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Canada: UBC leads alliance to improve science education with Sloan grant

University of British ColumbiaThe University of British Columbia is partnering with seven top North American universities to study how to speed up the adoption of improved teaching techniques in science classrooms.

The Bay View Alliance (BVA) – which includes Queen’s University, University of California Davis, University of Kansas, University of Saskatchewan, Indiana University Bloomington, the University of Texas Austin and UBC – is launched today with $803,942 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

“Education researchers have built up a robust body of knowledge about what works – and what doesn’t – when teaching science to undergraduates,” says Lorne Whitehead, a UBC physics professor and principal investigator for the BVA network.

“Yet for reasons we don’t completely understand, that knowledge has had trouble making its way into classrooms and curricula. We’re studying what leaders at every level, including those among the faculty, can do to help fix that.”

The BVA will investigate how university leaders at all levels can best support the widespread adoption of effective and evidence-based teaching methods in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classrooms. An Alliance research hub, led by Whitehead, will coordinate, amalgamate and disseminate the findings.

One cluster of campuses will focus on resources that provide support for course redesign. Modeled in part on UBC’s Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative, this effort will assign educators with pedagogical expertise to help faculty incorporate active learning techniques into large science courses. Their learning goals will be evaluated, and campuses will explore how solutions can be implemented more widely.

“Innovation in teaching is critical to supporting learning in key STEM disciplines,” says Sloan Foundation Program Director Elizabeth S. Boylan.

“The Foundation is excited to partner with the Bay View Alliance in its efforts to learn and disseminate information on the best ways to spread the adoption of evidence-based teaching methods in undergraduate STEM education, efforts that will, in turn, provide benefits to both the faculty and their students.”

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