Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts
On the politics of teaching reform
The past few decades have witnessed three developments that motivate the teaching and learning reform movement that we witness today: the changing student population, the revolution in information technology, and the growth of the body of research on teaching and learning. On today's campuses students come in all ages, from a variety of social and intellectual backgrounds. The invention of the microprocessor in the late sixties brought in the personal computer and electronic media. The advent of the world wide web a decade ago brought instant dissemination of information - reliable and unreliable - and around the clock electronic connectivity. The past three or four decades have seen a striking variety of approaches to studying how people learn. Efforts are converging from cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, as well as education research in general and in specific disciplines, such as physics education research.
To be effective in the 21st century, faculty and institutions of higher learning will be different from their predecessors. Teaching activities assume a more prominent role in the lives of faculty and assume a higher priority for the institution. Faculty will need to add pedagogical knowledge to their expertise credentials and the academy will need to rethink its rewards structure to motivate the faculty to do so. During the transition, the agents of change will have to learn to address the many challenges facing the faculty as they shift their teaching paradigm. Much is being written about these issues and this essay describes some of these challenges and suggests some possible strategies to deal with them.
For more information please contact Gregor Novak at firstname.lastname@example.org
My experience with academic reform comes from eight years with the Just-in-Time Teaching  initiative and from my long-term association with the directors of the Freshman Learning Project at Indiana University . This essay captures my experiences with these two pedagogical innovations.
These many years devoted to the development of teaching techniques and tools to help my students on an urban campus culminated in the development of a web-based teaching strategy dubbed JiTT (Just-in-Time Teaching) which my colleagues and I have been perfecting over the past eight years. During this time we have conducted over one hundred national workshops and as a result we now have close to 300 faculty at 100 plus institutions developing materials and classroom techniques. In this process we have significant first-hand encounters with the politics of reform. We measure the success of our proselytizing efforts by the number of workshop participants who join our ranks and become stable JiTT practitioners. Conducting JiTT workshops we are learning that the "selling" of the method of presentation is just as important as the content of the workshop, thus this essay on the politics of reform.
My views on academic reform have also been influenced by my association and collaboration with the directors of the Freshman Learning Program (FLP) at IU, Joan Middendorf and David Pace.
FLP supports faculty to find new ways to help students learn more in large introductory courses. The program rests on the assumption that the process of rethinking approaches to teaching is best done with a community of teachers and is best disseminated within that same community. Each year IUPUI develops a cohort of faculty leaders for FLP committed to student learning. 
Most faculty sincerely want their students to learn. When asked about their goals for the classroom they might come up with something like the following: I hope that they pick the basic ideas and learn to think better. Lately in my teaching I have also been trying to push the idea of making observations about the world.
I hope to give them a flavor of the experimental side of physics to balance the textbook theory and show them that the world has lots of surprises in it if you know to look for them. 
When asked how he would assess the progress toward the goal, the author of the above quote responded:
As far as the basic ideas go, I get a sense of this on the tests and exams. The rest of it is hard to quantify and I haven't made any efforts to do so. I can get an idea of thinking process if I work one-on-one with a student. Occasionally a student will mention a previous activity in class or in a discussion, which leads me to believe that it made an impact on their understanding. Basically I teach the way I do because I enjoy it more. Everyone learns differently and some students prefer my approach and others don't. Lately my biggest complaint has been that I do not teach to the test enough – my interpretation, based on student critiques, is that some of them want more example problems done in class.
This is not a typical response. This faculty member has the making of an innovator - or at least of an acceptor of innovation. Notice his emphasis on thinking, on interacting with students in class, on tacit dissatisfaction with what the literature calls ersatz learning and inauthentic testing . When asked about assessing the progress towards the goal a more typical response, another participant in the survey remarked:
It's very apparent at tests, final exams, and final grades whether or not everyone passes.
This is the easy way out. To truly make one's teaching learner centered, assessment centered and knowledge centered requires a substantial amount of commitment and effort.
