University of Colorado at Boulder

Professional Development

Ethnography & Evaluation Research (E&ER) has studied several programs that address professional development for science educators and scientists at various career stages. In higher education, these include faculty leadership development, women’s career advancement, and STEM teaching. Our work in K-12 education has focused on teacher professional development.

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Also see our work on professional development of scientists for their education outreach roles.

Professional Development in Higher Education and STEM Professions

Professional Development in Teaching for STEM Faculty
As evaluators for four universities who have offered intensive week-long workshops on inquiry-based learning, we are documenting immediate and longer-term changes in faculty knowledge, beliefs, and teaching practices as a result of participating in a workshop. The results highlight the impact of multi-day, interactive workshops that help faculty learn teaching methods, think through problems, and plan their own course.

Hayward, C. & Laursen, S. (2014). Evaluating professional development workshops quickly and effectively. 17th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education. Denver, CO, February 27-March 1. Conference paper

Hayward, C., & Laursen, S. (2014). Collaborative Research: Research, Dissemination, and Faculty Development of Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) Methods in the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics; Cumulative Evaluation Report: 2010-2013.  [Report to the National Science Foundation] Ethnography & Evaluation Research, University of Colorado Boulder. Executive summary Full report

Kogan, M., & Laursen, S. (2012). Role of faculty professional development in improving undergraduate mathematics education: The case of IBL workshops. In (Eds.) S. Brown, S. Larsen, K. Marrongelle, and M. Oehrtman, Proceedings of the 15th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education, pp. 80-87, Portland, Oregon.

Evaluation of the IBL workshops was supported by the National Science Foundation under award DUE-0920126. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these reports are those of the researchers, and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.

Professional Development in Teaching for STEM Graduate Students
As part of our evaluation work for the Biological Sciences Initiative at the University of Colorado at Boulder, E&ER studied a classroom outreach program in which graduate student scientists visit K-12 classrooms to present inquiry-based science lessons. Benefits to students and teachers suggest the potential and limitations of short-term classroom interventions. Graduate student scientists experienced powerful professional growth as effective teachers and reported significant impacts on their career paths.

Laursen, S. L., Thiry, H., & Liston, C. (2012). The impact of a university-based school science outreach program on graduate student participants’ career paths and professional socialization.  Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 16(2), 47-78. Download a copy

Laursen, S., Liston, C., Thiry, H., & Graf, J. (2007). What good is a scientist in the classroom? Participant outcomes and program design features for a short-duration science outreach intervention in K-12 classrooms. CBE-Life Sciences Online 6, 49-64.

Thiry, H., Laursen, S. L., & Liston, C. (2007). (De)Valuing teaching in the academy: Why are underrepresented graduate students overrepresented in teaching and outreach? Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering 13(4), 391-419. DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.v13.i4.50

Laursen, S., Thiry, H., & Liston, C. (2005). Evaluation of the Science Squad Program for the Biological Sciences Initiative at the University of Colorado at Boulder: II. Influence of Squad participation on members’ career paths. (Report to the Biological Sciences Initiative) Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research.

Laursen, S., Liston, C., Thiry, H., Sheff, E. & Coates, C. (2004, November). Evaluation of the Science Squad Program for the Biological Sciences Initiative at the University of Colorado at Boulder: I. Benefits, costs and trade-offs. Report prepared for the Biological Sciences Initiative. Boulder, CO: Ethnography & Evaluation Research, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Drawing on data from three evaluation studies of innovations in STEM undergraduate education in chemistry and astronomy, this synthetic analysis portrays the work of teaching assistants in undergraduate courses and identifies how they can help—or hinder—educational innovation. Interview data from TAs offers insights about the sources of student resistance and identifies TAs’ professional development needs.

Seymour, E, with Melton, G., Wiese, D. J., & Pedersen-Gallegos, L. (2005). Partners in Innovation: Teaching Assistants in College Science Courses. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Faculty Development Needs and Leadership Education

Evaluation work for LEAP, an ADVANCE Institutional Transformation project at the University of Colorado at Boulder, identified faculty gains from participating in multi-day leadership workshops. Other analyses identified faculty development needs at the individual, departmental, and institutional levels.

Laursen, S. L., & Rocque, B. (2009). Faculty development for institutional change: Lessons from an ADVANCE project. Change (March/April), 18-26.

Laursen, S. (2008). Outcomes of LEAP Individual Growth and Department Enhancement Grants, FY 2007. (Report to the LEAP Project) Boulder, CO: University of Colorado at Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research.

Laursen, S., & Rocque, B. (2006). An Assessment of Faculty Development Needs at the University of Colorado at Boulder. (Report to the LEAP Project) Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research.

Laursen, S., Rocque, B., DeWelde, K., Seymour, E., Pedersen-Gallegos, L. (2005). Outcomes of Faculty Development Initiatives of LEAP, Leadership Education for Advancement and Promotion, an NSF ADVANCE Project at the University of Colorado at Boulder: Mid-Course Evaluation Report. (Report to the National Science Foundation.) Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research.

Studies for LEAP were supported by the National Science Foundation under award HRD-0123636. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these reports are those of the researchers, and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.

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Professional Development in K-12 Education

E&ER has worked with CU Boulder’s Biological Sciences Initiative on its teacher professional development programs. We have examined immediate post-workshop and longer-term outcomes from the BSI’s one- to three-day workshops focused on basic science concepts, cutting-edge scientific developments, or new technologies in the life sciences. Evaluation findings from surveys and interviews indicate teachers’ growth in content understanding, confidence in their ability to teach these ideas, and a sense of being supported by a network of colleagues and the BSI staff. Many teachers reported making classroom use of new teaching materials. Relatively few teachers reported gains in pedagogical content knowledge, and teachers did not always perceive ways to adjust workshop materials for their own students, curriculum, or other constraints.

Weston, T.. & Laursen, S. (2009, August). Survey of Teacher Participants in Professional Development Workshops Conducted by the Biological Sciences Initiative: Final report. (Report to the Biological Sciences Initiative). Boulder, CO: Ethnography & Evaluation Research.

Liston, C., Laursen, S., Coates, C., and Thiry, H. (2005). Evaluation of the Teacher Professional Development workshops for the Biological Sciences Initiative at the University of Colorado at Boulder. (Report to the Biological Sciences Initiative) Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research.

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