STEARNS CENTER FEATURED SESSION [for deans, chairs, curriculum coordinators] : From COVID to Change: Rethinking Supporting Teaching in Your Unit (90 mins)


  • Jaime Lester George Mason University, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Carrie Klein George Mason University
  • Jill Nelson George Mason University, Volgenau School of Engineering
  • Robert Sachs George Mason University, Professor, Mathematical Sciences
  • Jessica Rosenberg George Mason University, College of Science
  • Julie Shank George Mason University, College of Education and Human Development
  • Charles Kreitzer



NOTE: This session is designed to be both an informative panel and a planning workshop for deans, chairs, and anyone leading a group of faculty/adjunct/GTAs, common course or curriculum effort in their unit.

Mason is actively engaged in changing the culture of teaching toward more active- and inquiry-based learning forms. These forms are viewed as superior mechanisms for improving student engagement, performance, and retention, especially in STEM-based classrooms (Kogan & Laursen, 2014; Freeman et al., 2014; Laursen, Hassi, Logan, & Weston, 2014; Nelson, 2010). Through Mason’s strategic plan and its building of new active learning classrooms, the opportunities to leverage this pedagogical form are ripe. Despite this commitment, teaching change is often difficult to engender in higher education organizations. Some of this difficulty lies in the challenge of changing faculty habits and norms related to their own teaching practices (Austin, 2011). However, even if individual faculty are committed to pedagogical change, that change is also highly dependent upon departmental and institutional norms and barriers, which can act to promote or constrain change (Austin, 2011; D’Avanzo, 2013; Brownell & Tanner, 2012; Henderson et al., 2012; Sunal et al., 2001; Fairweather, 2008). There are levers that go beyond the individual and their classroom to improve the likelihood of successful pedagogical change. Among these are the use of data-driven decision making and the fostering of data cultures (Bouwma-Gearheart & Hora, 2014; Hora & Bouwma-Gearhart, 2014, 2017) and the building and leveraging of collaborations across organizational units (Kezar & Lester, 2009; Klein, 2017; Leisyte & Dee, 2012) to help leverage the information, relationships, and resources needed to enact change.

The purpose of this workshop is to use the context and learning from current work being done to enact pedagogical change to help attendees frame, consider, and plan for how relationships, resources, and data within and beyond their departments can be used in their own contexts to enact similar change. 

The presenters, members of a cross-disciplinary research team, are working alongside members of course-based communities of transformation (CCTs) in Mathematics and Physics at Mason, with CCTs in Biology and Computer Science to follow. These researchers 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, CCT members have had to consider and act beyond the boundaries of their individual classrooms and departments to leverage organizational data and partnerships. 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 develop a better sense of how to find and use data in decision making and conversations with those within and beyond their departments, including understanding and identifying course taking and retention patterns, resource needs and opportunities, and student learning and preparedness. Attendees will identify key partnership and collaborations they can continue or begin to cultivate as they work to create change in their departments and learn how to improve cross-unit collaboration. Attendees will be given time to consider the needs, strategies, and resources necessary for change in their communities and craft plans for starting that change.

Author Biographies

Jaime Lester, George Mason University, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

****TEA 2013 Winner****

Jaime Lester is the Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Strategic Initiatives in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and a professor of the Higher Education Program. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Ed. in higher education from the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. Dr. Lester also holds a dual B.A. from the University of Michigan in English and women’s studies. She has received numerous awards for her research and teaching to include the Barbara Townsend Emerging Scholar Award from the Council for the Study of Community Colleges in 2009 and the Mason Excellence in Teaching Award in 2013. She was also the Mason state council rising star nominee in 2011.

The overarching goal of her research program is to examine organizational change and leadership in higher education with a focus on faculty development. Her work has led to examinations of non-positional leadership and tactics to promote local and institutional change and the role of individual identity in creating equitable workplaces in colleges and universities. Her more recent research on learning analytics and pedagogy in computer science and supporting faculty pedagogy change is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Lester has over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and other academic publications. Her work appears in the Community College Review, Journal of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, Community College Journal of Research and Practice, Liberal Education, Feminist Formations (formerly NWSA Journal), and NEA: Thought & Action. She also has written many books on learning analytics in higher education, gendered perspectives in community colleges, family-friendly policies in higher education, ways to restructure higher education to promote collaboration, non-positional leadership, and workplace bullying. Her work is widely quoted in media outlets such as National Public Radio, the New York Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Jill Nelson, George Mason University, Volgenau School of Engineering

****TEA 2014 Winner****

Robert Sachs, George Mason University, Professor, Mathematical Sciences

****DJK 2012 Winner****

Jessica Rosenberg, George Mason University, College of Science

Dr. Rosenberg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Director of Education for the Quantum Science and Engineering Center. 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.

Julie Shank, George Mason University, College of Education and Human Development

Julie Shank is a Doctoral Candidate in the Higher Education Program with a secondary concentration in Educational Psychology in the Graduate School of Education, College of Education and Human Development, George Mason University. Ms. Shank is a former assistant dean of student life at the United States Naval Academy and retired naval officer and taught Ethics and Moral Reasoning to students there. Previously a graduate professional assistant with the Early Identification Program at Mason, she is currently a graduate research assistant with the NSF-IUSE funded project, Building a Culture of Active Learning through Course-Based Communities of Transformation. Her research interests include: Student Veterans, success in higher education, and self-regulated learning.