I. Why Reform Teaching?
Teaching is an ancient endeavor, subject to incremental growth and improvements like any other human activity. Sometimes, however, the change becomes more rapid and intense as a result of some important historic development, e.g. the invention of the printing press. On such occasions the change can be called a revolution, or at least a reform. During the last thirty years, and particularly during the last decade, three developments have occurred that produced the widespread change in approaches to university and college teaching and learning in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) that amount to at least a significant reform, if not a revolution:
- the changing student population;
- the revolution in information technology;
- the growth of the body of research on teaching and learning.
The changing student body
On today's campuses students come in all ages, from a variety of social and intellectual backgrounds. On my home campus, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, with almost 30,000 students, a huge percentage, as much as 70%, are the first in their family to go to college. This is quite different from what many faculty remember from their school days.
The information technology revolution
The invention of the microprocessor in the late sixties brought us the personal computer and electronic media. The advent of the world wide web a decade ago brought instant dissemination of information, reliable and unreliable, as well as around-the-clock electronic connectivity. As in many previous technological advances the education community saw much potential for the good.
Learning technologies should be designed to increase, and not to reduce, the amount of personal contact between students and faculty on intellectual issues. 
And yet: We watched as commerce was transformed, as entertainment was transformed, as personal communication was transformed, and we kept waiting for the moment when higher education would be transformed in the same way. . . . Our limited use of technology thus far has been at the margins, to provide modest additional resources to classroom pedagogy or to attempt to extend the physical reach of our current classroom-centered, seat-time-based teaching paradigm. 
Much has happened, of course. Students now come to class with laptops and cell phones, they do on-line homework and they "google" for assignment information. Some of us, teachers and learners, are actually involved in what we perceive as a substantive, meaningful application of technology in teaching and learning.
The past three or four decades have seen a striking variety of approaches to the study of how people learn. Efforts from many different sciences are converging. The publication How People Learn , from which the quotes below are taken, describes work relating to cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, as well as in education research in general, and in specific disciplines, for example physics education research. These efforts are revealing what principles of knowledge organization underlie people's problem solving capabilities, how people transfer learning in one setting to another, how cultural and social norms and expectations influence learning, how learning changes the physical structure of the brain, and how these results can be used by faculty to design new and better learning environments.
While a good deal of the learning research focuses on children, much is applicable to teaching and learning in higher education environments. With a slight risk of oversimplification, we can summarize for the purposes of this essay, the research results in How People Learn  as follows:
Centering on the learner. Learner-centered teachers present students with "just manageable difficulties" -that is, challenging enough to maintain engagement, but not so difficult as to lead to discouragement. They must therefore have an understanding of their students' knowledge, skill levels, and interests.
Centering on assessment. Ongoing assessments designed to make students' thinking visible to both teachers and students are essential. . . . An important feature of assessments in these classrooms is that they be learner-friendly: they are not the Friday quizzes for which information is memorized the night before, and for which the student is given a grade that ranks him or her with respect to classmates. Rather, these assessments should provide students with opportunities to revise and improve their thinking, help students see their own progress over the course of weeks or months, and help teachers identify problems that need to be remedied (problems that may not be visible without the assessments).
Centering on knowledge. The content knowledge necessary for expertise in a discipline needs to be differentiated from the pedagogical content knowledge that underlies effective teaching. The latter includes information about typical difficulties that students encounter as they attempt to learn about a set of topics; typical paths students must traverse in order to achieve understanding; and sets of potential strategies for helping students overcome the difficulties that they encounter. . . . Pedagogical content knowledge is not equivalent to knowledge of a content domain plus a generic set of teaching strategies; instead, teaching strategies differ across disciplines.
II. Making Change Happen
As the authors of How People Learn  point out, education research reveals a lot about the process of teaching and learning, but it offers no specifics about lesson and curriculum design, nor is it much help in devising strategies to persuade faculty to accept the teaching reform. That job falls to faculty who are pedagogical innovators and to the staff that provides the academic support to these faculty.
In what follows we want to look at what makes a faculty want to innovate and what it takes to get faculty to follow the innovators and make the change.
