Postdoctoral positions in STEM education

by Stephanie Chasteen on 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?

by Stephanie Chasteen on 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 Andrew!  🙂

I’m not writing now to share what I’ve learned, yet, but I’m close!  I aim to publish a detailed series of articles on PhysPort by the end of the summer with detailed guidance for various issues with student engagement, including specific examples of how these strategies can play out in the classroom.  I’ve got survey results, a literature review, and examples from instructors all over the country.  It’s great.  If you want to know a little about what I’ve found, click here, but that material is quite old.

What I would love is some feedback on the overall organization of the information that I’m putting together.  I’m finding it difficult to give one entry point to the strategies, because different people will come in with different types of needs.  One might just be looking for ideas for how to grade in a way that keeps students engaged.  Another might know that they have an issue with a classroom structure that isn’t very supportive of active learning.  Another might be struggling to get students to work productively in groups.  One might have low student evaluations.

Below is the organization of the materials that I’m thinking of right now.  Does this seem “navigable” at this point, do you see yourself clicking on some of these?  The actual content would be repeated across several categories (this is unavoidable with this organization) — for example, “reveal personal information” is relevant for creating a positive classroom atmosphere, but it’s also a strategy that falls in the category of “what can I say and do?” and lastly, it might be relevant for getting better student evaluations.  This makes things complex, so I was trying to not have so many entry points.

So, imagine you click on a link that says  “How can I help students engage in active learning?” and you find this series of articles that you can click around in:


How can I help students engage in active learning?

1. What general factors and strategies are important in student engagement?

Specific articles:

a. Introductory overview
b. – Create respectful, positive class atmosphere
c. – Create appropriate expectations
d. – Support student identity and belonging
e. – Create incentives and accountability for participation
f. – Help students reflect on their own learning
g. – Give students a sense of ownership and control
h. – Give students a sense of competence and confidence
i. – Convey that learning is a process and failure is normal
j. – Be consistent

2. What can I do on the first day to support student engagement?
3. What can I say and do in the class to support student engagement?
4. What classroom policies and norms best support student engagement?
5. How can I use feedback and grades to support student engagement?
6. How can I design tasks that support student engagement?
7. How can I support positive group dynamics?
8. How do I respond to specific student complaints or problems?

Sub articles:

a. – A few vocal students disrupt the class
b. – I get low student evaluations
c. – Students complain that I treat them like children
d. – Students complain that the activities aren’t helpful
e. – Students don’t put in effort or are off-task
f. – Students are discouraged by the active learning
g. – Students complain that I’m not telling htem the answer
h. – Students don’t feel safe to share their ideas with their peers
i. – Students want me to lecture more
– I don’t know what my students think or why they’re unhappy


NOTE THAT THE SPECIFIC *STRATEGIES* ARE REPEATED ACROSS THREE PLACES:  They’re in #1, #8, and then appropriately in #2-7 (which are mostly exclusive of one another) but it’s not always the same list…

Below are examples of what might be in these articles.

Article in #1b:  (general factors) Create respectful classroom atmosphere

Detailed introductory blurb with links to relevant research.

  • Then….
To do Example Type of strategy
Reveal personal information Talk about yourself the first day Teacher talk
Start with group activities on the first day Game of Science and other authentic activities First day activity
Facilitate discussion positively Careful with corrections, used words such as… Teacher talk, classroom norms


Article in #2:  What can I say and do in the class to support student engagement?

Short intro blurb.


To do Example Why is this important?
Reveal personal information Talk about yourself the first day Creates a respectful classroom atmosphere (links to article about this)
Put yourself alongside students Kneel down next to student desks Creates a respectful classroom atmosphere
Show caring Use words such as…. Supports students psychological needs, identity and belonging


Article in #8:  (Student complaints) I get low student evaluations

General discussion of literature on student evaluations, some tips, such as “it takes time,” “make sure you’re not doing too much,” “help students see the benefit of the techniques” with links to articles under general strategies (such as creating respectful classroom atmosphere, help students reflect on their learning).

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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 6/22) Postdoctoral Researcher in physics education RIT School of Physics and Astronomy announces an opening for a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in […]

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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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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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