Frequently Asked Questions

What Does the CU - SEI do?

The Science Education Initiative provides substantial support to science departments to evaluate all of their undergraduate courses and pursue opportunities to improve educational outcomes. The focus will be on achieving sustained departmental-wide change, and will rely on the use of relevant science education research results and technology to achieve these goals.

Which departments will be involved?

See the Departments tab for details of the current departments and their activities.

Is this implying our science faculty don't know how, or are not willing, to teach?

Just the opposite. It was the pool of talented and dedicated faculty that convinced the Univerisity of Colorado administration and Carl Wieman that this was the right time and place to launch this initiative. Just as science itself has made dramatic progress in the past decades, research in science education has achieved similar advances, as have technologies that support science education. However, it is unreasonable for busy research-active science faculty members to stay current on all these developments and incorporate these new advances into their teaching, without additional support. The SEI will provide the support needed to make this possible.

What criteria is used to rank departmental proposals?

The general criteria is the probability of success for achieving the goal of sustained departmental-wide change resulting in substantially improved science education for all undergraduates.

How is this money to be used?

The individual departments will decide that within some broad guidelines. Hiring science education specialists to work with faculty members has been a popular model among departments at the University of Colorado SEI. These specialists typically have a Masters or Ph.D in the specific departmental discipline and are given guidance by SEI staff on relevant science education methodology and research. The departments involved with the SEI have hired science education specialists and have chosen the title "Science Teaching Fellow" (STF).

What is a Science Teaching Fellow (STF), and what do they do?

A Science Teaching Fellow (STF) has a combined expertise in the specific departmental discipline as well as knowledge in relevant science education methodology and research. As knowledge transfer agents, they have a unique ability in assisting faculty members to implement the evidence-based education improvement model. This approach has shown that STFs are highly successful at introducing faculty members to new approaches to teaching and assessment of learning, and implementing sustainable educational improvements. The SEI central staff will work closely with the STFs, providing guidance and advice based on cognitive science and science education research, and establishing a community of science education specialists. During their terms, the STFs will also be responsible for establishing and maintaining a web-based resource of all of the educational materials developed and tested, along with assessment results. This will help ensure that educational improvements are sustained The repository will be designed so that it will be easily accessed, shared, and employed by the UC teaching community and institutions across the world.

Won't this hurt research productivity because faculty will have to spend a lot more time teaching?

No, a guiding principle of the SEI is that educational change will be sustainable only if it does not place additional time burdens on the faculty. A high priority will be placed on creating materials and technology and providing support to save faculty time, particularly time connected with teaching that is not directly enhancing student learning.

Will students be involved, or is this just for faculty?

There will be a variety of ways in which students, both undergraduate and graduate, are expected to be involved. Relevant student involvement will be encouraged and supported by the SEI, but the particulars in most cases will be decided on at the departmental level.