features that require or encourage new teaching conceptions or practices (e.g., policy change, strategic planning). Higher education researchers are doing most of the work in this area. The fourth category combines a focus on changing the environment with an emerging final condition. Higher education researchers are the primary change agents in this category, and the strategy is to empower the collective development of environmental features that support new teaching ideas or practices (e.g., institutional transformation and learning organizations).

In closing, Henderson underscored Dancy’s point that STEM change agents primarily use a development and dissemination model to effect change. They do not draw on approaches from other groups or other disciplines, and they rarely test the effectiveness of the development and dissemination approach. A more fruitful approach, he said, would be to use knowledge from both inside and outside the STEM community to develop better change models and collect empirical data on their effectiveness. In short, he said, such an approach would more closely follow the scientific method.


James Fairweather (Michigan State University) observed that most efforts to reform undergraduate STEM education start from a presumptive model based on classroom innovation and the teaching and learning process. The premise, he explained, is that hundreds, if not thousands, of individual faculty improvements will lead to a substantial aggregate change. He pointed out, however, that the aggregate effect has not yet reached desired levels, which underscores the need to advance the conversation about reform.

Fairweather labeled the existing body of reforms as a collection of solutions in search of problems. He identified some common goals that are targeted by reforms:

  • Increasing public awareness of STEM or generally improving STEM literacy.

  • Stoking the STEM pipeline by attracting K-12 students into STEM, recruiting college students into STEM majors, and improving retention in the majors.

  • Enhancing the preparation of STEM college students for their professions.

  • Improving various student learning outcomes, including increased content knowledge, the longer term retention of knowledge, application, synthesis, and problem solving.

  • Reforming the curriculum.

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