EVALUATING AND IMPROVING UNDERGRADUATE TEACHING
IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS
Marye Anne Fox and Norman Hackerman, Editors
The National Academies Press
Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was conducted under an award from the Presidents of the National Academies. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Evaluating and improving undergraduate teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics / Marye Anne Fox and Norman Hackerman, editors ; Committee on Recognizing, Evaluating, and Rewarding Undergraduate Teaching, Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council.
ISBN 0-309-07277-8 (pbk.)
1. Science—Study and teaching—Evaluation. 2. College teaching—Evaluation. I. Fox, Marye Anne, 1947- II. Hackerman, Norman. III. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Recognizing, Evaluating, and Rewarding Undergraduate Teaching.
Q181 .E93 2003
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2003). Evaluating and improving undergraduate teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Committee on Recognizing, Evaluating, Rewarding, and Developing Excellence in Teaching of Undergraduate Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology, M.A. Fox and N. Hackerman, Editors. Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
COMMITTEE ON RECOGNIZING, EVALUATING, REWARDING, AND DEVELOPING EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING OF UNDERGRADUATE SCIENCE, MATHEMATICS, ENGINEERING, AND TECHNOLOGY
MARYE ANNE FOX(Co-chair)
North Carolina State University
The Robert A. Welch Foundation, TX
Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis
Syracuse University, NY
BARBARA GROSS DAVIS,
University of California-Berkeley
University of Washington
Michigan State University
Yale University, CT
University of Puerto Rico
University of California-Berkeley
JEANNE L. NARUM,
Project Kaleidoscope, Washington, DC
CORNELIUS J. PINGS,
University of Southern California
Claremont Graduate University, CA
St. Louis University, MO
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
JAY B. LABOV(Study Director)
TERRY K. HOLMER(Senior Project Assistant)
COMMITTEE ON UNDERGRADUATE SCIENCE EDUCATION JULY 1999
MARYE ANNE FOX(Chair),
North Carolina State University
BONNIE J. BRUNKHORST,
California State University, San Bernardino
MARY P. COLVARD,
Cobleskill-Richmondville High School, NY
ARTHUR B. ELLIS,
University of Wisconsin-Madison
JAMES M. GENTILE,
Hope College, MI
RONALD J.W. HENRY,
Georgia State University
HARVEY B. KEYNES,
University of Minnesota
RONALD M. LATANISION,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
R. HEATHER MACDONALD,
College of William and Mary, VA
RICHARD A. McCRAY,
University of Colorado at Boulder
Lawson State Community College, AL
EDWARD E. PENHOET,
University of California-Berkeley
JAMES W. SERUM,
SciTek Ventures, PA
University of Colorado at Boulder
CHRISTY L. VOGEL,
Cabrillo College, CA
Americans have long appreciated the need for high-quality education and have invested accordingly, at levels from preschool through graduate education. Because of the impact of science and technology on the nation’s economic growth, these fields have received substantial government and private research funding at colleges and universities. Indeed, since World War II, federal funding through peer-reviewed grants and contracts has placed in the hands of university faculty the primary responsibility for more than half of the nation’s basic research in these fields. This investment has contributed significantly to making the United States a world leader in the discovery and application of new knowledge and has produced a well-respected system for graduate training in science and engineering. In recent years, additional financial support from industry and nonprofit organizations has provided new opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students at many universities to participate in original research projects. Recognition of the importance of original peer-reviewed research in institutions of higher learning is clearly laudable. As Robert Gavin noted in the 2000 publication Academic Excellence: The Role of Research in the Physical Sciences at Undergraduate Institutions, “research activity plays a central role in keeping the faculty up to date in the field and improves their teaching.”
Because of the key role of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), mechanisms for careful scrutiny and evaluation of the quality of research in these fields are highly developed, and academic scientists and engineers often derive reward and recognition from their research achievements. As is the case with most scholarship, the criteria used in these evaluations differ from one discipline to
another, and faculty evaluations at research-intensive universities generally solicit the candid judgments of national or international peers from outside the home institution when a faculty member or program is to be evaluated. Reliance on one’s disciplinary colleagues for a critique of the merits of one’s research accomplishments and proposals is widely accepted as a necessary investment of faculty time and effort.
In contrast, the evaluation of teaching accomplishments has been more haphazard and less rigorous, particularly at research universities. Some faculty are not convinced of the objectivity of techniques used for describing the effectiveness of teaching and learning, especially at institutions at which competing demands on faculty time make it challenging to balance all of the normal faculty responsibilities and to focus on classroom and laboratory instruction.
