Postdocs in STEM educational change

by Stephanie Chasteen on April 26, 2016

There have been several postings for postdoctoral positions in educational change lately.  Please add to this post in the comments if you have others to share, and this can be a good repository.

(Added 4/29)

Director of Educational Outreach and Research

JILA AMO Physics Frontier Center and Physics Education Research Group at the University of Colorado Boulder, Deadline May 15

The AMO Physics Frontier Center at JILA and the Physics Education Research group at the University of Colorado at Boulder are collaborating to support a physics education outreach program.  A two-year (possibly extendable) position is available for someone to direct the outreach & community partnership  efforts of the AMO Frontier Center and conduct research on student learning in these environments.  The position will be jointly supervised by a faculty member from the Physics Education Research Group and a director of the Physics Frontier Center.  The goal of the program is to continue robust informal science programs with local schools serving populations that are typically underrepresented in science, collaborate with other Physics Frontier Centers, communicate current physics research to the general public and concomitantly to research and evaluate these outreach programs using cutting-edge physics education research methods.
The successful applicant will be responsible for preparing graduate students and postdoctoral research assistants within JILA and the Physics Department at CU to present science activities at local middle and high schools, coordinating with teachers and administrators at local schools to establish forums for these and other outreach activities, developing methods for communicating with the public, and researching & evaluating these efforts.  In addition to creating and studying outreach programs, the candidate will collaborate with other Physics Frontiers Centers to present information on these centers at national conferences and work with outreach coordinators from other centers on projects of mutual interest.
Eligibility:  Candidates should have completed a doctoral degree by July 2016.  Graduates with a specialization in physics education research are especially encouraged to apply, but graduates with a background in traditional areas of physics research, or science education research who are interested in shifting their focus to physics education research will also be considered.  The University of Colorado is committed to diversity and equality in education and employment.
Closing Date:  Review of applications will begin on May 15th, 2016, and continue until the position is filled.  This appointment could begin as early as Jun 15, 2016.
Stipend:  $50,000/yr.
Application Procedure: Please send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and three letters of reference to: Professors Eric Cornell and Noah Finkelstein c/o Krista Beck, JILA UCB 440 University of Colorado Boulder, CO 80309

Senior Research Associate for Systemic Change Network

From Charles Henderson and Andrea Beach, applications starting May 12 2016.  Western Michigan University.

The Center for Research on Instructional Change in Postsecondary Education (CRICPE) at Western Michigan University (WMU) is seeking a senior research associate to support the establishment of the Accelerating Systemic Change Network (ASCN). This project is funded by a grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust. The research associate will be in a visible leadership role in the development of ASCN.

We are seeking applicants who have experience and interest in applying interdisciplinary research methods to solve important problems in STEM education and who have a strong interest in higher education policy and systemic change in higher education STEM education. Applicants must have a PhD in a relevant field.

ASCN will serve as an open, interdisciplinary, professional network and intellectual home for individuals and groups in a broad range of disciplines who are engaged in creating and/or studying change in STEM higher education in the full range of institutional settings.  ASCN will help capture what is known and soon to be discovered about leading and evaluating change efforts in undergraduate and graduate STEM education, which will help maximize the individual and collective efforts of network members.

More information about ASCN can be found at <>

The Senior Research Associate will join CRICPE, a WMU research center that conducts and supports interdisciplinary research focused on promoting transformative change in postsecondary education (see Supervised by CRICPE Co-Directors, Dr. Charles Henderson and Dr. Andrea Beach, the research associate will take the lead on the administration and implementation of the project, while providing research and evaluation support to the steering committee and working groups that comprise the Accelerating Systemic Change Network (ASCN). The research associate will support stakeholder groups that involve a wide range of disciplines and constituent types (Researchers, Faculty, Change Agents, University Leaders, etc.) from various institutions of higher education and national organizations. The research associate will also support the working groups by conducting literature searches and interpreting data by the selecting and applying the appropriate quantitative, statistical, and qualitative methods for analysis and the interpretation of data. The research associate will be expected to anticipates and resolves issues on behalf of the ASCN and develop timeliness and strategic planning to ensure the ASCN reaches its intended goals.

Applications should be submitted electronically at:


Two postdocs in Center for Research on Instructional Change

From Charles Henderson and Andrea Beach, applications starting May 12 2016.  Western Michigan University.

The Center for Research on Instructional Change in Postsecondary Education (CRICPE) at Western Michigan University (WMU) is seeking two postdoctoral research associates to support the project implementation and research the impact of institutional transformation funded by a $3.2M grant from the US Department of Education. Broncos FIRST is built around an innovative model to promote and institutionalize emergent change in higher education, particularly around student success.

