The reforms within K–12 education that have been enacted in almost every state and many districts include systems for measuring achievement and accountability. State legislatures, departments of education, school boards, and the general public expect those responsible for educating students to be held specifically accountable for the quality of the outcomes of their work (Rice et al., 2000).
The call for accountability is also being clearly heard at the postsecondary level. State legislatures are demanding that public universities provide quantifiable evidence of the effectiveness of the academic programs being supported with tax dollars. Other bodies, including national commissions, institutional governing boards, and professional accrediting agencies, also have begun to recommend that universities and colleges be held more accountable for student learning (see, e.g., National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2001; see also Chapter 3, this report).
One aspect of the call for accountability in higher education is particularly important for faculty in STEM. Corporate leaders and the public alike are focusing on the need for a scientifically and technologically literate citizenry and a skilled workforce (Capelli, 1997; Greenspan, 2000; International Technology Education Association, 2000; Murnane and Levy, 1996; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000; NRC, 1996a, 1999a, 2000d). Corporate leaders also have made it increasingly clear that their workforce needs more than basic knowledge in science, mathematics, and technology. They expect those they hire to apply that knowledge in new and unusual contexts, as well as to communicate effectively, work collaboratively, understand the perspectives of colleagues from different cultures, and continually update and expand their knowledge and skills (Capelli, 1997; Greenspan, 2000; Rust, 1998).
While public pressure for reforming undergraduate teaching and learning and holding educators accountable for such improvements is real and growing, recent surveys also suggest that increasing numbers of faculty are advocating strongly for quality teaching and are paying close attention to how effective teaching is recognized, evaluated, and rewarded within departments