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Physics Colloquium: “Building Effective Instructional Change Teams to Improve Undergraduate STEM Courses: Lessons from an Ongoing, National-Scale Study”

March 9 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Alice Olmstead

Texas State University, Department of Physics

Abstract: Much has been learned in the past few decades about how to teach undergraduate STEM courses in a way that generates positive and equitable student outcomes. At the same time, many instructional change efforts that aim to support individual instructors in incorporating equitable, student-centered classroom practices have fallen short of achieving widespread change. Instructional change teams are a promising mechanism for achieving sustained improvements to undergraduate STEM courses and are becoming more prevalent in higher education change efforts that focus on systems rather than individuals. Yet team-based change efforts are also much more complex and can fall apart without appropriate support and guidance. For the past five years, my collaborators and I have been pursuing research that aims to reveal how change leaders can provide that support to teams. We have used grounded theory to create a model that highlights key aspects of how instructional change teams work together to achieve various kinds of success. The model includes five team inputs, five team processes, three emergent states (how teams think and feel about their work), and four team outcomes. In this talk, I will describe how we developed this model using interviews with project leaders and team members from across the U.S., as well as literature about teams in other contexts. I will then provide examples of how lessons from the model can be applied in practice by drawing on my own change efforts at Texas State University. Specifically, I will illustrate how this model informed the design of a 5-year, $2.5 million instructional change effort that I am currently co-leading in our college of science and engineering. I will also discuss how the model has helped me to implement a small-scale curriculum development project within my own department. Finally, I will discuss how the initial research project has evolved into a new grant-funded project, and what we hope to accomplish from a practical and research perspective.

All lectures are via Zoom: https://mines.zoom.us/j/98686472990?pwd=REFBbFBJZk9MbXhldGRzemNaczlTZz09

Bio: Dr. Alice Olmstead (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Physics and the Co-director of the Physics Learning Assistant Program at Texas State University. She is also a co-PI and programmatic co-lead on the $2.5 million, 5-year NSF-IUSE-HSI award “Creating Faculty-Student Communities for Culturally Relevant Institutional Change” at her home institution. Her primary research expertise is on strategies that can help STEM faculty to improve their instruction and lead to long-term change. She has also recently been pursuing research related her own teaching, specifically focusing on how to support students’ reasoning about connections between physics/STEM, ethics, and society. She received her PhD in Astronomy at the University of Maryland in 2016 and held a postdoctoral research appointment at the Center for Research on Instructional Change in Postsecondary Education (CRICPE) at Western Michigan University from 2016-2018. She has been at Texas State since 2018.


March 9
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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