The postdocs will join CRICPE, a WMU research center that conducts and supports interdisciplinary research focused on promoting transformative change in postsecondary education (see  Supervised by CRICPE Co-Directors, Dr. Charles Henderson and Dr. Andrea Beach, the two postdocs will engage in mixed-methods research on important processes and outcomes of the project. These include the work of learning communities; intra-organizational alignment of student support structures; and institutional culture/climate related to student success. The post docs will also consult with and serve as resources for professional learning communities of faculty, staff, and undergraduate students as these heterogeneous groups engage in action research projects. Responsibilities will include research planning, development, data collection and analysis, and development of manuscripts and presentations related to the project.[]<>We are seeking applicants who have experience and interest in applying interdisciplinary research methods to solve important problems in higher education and who have a strong interest in student success, institutional change, or professional development. Applicants must have a PhD in Higher Education or a related field.

Both appointments are full time and will be made for a period of one year, renewable for up to three years total.  Salary is competitive, depending on qualifications and experience. The start date for the positions is expected to be between June and August 2016. Review of applications will begin on May 12 and continue until the position is filled.

Applications should be submitted electronically at:

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Measuring teaching practice: Surveys

by Stephanie Chasteen on April 21, 2016

Last week I wrote about using COPUS observations to document what happens in a classroom.  This week, I wanted to talk about some of the survey measures we’re using to document change, and how.

It’s tough to ask people about how they teach.  This was pointed out to me recently in my evaluation of the Workshop for New Physics and Astronomy Faculty.  I asked the same question of participating faculty, pre- and post-workshop, “In the lecture portion of your course, please estimate the percentage of class time spent on active learning strategies.”  I’ve been suspicious of this question from the start, since it’s so subjective.  When we compared responses pre and post workshop, we found the following:

Picture1So, yeah, not so consistent, just one month later.  I would argue that their practices probably haven’t changed that much — and that being in the workshop probably changed their perception of their practice, rather than the practice itself.  Maybe some people increased their level of reported use of active learning, because they’d just been in a workshop about the importance of active learning and so they were biased to report that they follow the workshop recommendations.  Perhaps others realized that what they called “active learning” isn’t so much what education folks consider active learning, so they changed their reports to be lower than before.  Of course, the reports are within 20%, so that’s not too bad if you wave your hands at it — but some changed their reports by quite a bit.

Other work has also found that it’s even hard to ask people what teaching methods they use, such as “Peer Instruction.”  Henderson and Dancy have found that people will say that they use a technique like Peer Instruction, but they also report that they don’t do core pieces of that technique, like having students talk to each other.  So, is that really Peer Instruction?  Often instructors won’t recognize that these instructional techniques include certain key features; they just think that if they have students work with their peers at all, then they’re doing Peer Instruction.

There are a few surveys of teaching practices that try to get at the specifics of practice in a more systematic way.  There is a really wonderful recent paper which reviews all the survey instruments for measuring postsecondary teaching practice by Williams et al.  I recommend it highly for anyone interested in this area, as it discusses instruments that I wasn’t even aware of.

One of the ones that is in pretty broad use is the Teaching Practices Inventory, developed by Wieman and Gilbert.  It’s intended to be a quick (10 minute) survey of a variety of research-based practices.  At the link above, you can take the TPI, and get anonymous results that compare you to national TPI results, and you can download a Qualtric version of it to administer yourself  — handy!  A lot of people are using the TPI, so it seems to fit a particular niche in STEM education evaluation.  It seems to stack up well in the Williams et al. article, but I need to read that in more detail.

But we often need to identify not just how a class is taught, but how it has changed.  Here are some ways we’ve used the teaching practices survey (and the COPUS observation tool) to document change:

  • Administer to an instructor teaching a course during a “baseline” semester, before a course is modified, and then give to an instructor teaching the transformed course.
  • Identify a similar “comparison” course, with similar student population, structure, and place in the curriculum — and give the survey to the instructor teaching that course as a comparison.
  • Give to instructors in a department as a whole at the beginning of a large educational project, and then to the department as a whole later in the project.  You can see large shifts in the average scores.
  • Give to an individual instructor, along with comparative data from other instructors, to generate a discussion on reflective teaching practice.

I’d love to hear others’ experiences with some of these instruments, and other uses of them.  One thing that many people argue we do NOT want to do with these instruments is use them to evaluate teaching practices.  But why the heck not?  Isn’t it a better measure than teaching evaluations?  I can understand not using measures of student learning, since that’s not always within the instructor’s direct control, but their teaching practices are in their control.  We have this culture of choice in higher education, in which we don’t dictate how teachers teach, and there is pushback at anything that looks like an attempt to control teaching methods.   I do feel there should be choice; but also more accountability than there is in the current system.

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Measuring teaching practice: COPUS observations

April 14, 2016

I’ve said this before, but I *am* going to start posting in this blog again!  I miss the chance to share ideas and reflect on what I’m learning. So today I’m going to talk about something I’ve been involved with lately, which is the problem of how to measure teaching practice.  There are many of […]

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Take a MOOC in research-based teaching!

August 25, 2015

I had the good fortune to be involved in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) aimed at teaching graduate students and new faculty about evidence-based teaching strategies.  The MOOC is running again this year — check it out! An Introduction to Evidence-Based STEM Teaching is run through the CIRTL network (great folks, good mission, great […]

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Drawing to Learn: Sketching and Peer Instruction

August 4, 2015

Many aspects of learning require the ability to visualize – the structure of the cell, the interconnected relationships of historical figures, the forces on a figure skater, the shape of a population distribution graph. But students rarely have the opportunity to create their own visualizations – a critical part of learning. This month’s article will […]

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Everything you ever wanted to know about peer instruction: Part 2 (How to use it).

