To increase active learning in engineering education, faculty from seven engineering disciplines participated in an NSF professional development project. Faculty attended eight workshops on evidence-based instructional strategies (EBIS) in fall 2016 and six Community-of-Practice (CoP) discussion sessions in spring 2017.
Six classroom observations were conducted over the course of the year—two in the fall and four in the spring using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) administered by trained observers. The RTOP is a 25-item tool that measures student-centered vs. teacher-centered instruction in STEM disciplines. In the CoP discussions participants learned about the RTOP instrument and what it measured. Subsequently, 22 of 27 participants signed up for individual conferences to discuss their observations and scores with an instructional coach. This formative feedback, using the RTOP results to guide the discussion, has proven to be effective in getting faculty to embrace active learning.
The individual coaching conferences included a review of the RTOP rubric, self-reflection on their instruction, and brainstorming specifics strategies learned in the workshops the previous semester to incorporate into their future teaching practices. In addition to the RTOP scores, participants were provided with one to three areas of reinforcement (what went well) and one to three areas of refinement (areas to improve) from each observation, using the language from the RTOP rubric. At the end of the spring semester, 14 participants had follow-up conferences that confirmed implementation of the strategies discuss earlier and afforded the opportunity to reflect on their success.
Several principles of coaching were developed during this first year. Because the feedback was formative, conversations centered around how to use the information for improvement. Formative feedback from instructional coaching provided a roadmap for improvement, and helped move the conversation away from final, summative evaluations of teaching ability that are commonly a part of performance reviews. Feedback was specific and timely. Having the common language of content from the workshops and the RTOP rubric aided communication in the coaching process. Discussing pedagogy with a coach who had actually been in their classroom multiple times seemed to enhance rapport. Using the CoP to discuss disciplinary content as it related to teaching complemented the pedagogy discussions participants had with the instructional coach. The results of the aggregated RTOP data collected from this first group of faculty will be used to guide coaching strategies for future cohorts.
Using RTOP observations in conjunction with instructional coaching provided an opportunity to give instructors direct formative feedback on their teaching in the exact context of the teaching environment they experience. This hands-on approach amplified and solidified their learning about pedagogies of engagement that were provided in the more theoretical context of the workshops. This combination shows promise as a tool for faculty development in teaching.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.