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Dartmouth Engineering Selected to Develop Models for STEM Teaching Evaluation

Feb 08, 2022   |   by Eun Lee Koh

Dartmouth Engineering is among five undergraduate STEM programs to earn a $100,000 grant from the Association of American Universities (AAU) to create more effective and equitable models for evaluating undergraduate teaching — models that could be adapted to programs at other undergraduate institutions.

Vicki May bridges students

Dartmouth Engineering Professor Vicki May works with undergraduate students on their bridge design for a class in solid mechanics. (Photo by Mayellen Matson.)

The grant will support Dartmouth Engineering's multi-pronged model, which integrates far more than student feedback from end-of-term course evaluations, leveraging evidence-based data from self-reflections to peer observations. In addition, the evaluation system goes further to provide additional support, pairing faculty with mentors and providing ongoing opportunities for continuous improvement.

"Extraordinary teaching is paramount to student learning, and to achieve that, faculty need robust, transparent, and equitable evaluations with meaningful feedback and support. The AAU grant will fund the creation of new models that equip and empower not just Dartmouth's engineering faculty, but faculty across peer institutions, to continue in their growth as teachers."

Alexis Abramson, Dean of Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth

Abramson, along with engineering professors Petra Bonfert-Taylor, Vicki May, and Eugene Korsunskiy, will co-lead the project, and a team of Dartmouth Engineering faculty and learning design experts will help pilot, implement, and evaluate the new system.

"It is exhilarating to be a part of a broader community of peer institutions engaging in this work to transform the evaluation of teaching," said Bonfert-Taylor. "We are excited to learn from and be inspired by our peers whom, in turn, we can also inspire through this shared work."

The project is part of AAU's Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, launched in 2011 to encourage STEM departments at AAU universities to use teaching practices proven to be effective in engaging students in STEM education. This particular effort is aimed at improving teaching and learning in science and engineering, particularly at the first-year and sophomore levels, and to create a stronger, more diverse STEM pipeline for graduate-level programs.

Current teaching evaluation models across higher education are dominated by student evaluations, which studies have shown do not necessarily correlate with the quality of student learning or more effective teaching. The goal of the AAU program will be to create, demonstrate, and disseminate better models for STEM departments to evaluate effective teaching that could be widely adopted elsewhere.

In addition to Dartmouth Engineering, AAU also awarded grants to the chemical and petroleum engineering department at the University of Kansas, the chemistry department at Michigan State University, the biology department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the chemistry department at the University of Southern California.

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