Melvin George began his reflections by asking, “Why do we need any evidence at all?” He noted that one reason for gathering evidence is to discover what works in science education, but he said that evidence alone does not cause faculty members to change their behavior. Suggesting that the problem might lie with ineffectual theories of change rather than a lack of evidence, George proposed that it might be more productive to direct more attention and resources to making change happen.
David Mogk (University of Montana) observed that the participants discussed a continuum of promising practices ranging from individual classroom activities to courses to curricula to departments to institutional transformation. Discussing the day’s themes, Mogk described a desire to identify promising practices that promote mastery of content and skills while addressing barriers to learning, and he recalled discussions about the difficulty of articulating and assessing some of those skills. He identified the use of technology as a promising practice that cuts across disciplines and suggested a need to examine the cognitive underpinnings of how people learn in each domain. Mogk called for better alignment of learning goals, teaching and learning activities, and assessment tools.
William Wood reflected on the issue of domain-specific versus generic best practices. He noted that many of the practices discussed during the workshop seem universally applicable across disciplines and even across different levels, such as the classroom, department, and institution as a whole. He also suggested that university faculty might apply some of these principles when encouraging their colleagues to transform their teaching practice. Rather than transmitting the evidence in a didactic manner and expecting colleagues to change, Wood proposed taking a more con structivist approach to build their understanding of promising practices.
Kenneth Heller remarked on the different grain sizes of the promising practices that the participants discussed. He noted that the different goals and different kinds of evidence associated with each grain size present a challenge to generating useful evidence about promising practices. He agreed with previous speakers that evidence is important but not sufficient to drive change. Heller concluded by using a quote from the poet Voltaire as a cautionary message about gathering more evidence instead of putting existing research into practice: “The best is the enemy of the good.”