In the report on the CUSE workshop  Susan Millar describes the characteristic features of successful education innovators. She organizes these characteristics into areas pertaining to general personality features, attitudes and habits of interpersonal interaction, learning and teaching practices, and processes for changing one's own practices. While most innovators promote pedagogical improvements, there are some who work on curricular reform. The latter task is more difficult because it gets into institutional politics to a greater degree than the former since groups of faculty, rather than single individuals, are responsible for curricular development.
Personality features of successful innovators. They tend to be risk takers and hard workers. They often have a sense of mission and they stick to commitments. They are savvy and persistent about obtaining resources and take pride in doing a good job for the students and the institution. Many are charismatic, but what Susan Millar does not mention is that they can also be perceived by fellow faculty as opinionated and radical, thus perhaps less effective in communicating the new ideas as early adopters of innovation.
Interpersonal interactions. The innovators listen respectfully to students ("there are no dumb questions") and they build on students' questions and ideas, i.e. they follow the learner centered and assessment centered paradigm. They view students as potential peers, not as outsiders. They don't maintain constant control but relinquish some to students.
They admit mistakes and use mistake correction as an opportunity to model the scientific process to their students. They don't consider teaching a burden and take pride in their students' accomplishments.
Learning and teaching practices. Teaching is an intellectual exercise, not less exciting than scholarly work. Learning about learning is part of their scholarship. Good teaching demands an ongoing effort. This is the knowledge centered paradigm in action.
They have high expectations of students – beyond "knowing that" to "knowing what" to "knowing why".
They believe that given the chance, and if faculty demand it, students will accept the challenge to become independent thinkers.
Processes for changing their own teaching practices. Innovators are proactive and pragmatic problem solvers. They transform concerns into actionable problems. They engage with peer learning communities and networks. Once they are certain that what they have is valuable, they look for research results and seek other people in diverse disciplines.
For more on Susan Millar’s description of successful innovators click here
What Does it Take To Get Faculty to Change?
Over the past eight years we have conducted more than a hundred JiTT workshops in a rich variety of settings, ranging from short sessions in a departmental setting in one discipline, through half-day workshops at professional society meetings, to national multidisciplinary events such as the PKAL institutes and our annual Chautauqua short course. One does not have to be a psychologist or anthropologist to notice big differences in faculty attitudes in these workshops. The venue, the organization, the institutional support and encouragrment make a huge difference in how the workshop is accepted by the faculty and how much buy-in one gets. We learned this by experience, but we soon realized that much professional expertise exists on the subject. Since we have taken advantage of the insights of these experts, our workshops have become more productive.
III. The Literature On Change
Restructuring the role of faculty is a monumental undertaking, more difficult and more significant than the administrative restructuring that must precede it. If successful, faculty members will change their present teaching practices and become primarily concerned with enhancing and facilitating student learning. To accomplish this, many faculty will need to acquire additional skills. 
The literature  identifies certain "truths" about people and change:
Resistance. "people resist change";
Vision and Key People. "people need to see what they are being asked to do" and "people are influenced by other people's vision of change";
Acceptance Stages. "people accept change in relatively predictable stages" .
"Faculty resist change? Doesn't everybody?" In our customary Q&A sessions after the JiTT workshops, the same patterns emerge most of the time. It is remarkable to note that these same patterns of resistance are found by leaders of the IUPUI FLP initiative. The factors contributing to resistance are: time, motivation, experience, control, expertise, effort, fear, rewards.
How much time will this involve? Particularly how much more time per lesson than what I spend now?
When presented with innovative, active-learner centered pedagogies, faculty ask these questions, sensing that the transition will require some significant initial investment of time to switch to the new paradigm, and more time to be spent on each lesson after the transition. The honest answer to their questions is: "yes, it will take more time per lesson. How much more depends on what the current practice is. If it takes fifty minutes per lesson now (just class time for a class you've taught many times before) it will take considerably more. Maybe double. If you now carefully prepare each lesson every time you teach the course, the new paradigm will just involve spending the time differently."
What should motivate me to know where the students are and plan my lessons accordingly? What is wrong with following a carefully planned syllabus? is another set of questions to be addressed to motivate faculty to explore new pedagogies.
