Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
An important issue is raised in the paper that lecturers in institutions of university or college level do not require knowledge in pedagogical background. Thus, they usually “learn by doing” with a limited knowledge in pedagogical methods, especially in their early teaching years. However, professional knowledge is crucial if modern teaching approaches, such as student-centered teaching, are used in the educational process. Therefore, the faculty development program in three institutions enabled to share the experience and facilitate adoption of student-centered practices in STEM courses and improve teaching and learning STEM in participated institutions.
The suggested learning model connects to learning theory of constructivism which is based on the idea that students build their understanding by using active learning strategies. This enabled the participants (lecturers) to choose the pedagogical strategies that are most suitable for their subject, context, and students. Faculty members from biology, chemistry, environmental science, geology, computer science, engineering, math, physics, and astronomy participated in the program. Various activities, such as asking and answering questions, group work, discussion, and others ensure active engagement in study subject. Such practice requires teachers’ experience and knowledge how to deal with intense learning process, handle with students’ resistance, and various outcomes. For example, the authors identified cases where the lecture moves on and leaves students with unanswered question. Thus, the quality of the activity implementation was evaluated based on six criteria: importance of science content, room to generate new ideas, opportunities to engage with examples / phenomena, using evidence to make claims, chances for sensemaking, classroom culture. Inclusive teaching is a part of the student-centered approach. Lecturers examine their own identities and explore students’ identities and experience. This helps to apply inclusive pedagogical strategies, such as structured, small group discussions, formative assessment, setting classroom norms, etc. Thus, these strategies are crucial in creating an inclusive learning environment for all students, including the underrepresented ones, namely, women, African America, Native American, and others.
The authors emphasize that teachers need to be transparent to students about the learning strategies and the aim of using them. Moreover, the effective application of student-centered strategies depends on teachers’ practice and transfer from conventional passive learning strategies to active student-centered strategies is a slow process and needs to be guided by institutionalized, sustained faculty development.