Enacting Pedagogical And Organizational Change Through Course-Based Communities Of Transformation

  • Jill Nelson George Mason University
  • Jaime Lester George Mason University
  • Carrie Klein George Mason University
  • Jessica Rosenberg George Mason University
  • Robert Sachs George Mason University
  • Stephanie Foster George Mason University
  • Laura Poms George Mason University


Location: JC Room E

Supported by existing infrastructure and the university's strategic plan, Mason is poised to scale up its implementation of active and inquiry-based learning by engaging faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in changing the culture of teaching. Literature shows that student engagement through active and inquiry-based learning improves student attitudes, retention, and understanding at all levels of curriculum (e.g., Fry, 2014; Freeman et al., 2014; National Research Council, 2012; and references therein) with an outsized impact on women and previously low-achieving students (Kogan & Laursen, 2014; Laursen et al., 2014). However, motivating faculty to make significant changes to their teaching practices is often challenging, and active learning methods are used only sporadically on college campuses, including Mason, despite a long history of research showing that these techniques improve student learning. The literature on change within academic departments is sparse and often touts the success of centralized units in promoting pedagogy reform (e.g., Fairweather, 2008 and references therein). At the same time, research shows that departmental norms and institutional barriers have a large impact on the way STEM faculty teach (Austin, 2011; D'Avanzo, 2013; Brownell & Tanner, 2012; Henderson et al., 2012; Sunal et al., 2001; Fairweather, 2008). Peer-to-peer learning communities have been shown to provide support for organizational learning (Kezar & Lester, 2011; Mittendorf et al., 2006), to assist in the development of new pedagogical interventions, and to shift faculty values surrounding teaching and learning (Davis & Sumara, 1997; Gallucci, 2003; Sanchez-Cardona et al., 2012; Snyder et al., 2003; Viskovic, 2006). The purpose of this panel is to showcase work being done to leverage learning communities to enact pedagogical and organizational change. The panelists, members of a cross-disciplinary team of researchers, are working alongside members of a course-based community of transformation (CCT) in Mathematics at Mason, with CCTs in Physics, Biology, and Computer Science to follow. These researchers, with members of the Math CCT, will share empirical evidence, lessons learned, and practical implications related to their National Science Foundation funded project to create department and institution-level change that supports the adoption of active learning pedagogy at Mason. As a part of this work, multi-generational teams of faculty, graduate apprentice instructors, and undergraduate learning assistants receive training on active learning techniques, learning communities, grassroots leadership, and change in higher education, as well as continued support through a network of CCTs. This project is designed to develop a university culture that values the incorporation of active learning practices in undergraduate STEM courses and programs. Attendees will leave the session with a better sense of how to employ changes in pedagogy within their own classrooms and how to facilitate change more broadly across their departments and the campus community. Specific attention will be given to effective change strategies, factors that influence change, and steps in the process of change. Attendees will also be given time to consider the needs, strategies, resources, and partnerships necessary for change in their communities.

Author Biographies

Jill Nelson, George Mason University

**2014 University Teaching Excellence Award Winner**

Volgenau School of Engineering 

Electrical and Computer Engineering 

Jaime Lester, George Mason University

**2013 University Teaching Excellence Award Winner**

**2012 Teacher of Distinction**

Humanities and Social Sciences 

Higher Education

Carrie Klein, George Mason University

Humanities and Social Sciences

Higher Education

Jessica Rosenberg, George Mason University

Dr. Rosenberg is the Director of the STEM Accelerator in the College of Science and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. She is an astronomer who studies the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time primarily by studying the baryonic content of galaxies and the intergalactic medium. She is also an educator interested in improving the retention and diversity of students in the Mason College of science through enhanced learning experiences.

Robert Sachs, George Mason University

**2012 David J. King Teaching Award Winner**

College of Science


Stephanie Foster, George Mason University

**4-VA Grant Recipient **

Office of the Provost

Undergraduate Education

Laura Poms, George Mason University

Health and Human services

1:50pm-2:30pm Mini-Workshops, Panels, & Roundtables