Motivation is a big hurdle. There is no progress if that hurdle is not overcome. While there is plenty of research evidence that student-centered approaches yield better learning outcomes, some faculty need more convincing arguments. It is sometimes helpful to place a person in the position of a novice. In our multidisciplinary JiTT workshops we group people with partners from other disciplines and ask them to describe their specialties to eachother. It does not take long for any of them to realize that a passive description is not sufficient. The facilitators for the FLP have a similar approach, asking potential faculty to visit an introductory class in a discipline not their own and report on the experience.
Of course, we regularly meet faculty who already sense that in their own classroom everything is not going well. Often that is the reason they are attending the workshop.
Why can I not teach the way I was taught? It worked for me.
In response to this question, "Which part worked for you? All the intro classes you took or your major classes that really interested you? It never really worked, did it? Most of us suffered through required classes that were supposed to make us into an educated citizen and only woke up in our own specialty. If you teach a large enrollment intro class you are not cloning yourself. You are teaching people who are not dumb, they are different" .
If I switch into an active learner mode, will I be able to function in the ensuing chaos?
This a legitimate concern. The modus operandi in the classroom will need to change. Quoting David Hestenes :
Managing "The Quality of Classroom Discourse" is the single most important factor in teaching with interactive engagement methods. This factor accounts for wide differences in class scores [on the force concept inventory (FCI)] among [physics faculty] using the same curriculum materials and purportedly the same teaching methods. Effective discourse management requires careful planning and preparation as well as skill and experience.
Sharing experience with other faculty who use interactive methods and getting support from the campus academic support personnel will help address the control issue.
I am an expert in my own discipline but I don't know much about learning. Will I have to acquire additional expertise?
Yes, that is what knowledge-centered teaching is all about. Some students in some graduate schools are getting some of this now; not nearly enough students, or enough knowledge. To prepare future faculty to function in new teaching and learning environments the academy as a whole will need to adjust.
Can I just change a small part of what I do now, or do I need to overhaul my entire approach to the course; new syllabus, new assignments, new tools?
You can start small, one step per week. Moreover, you do not have to develop learning all the resources. Much has already been developed over the past decade of reform and most leading innovators are willing to share resources. The teaching center on campus may be able to help also.
Will my students accept the change? Will content coverage suffer? Will my evaluations go south?
Most adopters of innovative pedagogies report that, with time, most students accept and eventually like the changes. Giving up some coverage, in exchange for timely information on where and when students need the teacher and where and when they can work on their own, ends up benefitting both teacher and student. If content coverage is a concern, a look at the attendance record from past offerings of the course will often be persuasive evidence that coverage did not reach as many students as one might wish. In fact, when active learning methods are introduced, attendance usually improves; sometimes significantly. Faculty who adopt JiTT pedagogy report attendance in the mid-ninety percent ranges. The reports on student evaluations are mixed. There are too many variables in the problem to draw any conclusions. The personality of the instructor and the initial effort to increase student buy-in certainly play a major role. Again, comparing notes with successful practitioners can help.
My school rewards research. How can I siphon off all this teaching time and not hurt my advancement chances?
That is a valid concern that cannot be addressed by individual faculty alone. We are in a reform era when many people are working on changing the culture. Until institutions of higher education embrace the new teaching paradigms, innovation and accepting innovation will carry some risk.
2. Vision and Key People
To embrace change faculty need a clear understanding of what they are asked to do and what kind of support they can count on as they make the change. In JiTT workshops we find that it is very difficult to give newcomers a clear picture of what their world will look like after they make the shift to a new way of teaching. Ideally we would send them to visit an active practitioner's classroom or perhaps invite them to co-teach for a while. As the next best thing, we demo the technique with the participants as students and them ask them to prepare a sample lesson to be presented on the last day of the workshop. They do this in groups, preferably with faculty from different disciplines, which is an important step in getting them out of the disciplinary boxes as they have to search for a theme that the group can share. Usually this exercise makes them see familiar topics in a new light from a new perspective. It is wonderful to see a mathematician, a chemist and a biologist prepare an interactive lesson on an issue, relating to pollution, for example.
