This summer, Carl Wieman will host a workshop at Stanford to train STEM disciplinary experts to become educational specialists working in departments, in a short, intensive version of the postdoc training developed at CU Boulder’s Science Education Initiative and the sister CWSEI at University of British Columbia. 

If you need to get someone up to speed as a science education support personnel, this will likely be a great experience, and an unusual opportunity to meet others creating similar programs.

Below is more information, with more information in this PDF workshop schedule:

Department education specialist training workshop at Stanford University, summer 2017. 


This six day workshop run by Carl Wieman will provide training for disciplinary experts (typically Ph.D.s) to become education specialists that work in departments to assist faculty in transforming their teaching.  The model for these disciplinary education experts are the science education specialists used with great success in transforming teaching at the University of British Columbia and University of Colorado in their Science Education Initiatives. For more information see and other information on the CWSEI website.

As shown in detail on the following pages, this training program will replicate in six intensive days the training program developed and refined in the SEIs, which is also much the same as Carl Wieman’s 10 week graduate course in science learning and teaching.  Participants will be expected to complete the necessary reading (two relatively easy books and a few articles) before the workshop, and at the workshop they will discuss the readings, create and revise a set of 10 different activities for a course based on the ideas in the readings, and receive feedback from Wieman and other participants.  By the end, they should be well-versed in the appropriate research on learning, and be prepared to create research-based instructional activities in courses based on this research.  This will also prepare them to work with other instructors to design and implement such activities in a range of courses.

Anticipated participants will be 1) relatively new Ph. D. s with a strong interest in teaching who have been hired to work in a department to implement SEI type transformations of the teaching, and 2) long term lecturers who are to take on a similar role of working with other faculty to transform teaching throughout their department.  If there is sufficient room and interest, tenure track faculty with an interest in working with other faculty to improve teaching will also be accepted.

The specific dates of the workshop will be determined by the preferences of potential attendees and availability of facilities and will be a Monday through Saturday some time between the last week of June and the end of August.  The cost has not yet been set, but it will mostly be the cost of travel, room, and board in the Palo Alto area for participants.

Interested potential attendees, or departments who expect to be hiring potential attendees, should contact Rachel Knowles,  with an expression of interest, the anticipated number of people your department would like to send, and any constraints or preferences you have for workshop dates.


Theories of Change

by Stephanie Chasteen on November 4, 2016

I have been wanting to blog more, but have been having trouble finding as many “transportable” ideas to share publicly, now that my work is more focused on broader, institutional change.  But one thing that I have been working a lot with, which is becoming more broadly recognized as useful in educational projects, are Theories of Change.

A Theory of Change, broadly speaking, is a diagram or description that uncovers the (often unspoken) rationale of how a program works.  A cartoon you may be familiar with is an excellent depiction of what a Theory of Change is intended to do: (Thanks to for the idea)

Credit Sidney Harris Credit Sidney Harris

If you are familiar with a logic model (which usually outlines Activities, Outputs and Outcomes, and other similar aspects of a project), a Theory of Change is somewhat similar — except that it provides the detailed description of how each input and action is intended to lead to each outcome, and the assumptions underlying those connections.  Thus, a Theory of Change is more complex than a logic model.

Why a Theory of Change?  From the words of Mark Connolly and Elaine Seymour:

Theories of change matter because they are usually implicit, and what remains unseen cannot be questioned.

A crucial factor in designing successful reform efforts is making programmatic theories of change explicit. (Developing a Theory of Change) can expose predictive assumptions that do not hold up for various reasons. Among the most common pitfalls are not basing implied or stated theories of change in reality or evidence, failing to consider plausible alternate explanations, relying on limited perspectives, and basing them exclusively on strong affective commitments.

Below is an example Theory of Change from Project SuperWomen, which helps domestic violence survivors to be self-sufficient through marketable skills training:

The circles identify the inherent assumptions at those steps.  For example, Assumption D is that “women can learn non-traditional skills and compete in the marketplace.”  If that assumption is false, then all that training won’t lead to the hoped-for outcome.  A more detailed Theory of Change will then place the interventions along these lines, such as the fact that in order for women to serve in internships, the program matched women with internship opportunities.  I have used this Project Superwomen example a lot when developing a detailed Theory of Change for a client — you can read more about the Project Superwomen Theory of Change at this detailed presentation.

The great thing once you have a Theory of Change is that you can:

  • Have a framework for understanding successes and failures (is some outcome not happening?  Is an assumption incorrect?)
  • Develop a robust assessment plan that measures what you really care about
  • Be more likely to get funded! (Funders like Theories of Change)

More resources:


I am such a good physicist….

October 28, 2016

Check it out and you’ll see why I’m posting this video… You have to be patient for about 3 minutes, and you’ll see why I’m posting this.  And no, I had never heard of this guy before!  What a kick!

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“Teacher primers” on physics PhET sims published!

August 5, 2016

Over the past several years, I’ve been working with the PhET Interactive Simulations to determine how best to do video “walk-throughs” of their simulations for teachers, showing the main features and how they can be used in a teaching setting.  We call these short videos “teacher primers,” and I’ve got a set of them that […]

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Faculty perceptions around research based assessment (#AAPTsm16)

July 19, 2016

(liveblogging from the AAPT).  Adrian Madsen shared some work to identify faculty ideas and beliefs around research based assessments in physics, such as concept inventories (think FCI) or non-content instruments (e.g., CLASS).  This work is part of a project by to collect research-based assessments on a website, to provide a more coherent portal to […]

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eAlliances: Mentoring for women (#AAPTsm16)

July 19, 2016

Another interesting resource from the AAPT conference:  An online mentoring community for female physicists.  The eAlliances project ( provides peer mentoring networks so women can get advice, support, and connections to other women physics (and astronomy) faculty.  This sounds awesome, and a real opportunity for providing the kinds of mentoring that women need.  There is […]

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Teaching: The Ultimate State of Happiness (#AAPTsm16)

July 19, 2016

(Liveblogging from the AAPT)  I always find Eugenia Etkina to be inspirational, and today is no exception.  In the session, The Art and Science of Teaching, she got a chance to philosophize about her teaching.  She’s noticed that, no matter how experienced she is as a teacher, she always feels that she runs out of […]

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Make your own interactive video vignettes (#AAPTsm16)

July 18, 2016

(Liveblogging from the AAPT).  I just learned about a really helpful tool for creating short videos, which seems useful for flipped classrooms in multiple disciplines:  The Interactive Video Vignettes.  These vignettes are more than just a video, it includes a simple “wrapper” where students can make predictions about what will happen in the video (including […]

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Postdoctoral positions in STEM education

June 14, 2016

Just a reminder that I’ve been actively updating my ongoing list of postdoctoral positions in STEM education!  Feel free to add your own.

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How to help students engage in active learning?

May 27, 2016

So, about 4 years ago now, Andrew Boudreaux asked me a simple question:  “Hey, wouldn’t it be neat to gather materials to help instructors avoid student pushback to active learning strategies?”   What I thought would be a fun little one month project to archive some strategies has turned into a detailed research project.  Thanks […]

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Envisioning my business: Consulting for educational change

May 13, 2016

I’m in the process of re-visioning my business, and would love some help from my community.  My business, sciencegeekgirl enterprises, has been really successful and brought me great joy — and I’m wanting to thrust my energies for fully into it.  However, my vision has morphed and crystallized over the years, and it’s time to […]

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Postdoctoral positions in STEM education

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 7/10) Physics Education Research in Sweden The Swedish National resource centre for physics education ( at Lund university has an opening […]

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Measuring teaching practice: Surveys

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 […]

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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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