July 2, 2015

This is a continuation of last month’s post, summarizing the results of a recent literature review of Peer Instruction,  Research-Based Implementation of Peer Instruction: A literature Review. In this month’s post, I’ll review the results on how to use peer instruction effectively. Peer instruction is the recommended use of clickers, following the following cycle: Instructor lectures for a […]

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The history of Tutorials at CU Boulder

June 15, 2015

I’ve got a new short video to share, focusing on the history of Tutorials at CU, featuring our own Steven Pollock: This is part of some work I’ve been doing for, which makes evidence-based resources available for physics instructors. All videos for the project, including our short introduction to Tutorials, can be found on the YouTube […]

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Everything you ever wanted to know about peer instruction: Part 1 (How PI Helps Students Learn)

June 2, 2015

Confused about what the literature recommends for best use of clickers? Want to have all the information summarized and synthesized for you in a nice, trustworthy reference? Well, I’ve certainly been hungry for such a reference, and now we have it: A team of scholars in chemistry education have just published a very comprehensive review across […]

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NSF 2015 Teaching and Learning video showcase – going on now!

May 11, 2015

This week there’s a great opportunity to learn more about lots and lots of NSF-funded STEM education projects.  Check out this showcase of more than 100 videos. The videos offer a 3-minute glance into the variety of innovative work being funded by the National Science Foundation in education. You can do stuff during this week: […]

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Free Webinar: ClickerStarter for College Faculty

April 28, 2015

I’m giving another free webinar for i>clicker next Tuesday, May 5th, at 3pm ET.  This is called “ClickerStarter for College Faculty” and is intended as a quick primer on the effective use of clickers for those who want an overview of the benefits and best uses of clickers. Have you heard about using clickers in class, […]

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Reacting to their votes: Instructor agility

April 10, 2015

You don’t know how your students will vote on a clicker question, but you can anticipate and prepare yourself for the likely outcomes. It’s really important to use a clicker system which lets you have a sneak-preview of student responses – as i>clicker does, shown below. This lets you “hold back” the histogram from students […]

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New meta-analysis: Active learning improves student performance

March 27, 2015

It’s not quite so new anymore, but still exciting! While we have more and more data that active learning techniques improve student learning, this field has been sorely needing a systematic review of the evidence on active learning. Recently, a crackerjack team of education researchers stepped up to the plate with just what I’ve been […]

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Tutorials in Introductory Physics at CU

March 24, 2015

I just finished a short video on the use of Tutorials in Introductory Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, and wanted to share it with you all.  It gives a good overview of Tutorials and why you would want to use them. You can find out more about Tutorials here. Here is a link […]

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Using clickers in small classes

March 14, 2015

As more instructors are trying clickers and peer instruction in their courses, I get more questions about how to use them in small classes. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned through talking with faculty who teach courses of various sizes. The first question I ask is, “what do you mean by small?” […]

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Student motivation to engage with clicker questions

February 27, 2015

I’ve been doing a lot of reading in the educational psychology literature lately, to better understand what the learning sciences has to tell us about student motivation – and how that might relate to what we should do as instructors to motivate students to engage in clicker questions. I wanted to share what I’ve found […]

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Learn the latest advances in physics education… from your living room

January 22, 2015

I’m excited to announce that the New Faculty Workshop videos are online! This is a project that I helped with, doing the filming and editing of the presentations.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, the Workshop for New Faculty in Physics and Astronomy is a 3-day workshop for new faculty in physics and […]

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Videos on scientific teaching

January 9, 2015

I wanted to make a pitch for a very nice set of videos on research-based teaching methods:  the  iBiology Scientific Teaching Series.  This is a series of videos about Active Learning in undergraduate biology education, but is applicable across STEM.  They are looking to publicize their videos, and get feedback! From the producers:   The videos include […]

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Feedback codes: Giving student feedback while maintaining sanity

January 5, 2015

One of the most important things in learning is timely, targeted feedback.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that in order to learn to do something well, we need someone to tell us… Specifically, what we can do to improve Soon after we’ve completed the task. Unfortunately, most feedback that students receive is too general […]

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Learning, and assessing, collaboratively: Group Exams

December 29, 2014

I am one of many who are convinced that people learn better in collaboration with others.  However, there’s always this somewhat disturbing schizophrenia when it comes to assessment — we spend all this time emphasizing group work and collaboration, but come exam time — it’s everyone for him or herself. So I was very excited […]

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Free webinar, December 11th: ClickerStarter

December 5, 2014

I’m giving another free webinar for i>clicker this coming Thursday, December 11th, at 10 am ET (7 am PT).  This is called “ClickerStarter for College Faculty” and is intended as a quick primer on the effective use of clickers for those who want an overview of the benefits and uses of clickers. Have you heard […]

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