Even though the dominant values, beliefs, culture, and missions of many U.S. higher education institutions often emphasize high-quality instruction, particularly in lower division undergraduate teaching, a common perception is that teaching is less closely scrutinized and less clearly rewarded than is research. Given the variety of goals among the many different sizes and types of American colleges and universities, it is not surprising that substantial differences exist in capability and achievements in the balance between teaching and research. However, if the broad teaching missions of colleges and universities are to be attained, rigorous evaluation to improve teaching and learning must become integral to STEM departmental culture. If so, faculty and administration must be convinced that objective and comprehensive methods exist for performing such evaluations and that these techniques can be used without imposing undue burden or impossible time commitments on already busy faculty. Our study points out ways in which the fair evaluation of teaching and learning in STEM disciplines can be institutionalized as the basis for allocating rewards and promotions, at a level of effort consistent with a department’s or college’s educational mission.
Over the past several years, the National Research Council (NRC) has assumed an aggressive role in strengthening STEM education. The NRC’s Committee on Undergraduate Science Education has coordinated this effort in colleges and universities. This study, undertaken by the Committee on Evaluating Undergraduate Teaching, examines the crucial issue of how best to evaluate the effectiveness of undergraduate instruction to improve student learning and to enhance faculty teaching skills. The committee members included faculty and administrators in
science, mathematics, and engineering; experts in assessment and evaluation; and representatives of several higher education organizations dedicated to the improvement of education. (See Appendix D for biographical sketches of the committee members.)
This is a timely undertaking. Pressures are mounting from within and beyond academe (e.g., state boards of regents and legislatures, business and industry) to improve learning, particularly in introductory and lower-division courses. These calls also request accountability of academic departments, including a new emphasis on improved teaching and enhanced student learning through curriculum revision and collegial peer mentoring.
It is the committee’s view that a well-structured evaluation of teaching can be meaningful to those being evaluated and to those who must render personnel decisions based on these evaluations. Conducted appropriately, such evaluations would be crucial components of the institution’s efforts to improve education. Indeed, progress in educational research has clarified the effectiveness of new methods, linking them with demonstrable outcomes: improved student learning and academic achievement. It is the committee’s hope that the recent research findings presented in this report will be incorporated into existing evaluative practice.
Marye Anne Fox, Co-chair
Norman Hackerman, Co-chair
Committee on Recognizing, Evaluating, Rewarding, and Developing Excellence in Teaching of Undergraduate Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology
The committee members and staff acknowledge the contributions of a number of people for providing presentations, additional data, and valuable insight to the committee both during and between committee meetings: John V. Byrne, President Emeritus, Oregon State University and Director, Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities; Barbara Cambridge, Director, Teaching Initiatives, American Association for Higher Education, and Director, Carnegie Academy Campus Program; R. Eugene Rice, Director, Assessment Forum, American Association for Higher Education; Alan H. Schoenfeld, Professor of Education, University of California-Berkeley, and Chair, Joint Policy Board on Mathematics Task Force on Educational Activities.
At the National Research Council (NRC), we also would like to acknowledge Michael J. Feuer, former director of the NRC’s Center for Education (CFE) and currently executive director of the NRC’s Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, for providing critical support and leadership during the writing and report review phases of this study; Kirsten Sampson Snyder, CFE Reports Officer, for her support and guidance in shepherding this report through report review and in working on the final stages of production; Rona Briere and Kathleen (Kit) Johnston for their editing skills and insight; Eugenia Grohman and Yvonne Wise, for their assistance and support in revising the report at several stages of its development; and also Rodger W. Bybee, former executive director of the NRC’s Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education, and current Executive Director of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. Dr. Bybee helped conceive this study and offered support
and guidance for it during the time that he was affiliated with the NRC.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:
David F. Brakke, Dean, College of Science and Mathematics, James Madison University
Brian P. Coppola, Department of Chemistry, University of Michigan
James Gentile, Dean, Natural Science Division, Hope College, Holland, Michigan
Melvin D. George, Department of Mathematics, University of Missouri
Daniel Goroff, Associate Director, Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and Department of Mathematics, Harvard University
Peter D. Lax, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University
Susan B. Millar, College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Robert E. Newnham, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Pennsylvania State University
Sheri D. Sheppard, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, and
Michael J. Smith, Education Director, American Geological Institute.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Frank G. Rothman, Brown University, and Pierre C. Hohenberg, Yale University. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.