Findings from discipline-based education research could improve undergraduate science and engineering teaching

May 21, 2012 in Other Sciences / Social Sciences

Discipline-based education research (DBER) has generated insights that could help improve undergraduate education in science and engineering, but these findings have not yet prompted widespread changes in teaching practice, says a new report from the National Research Council. Science and engineering faculty, institutions, disciplinary societies, and professional societies should all support high-quality DBER and the adoption of the evidence-based teaching strategies that have emerged from it, the report says.

DBER is a collection of related research fields that investigate how learn in particular scientific disciplines and identify ways to improve instruction. This research is emerging in many scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, the , and astronomy, as well as in engineering. A DBER scholar in physics, for example, might investigate how students learn concepts such as force or acceleration and try to identify effective ways for instructors to teach these concepts.

Scholars in all DBER fields share the goal of improving teaching and learning by using findings from empirical research. Although they have made inroads in terms of establishing their fields, the report says, these scholars still face challenges in identifying pathways for training and professional recognition. And findings from DBER have not yet led to widespread change in the teaching of undergraduate science and engineering.

Notable from DBER on undergraduate teaching and learning include:

Institutions, disciplinary societies, and professional societies should support faculty efforts to use evidence-based teaching strategies in their classrooms. In addition, they should work together to prepare future faculty who understand research findings on learning and teaching and who value effective as part of their career aspirations. And they should support venues for DBER scholars to share their research findings at meetings and in high-quality journals.

Future directions for DBER investigations should include research that explores similarities and differences in among various student populations; longitudinal studies that can shed light on how students acquire and retain understanding (or misunderstanding) of concepts; studies that investigate student outcomes other than test scores; and studies of organizational and behavior change that could aid the translation of DBER findings into practice.

Provided by National Academy of Sciences

"Findings from discipline-based education research could improve undergraduate science and engineering teaching" May 21, 2012