In addition, we have learned to identify and cultivate what the IUPUI FLP directors call "faculty opinion leaders and sponsors." Opinion leaders are faculty members who have influence with the faculty, are neither the first nor the last to make a change, represent the norms of the faculty group, are at the hub of the faculty communication network, and are relied on by their peers for good judgments. These people are usually not innovators themselves. Unfortunately, the innovators often lack credibility, sometimes because of their style, sometimes because of their reputation as oddballs (they'll try anything new.) Sponsors are people in position of power and influence who can lend their support to the innovative change.
Innovation initiatives can deliberately set out to identify potential opinion leaders and invite them to workshops on teaching reform. We identify potential key people among the group of self-selected participants in the FLP JiTT workshops. We then make every effort to maintain contact and offer support for their follow-up work.
3. Acceptance Stages
Literature  suggests that people in general and faculty in particular accept change in five predictable stages: awareness, curiosity, visualizing, tryout, and use.
To even think about change, people have to be aware that alternatives to the status quo are out there. In this stage people are passive observers, they are not actively seeking information and they are not taking sides. The change agents' job at this stage is to present the information gently without overwhelming their audience. When presenting workshops at professional society meetings, such as AAPT, the participants are often in this, or maybe the next stage.
Once faculty become aware of the options of the work of peers, they often want to know more before they make a commitment. At this curiosity stage the change agent's job is to provide information.
Once people's curiosity is aroused they are to visualize mentally and to tryout what the change could mean for them. For example, the participants in our JiTT workshops who are in the visualization stage obtain the greatest benefits. Participants in the well-advertised national workshops, such as The Chautauqua Short Course, come to us prepared for the demonstration of the strategy and for a chance to develop a prototype in their own discipline to be critiqued by the workshop leaders and their co-participants. Particularly able and motivated participants actually get far enough into the tryout stage to leave the workshop with a set of sample materials to take to their classroom.
Returning back to their departments, faculty move into the use phase. For JiTT, and many other initiatives, this is the critical phase. To sustain the change faculty new to the fold need support: technical, pedagogical and professional. In the JiTT community we rely on a network of practitioners who offer support and advise. A more formal support system is in the works as we build JiTTDL, a JiTT digital library . Professional support and recognition has to come from administrators and peers.
Patterns of Acceptance
Some people eagerly embrace change, others accept change only reluctantly or not at all. Roger  observes that, like most human traits, the acceptance rates follow the normal distribution bell curve. At one end are the Innovators (2.5%), who generate the new ideas. These are followed by Early Acceptors (13.5%) and the Majority (68%). At the other end are the Latecomers (16%) who are difficult to persuade and may never accept the change. If a new idea is properly introduced and it if offers good and useful change, with follow-up support, the first two groups, the innovators and the early acceptors will come along.
In the Early Acceptors group there are opinion leaders and acceptable innovators. As agents of change, these people are most important. They usually have no official position of power, but they have considerable influence over others' attitudes and behaviors. They are known for their careful judgments and good decisions, and they have the trust and respect of their peers. They are usually tenured, they teach large intro classes, they are open to new ideas, and they are not considered mavericks or oddballs. These are the faculty that the FLP directors at Indiana University consciously pick for their summer seminar. They then become opinion leaders and bring the middle 68% along. In the JiTT workshops we pay particular attention to potential early acceptors who can then go home and spread the word.
Interestingly, some of the faculty most knowledgeable about innovation are unacceptable as models for their peers. Their advocacy may seem odd, even threatening. They are often overly enthusiastic and may turn people off.
J. Midendorf's "Finding key faculty to influence change"  has an interesting resource investment v. payoff matrix that might be instructive for campus leaders taking responsibility for moving colleagues through stages from resistance to acceptance.
Opinion leaders with a positive attitude toward innovation offer a big payoff for a small resource investment. Opinion leaders with a negative attitude toward change may be a large investment challenge, but in the end, they can provide a big payoff. Similarly, Innovators and Latecomers offer small payoffs with small and large investments respectively.
