educational experiences, undergraduates develop different strategies for maximizing their individual abilities to learn, reason, and think critically about complex issues (King and Kitchener, 1994; National Institute for Science Education, 2001c; NRC, 1997a, 1999a). To be most effective, teachers need to employ a variety of learning strategies and contextually appropriate pedagogies3 that serve the range of students’ learning styles (see, e.g., Annex Box 1-1, Chapter 1). Faculty who are effective in this regard demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • They are organized and communicate clearly to students their expectations for learning and academic achievement.

  • They focus on whether students are learning what is being taught and view the learning process as a joint venture between themselves and their students.

  • They encourage discussion and promote active learning strategies (see Annex Box 1-1, Chapter 1).

  • They persistently monitor students’ progress toward achieving learning

  • goals through discussions in class, out-of-class assignments, and other forms of assessment.

  • They have the ability to recognize students who are not achieving to their fullest potential and then employ the professional knowledge and skill necessary to assist them in overcoming academic difficulties.

Along with these characteristics, an increasingly important component of pedagogy is the appropriate use and application of information technologies to enhance learning. Electronic networking, the Internet, remote sensing, distance learning, and databases and digital libraries (e.g., NRC, 1998b, 2000c; NSF, 1998)4 are changing fundamentally the ways in which teaching and learning take place in higher education. Although no one would suggest that top-quality instruction cannot be attained without the use of networking resources, instructional changes made possible through information technology are profound and have already imbued research communities in the natural sciences, mathematics, and


“Contextually appropriate pedagogies” is also known in the research literature as “pedagogical content knowledge” (defined earlier in note).


For further discussion of digital libraries and their importance in undergraduate STEM education, see Borgman et al. (1996) and NRC (1998b). NSF is now engaged in developing a digital national library for undergraduate STEM education (additional information is available at <>.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement