Framing an Educational Transformation

Students enter college science courses with previous knowledge of the subject which may facilitate or hinder their learning. However, students can also have certain expectations regarding how a science course should be taught, which (based on most of their prior experience with science courses) consists primarily of lectures (in which students are mostly passive), homework, quizzes and exams. Students often expect (many times, even prefer) to sit quietly in lectures and listen to “the sage on the stage” and if this expectation is not fulfilled, it is even possible that they will show resistance and not engage in their own learning process that is conducive to learning. Transformed courses based on discipline-based educational research are generally interactive and require students to engage with one another and/or with TAs and class activities often. It is important to discuss with students at the beginning of the course and several times during the semester:

  1. The fact that the instructional approach is based on research on how people learn best and involves tried and true techniques developed by researchers through years of hard work. You can even add that the instructional approach is designed to improve their learning; they are not part of an educational experiment which may or may not be effective if that is the case.
  2. The learning goals and how the instructional approach helps achieve those goals.
  3. The instructor’s expectations of how they should be engaging in various in and out of class activities that are conducive to their learning.

It is therefore imperative that, in order to maximize student buy-in (very important in order for you to be able to help them learn), the instructional approach and its motivation be discussed in addition to course expectations and goals on the first day of class (i.e., the instructional approach should be framed appropriately).