: FOCUS (Focusing on cultivating scientists) or SSF (Carleton Summer Science Fellows)
  • FOCUS: joint first-year seminar, year-long colloquium, study skills, data analysis demonstrations
  • Freshman seminar: air pollution and human health; civic engagement office put the course in touch with Growing Up Healthy; studied five local families; data drawn into Immunology class project on asthma


  • Sustainability depends on strategic planning.  Adding programs without evaluating and possibly reducing existing responsibilities and demands on faculty time.
  • … also depends on establishing institutions and traditions that aren’t reliant on the skills or interest of individual faculty.
  • … create teaching materials that could be picked up and used by others, even those outside of the specific research area
  • … center programs around core skills rather than esoteric topics
  • … make use of library and IT staff in curricular design; doesn’t have to be only a faculty responsibility
  • interdisciplinary teaching as an incubator for interdisciplinary research
  • Learning communities and spaces bring students together; free them to make interdisciplinary connections

About Claudia Scholz

Higher education professional in Atlanta, GA specializing in faculty development and research administration.
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