on the broader research about individual and institutional transformation in postsecondary education.

When considering the issues of advancing DBER (study question 6), we found that the research base was similarly sparse. Therefore, to address this issue, we commissioned papers examining the history of DBER in each of the disciplines in the study charge. Those papers helped to define DBER, designate milestones associated with the development of emerging fields, and identify relevant journals for education research in each discipline. They also enabled a cross-cutting comparison of the development of DBER. Another aspect of advancing DBER relates to preparing and placing future faculty members. However, no systemically collected data existed on graduate or postdoctoral programs or career pathways for discipline-based education researchers, so we also commissioned a paper that would allow us to explore the role of postdoctoral programs in preparing DBER faculty.

Although the committee considered information from a variety of sources during the course of this study, the conclusions we have drawn about the research on teaching and learning within each discipline give the most weight to research published in peer reviewed journals and books. Following an earlier National Research Council report (2002), we adopted the view that “A wide variety of legitimate scientific designs are available for education research. They range from randomized experiments…to in-depth ethnographic case studies…to neurocognitive investigations…using emission tomography brain imaging” (p. 6). Reflecting this view, we developed a set of categories to characterize the strength of the conclusions we could draw from the available evidence (see Box 1-1).


The bulk of this report (Chapters 4 through 7) is dedicated to a synthesis of research on undergraduate teaching and learning in physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, the geosciences, and astronomy. With the synthesis we have attempted to strike a balance between preserving characteristics or challenges that are tied to just one or two disciplines (e.g., students’ difficulties understanding deep time or that matter is made of discrete particles), and identifying general themes in science and engineering learning that cut across most disciplines (e.g., students’ difficulties solving problems and interpreting visual and mathematical representations).

The report also discusses the emergence and current state of the individual fields of DBER (Chapter 2); analyzes the use of DBER findings among faculty members (Chapter 8); and provides a roadmap for the future of DBER by proposing a research agenda and identifying actions that

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