Assistant Professor Di Xu is Co-Pi on a National Science Foundation $2.1 million grant: "Examining The Roles of STEM Teaching Faculty in Advancing the Use of Evidence-based Teaching Practices at Research Universities." The grant will extend from October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2023.
PI on the grant is Brian Sato (UCI). Co-PIs are Xu, Stanley M. Lo (UCSD) Kameryn Denaro (UCI Division of Teaching & Learning), and Kimberly D. Tanner (SFSU).
In the last decade, a number of reports have called for changes to existing educational practices to increase the quality, number, and diversity of STEM graduates. A large body of literature has established ways to modify teaching practices to help achieve these goals, such as active learning. A key question now is how can we incorporate evidence-based teaching practices on a program-wide scale? One approach has been to “embed” specialized teaching faculty into existing units, using them as local agents of change and resources for faculty interested in transforming their teaching. While more institutions are considering teaching-focused faculty as an answer to this dilemma, there is little work currently being done to address their effectiveness in a scholarly manner. The UC system employs faculty known as “Lecturers with Security of Employment” (LSOEs), individuals with a heavy teaching load and demonstrating excellence in teaching while also functioning as discipline-based researchers.
This grant will use a mixed-methods approach to contribute to the nationwide conversation on improving STEM outcomes through hiring of specialized teaching faculty. Specifically, we have four research aims: (i) to determine whether instruction from LSOEs improves student academic outcomes at an institutional level, including course grades and graduation rates, as well as non-academic outcomes measured through course surveys, such as attitudes regarding science and utility values; (ii) to see whether teaching practices impact these outcomes by collecting classroom observation data for faculty across entire departments in multiple STEM disciplines at UCI and UCSD using the newly developed Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching (DART) tool; (iii) to test the hypothesis that LSOEs implement evidence-based teaching practices to a greater extent, and whether use of these practices impacts student outcomes, and (iv) to take a deeper, qualitative approach to capture the teaching beliefs of LSOEs and research faculty who do and do not interact with them, to see whether LSOEs fundamentally change conceptions of and approaches to teaching within their departments.