Evidence-Based Teaching Practices

What are the existing mechanisms to support evidence-based teaching/learning practices and what obstacles exist to scaling their impact nationwide?

Here’s just a start:

Info, workshops and community: MAA Instructional Practices Guide, MAA Project NExT, MAA Section NExT, VITAL faculty workshops.

Obstacles/Avenues:. Departmental and institutional priorities and reward systems, culture of ongoing professional development, culture of communicating about teaching/learning, awareness of biases, support to translate research into practice.

I have my own ideas about the obstacles - informed by what I hear from NExT’ers - but Sandra Laursen had a list from the research during her talk at MathFest. I’ll see if I can dig it up.

For my money, the biggest hurdle is that it’s now how most people were taught, and we tend to teach using methods that we saw in the classroom.

From Sandra Laursen (lead author on Levers for Change) on obstacles to change:

Much prior work has focused on individuals:

  • Lack of preparation for faculty teaching role
  • Lack of knowledge about human learning
  • Perceptions of student motivation, ability, effort
  • Perceived contextual or environmental constraints (scheduling, class size, room; coverage, coordinated syllabi)
  • Socialization that privileges research (beliefs, knowledge, time)
  • Reward structures that privilege research
  • Anticipated resistance from students & colleagues

e.g. Walczyk, Ramsey & Zha 2007; Henderson & Dancy (several); Austin 2011

She also said that when folks say “not enough time” what they’re really indicating is that it’s not a high enough priority. We have to work to change the culture so that it is a higher priority.

In my opinion, if curriculum materials were more closely designed for evidence-based teaching practices, more instructors would incorporate these strategies. The instructors who teach courses using the UT Dana Center curriculum materials exhibit the most evidence-based teaching practices on my campus.

Of course, changing the culture and expectations of college teaching is also critical to establish evidence-based teaching practices as the status quo. While there has been significant progress, these practices are not the normal at this time. Lead instructors have the greatest influence in this area.

Shameless advert for a book I contributed to:


Here’s the article I wrote for it with Jen French and Anindya Roy:

We are working on regional Inquiry-based learning (we use the term to incorporate lots of evidence-based teaching styles) communities. Activities include regional workshops, conferences, coaching, classroom visits, professional learning communities (e.g. reading groups) etc.