Published: Sept. 29, 2017

A faculty member demonstrates an applied mathematics lesson using a chalkboard.

People gather around a chalkboard for an applied mathematics lesson. (Photo by Patrick Campbell/CU Boulder)

Professor Pei-San Tsai in the Department of Integrative Physiology, like many at CU Boulder, knows the limitations of current teaching assessment practices that tend to reward the number of classes and students taught, FCQ scores and student feedback.

In short, they’re quantitative vs. qualitative and can have the unintended consequence of stifling creativity. A new grant aims to change that.

The Center for STEM Learning at the University of Colorado Boulder has received a $662,230 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to address Professor Tsai’s concerns by raising the profile of teaching on campus and promoting a richer evaluation of teaching. Ultimately this effort aims to expand the use of teaching practices that increase student learning and success.

The award is part of a five-year, $2.8 million project that brings together four national leaders in the development and promotion of evidence-based teaching practices: CU Boulder, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Kansas, and Michigan State University. The collaboration grew out of ongoing efforts within the Bay View Alliance and the Association of American Universities, which partner with these institutions to emphasize student learning as the central outcome of instruction, promote deeper learning among students, and close persistent gaps in academic success.

“Education is at the core of our institution,” said Jeffrey Cox, vice provost and associate vice chancellor for Faculty Affairs. “Through this effort, we will enhance our substantial support for faculty in their use of scholarly approaches in teaching. This exciting initiative will continue and advance CU’s commitment to education and faculty engagement.”

The grant project will help interested departments develop and adopt new evaluation frameworks that draw from multiple sources for evidence of high-quality teaching, including the instructor’s materials, peer feedback and student voices. These frameworks will promote teaching practices that have been shown to enhance student learning and reward faculty and instructors who work to improve and refine their teaching practices.

At CU Boulder, the project will be administered by the Center for STEM Learning as part of the Teaching Quality Framework (TQF) Initiative in partnership with Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Affairs Jeffrey Cox and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Mary Kraus, as well as the Office of Information Technology, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering and Applied Science. It is designed to align with the many other constructive efforts at CU Boulder that further the academic mission of the university.

An initial 10 departments have opted to take part in the initiative, with more being welcomed as the effort gets underway.  The project will involve engaging department-specific action teams to develop and refine a framework for teaching assessment, as well as utilize campus-wide dialogues to share best practices and ideas, facilitate implementation at administrative levels, and promote meaningful and sustainable improvements in teaching assessment throughout the campus. 

Learn more

The TQF team welcomes expressions of interest and engagement in the project.  Individuals who would like to be part of the campus-wide dialogues or receive updates on the project can sign up for the project distribution list on the TQF website or contact Jessica Keating.

Departments that wish to volunteer to be part of the initiative should ask their department chair to contact Professor Noah Finkelstein.  All departments (including both STEM and non-STEM departments) are welcome to become involved in the initiative, although facilitation of and support for department-specific action teams may be constrained by available resources and staff.