- Dominance of research over teaching;
- Departmental monopoly over occasions for faculty interaction;
- Tradition of faculty independence;
- Blaming the students.
IV. OVERCOMING CULTURAL OBSTACLES
There is ample evidence, accumulated over the past fifteen years, that student-centered new approaches work   . And yet, despite lots of work by many people, these innovative initiatives have had much less impact than one would hope .
The Freshman Learning Project at IUPUI uncovered a set of obstacles:
In academic life, research is what binds faculty as colleagues. Their professional interactions are centered on issues related to their research, not to their teaching. That makes pedagogical innovators an isolated group - at best ignored, at worst viewed as eccentric.
The departmental social and intellectual interactions are centered around research. Research faculty keep in touch with colleagues with the same interests in the same discipline; innovative ideas have a chance to get disseminated, reused, and reshaped in other settings. Teaching is a personal experience. There often is no such venue for teaching.
There usually is no departmental communication channel for disseminating teaching innovation. There is a perception, often justified, that students lack proper preparation and willingness to work – with better students, everybody could teach well. While there may be some truth to that, the notion does not lend itself to any actionable ideas. The Bertold Brecht quote from Mother Courage comes to mind: "If the government does not like the people, why does the government not dissolve it and elect another?"
To overcome these obstacles it is necessary to bring faculty together exclusively on teaching issues. The fact that there are few departmental opportunities for that to happen may actually have a bright side. If the discussion of teaching issues is moved up to an institutional level, e.g. to the setting of a learning/teaching center, an opportunity arises to escape the departmental environment and bring together faculty from all disciplines in a common intellectual endeavor.
To deal with the temptation to blame the students, faculty must be invited to assume the novice learner role. Various mechanisms are available to accomplish this, the simplest being seriously to participate in an introductory course in a discipline not one's own. Another useful technique is to have faculty articulate the thinking processes in their discipline. Experts are not explicitly aware of the steps they take to deal with problems in their disciplines. When asked to articulate the thinking process faculty often reach the stage when they find it hard to do that. A useful byproduct of this exercise is that once accomplished, faculty can now attempt to explicitly teach their students process together with the content .
Although I am presenting a worst-case scenario, one that persists on too many campuses across the country, we can find increasing evidence of institution-wide attention to and support of pedagogical innovators - evidence that it works.
V. MAKING REFORM LAST
If teaching reform is to take hold, teaching has to become a valued skill, evaluated and rewarded on the same footing with other skills the academy values. Some suggestions on how to do that, summarized below, can be found in Evaluating and Improving Undergraduate Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics , one of a series of valuable resources published by the National Research Council.
Teaching effectiveness should be judged by the quality and extent of student learning. Scholarly activities that focus on improving teaching and learning should be regarded as bona fide scholarly endeavor and rewarded as such. Summative assessment should not rely solely on student evaluations but should include peer reviews and teaching portfolios and other teaching activities. The evaluation should be based on consensus among faculty and relying on the best available research on teaching and learning. All faculty should be expected to consistently improve the learning by their students in major and service courses. Improvement should be rewarded. Faculty should accept teaching skills improvement as part of their professional growth.
Quality teaching and effective learning should be an institutional priority of higher rank. University leaders should assert high expectations for quality teaching to newly-hired and current faculty. Centers for learning and teaching should be challenged to provide faculty with opportunities for ongoing professional development. A senior university administrator should be assigned responsibility for encouraging faculty to adopt effective means to improve instruction. Willingness to emphasize student learning and to allocate resources in support of teaching should be an essential requirement in appointing deans and chairs.
It will be some time before all the ideas on improving teaching and strengthening learning, developed in the past decades, are sorted out and become commonplace. It is an encouraging sign that new faculty joining the academy do seem to have a desire to become good teachers. The young participants in the JiTT session at the yearly New Faculty Workshop , sponsored by the physics community, are some of the most outstanding practitioners of the new method. When their students become faculty, the statement "I teach the way I was taught" will take on a whole new meaning.
For more information on JiTT click here
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