Regardless of which dimension of translation is the goal, determining the extent to which DBER has informed teaching practice is difficult for many reasons. First, there is a limited empirical baseline of faculty members’ instructional practices in science and engineering—few studies have rigorously examined instructional practices within disciplines, and even fewer have studied practices across disciplines at the undergraduate level. Second, because faculty members may draw on similar findings from DBER, cognitive science, educational psychology, science education, education, and/or the scholarship of teaching and learning to inform their practice, it is difficult to disentangle the effects of DBER from those of related research. Third, DBER and related research can influence teaching practices to varying degrees, from increased awareness of student learning challenges to complete transformation of instructional approaches. It is difficult to measure some of the more indirect effects, such as increased awareness, on instruction. And finally, as research on higher education policy and organization has shown, instructional decisions—including the decision to incorporate DBER and other research—are influenced by many more factors than the mere availability of research (Fairweather, 2008). For example, science and engineering faculty are likely to be concerned with fitting new techniques into their overall teaching, research, and service responsibilities. Factors including rewards, the relative importance of teaching and research, and an institutional emphasis on bringing in research money are major influences on these decisions (Austin, 2011). However, research on the importance of these factors relative to each other and the ways in which they interact to influence instruction is relatively scarce (see Quinn-Patton, 2010).
This chapter discusses the available national research on current teaching practices; describes research on efforts within the sciences and engineering to increase faculty members’ adoption of research-based practices, including findings from DBER; and situates those efforts in the broader context of research on the factors that influence faculty members’ instructional decisions and change in higher education institutions. The committee recognizes that a wide variety of practices affect student learning, such as advising, co-curricular learning activities, and learning communities comprised of faculty members or students. However, the focus of this chapter is on classroom practices.
The documentation of instructional practices is based on two types of sources. First are national surveys of faculty work that have a representative sample of disciplines, including science and engineering. These surveys