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Changing Faculty Practice: Promoting the Scholarship of Teaching with Faculty Mentoring Networks

Author(s): Jeremy M Wojdak1, Sam S Donovan2, Carrie Diaz Eaton3, Kristin Jenkins4, Drew LaMar5

1. Radford University 2. University of Pittsburgh 3. Unity College 4. BioQUEST 5. College of William and Mary

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Poster presented at Transforming STEM Higher Education: Confirming the Authority of Evidence, AAC&U 2018

Licensed under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 27 Mar 2019 doi:10.25334/Q43445 - cite this


The challenges to achieving the goal of quantitative literacy among undergraduate biology students are multifaceted and not easily addressed with a silver bullet approach. In addition to spanning all biological disciplines, quantitative biology intersects with computation and data science, providing unprecedented opportunities to explore complex biological systems. However, the rapidly changing landscape of quantitative biology presents a moving target, in which faculty are often learning new quantitative tools and approaches as they teach them. Thus, faculty will need consistent professional development to keep up with modern quantitative skills and concepts. 

One part of the solution must be a community of faculty working together to share teaching best-practices, insights, and resources to keep pace with the changing field. Kezar and Gehrke (2015) identified a variant of communities of practice they labeled “communities of transformation” that share key elements driving their particular success in STEM education reform. One such element was a simultaneous bottom-up approach to working with individual faculty, while also attempting to influence departments, institutions, and disciplinary norms and practices. Inherently inclusive faculty development based on a deep underlying philosophy that permeates all program elements was also critical to drive impact at scale. 

The QUBES (Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis) project, launched in 2014, aspires to foster such a “community of transformation”, and to that end we’ve focused on 1) developing effective geographically-distributed Faculty Mentoring Networks that lower barriers for faculty participation, 2) building Partnerships and collaborations across institutions, organizations, and professional societies, and 3) creating a online infrastructure to support collaborative approaches to instructional and curricular reform. 

QUBES developed Faculty Mentoring Networks (FMNs), a long-duration, low-intensity, online professional development model, to increase faculty engagement in scholarly teaching practices. Meeting virtually means faculty at lower-resourced schools can participate equally, and meeting over a semester means faculty find peer support and mentoring through the exposure, adaptation, and implementation phases of reform. 

To support collaborations between producers and consumers of educational reform resources, QUBES adopted a virtual synthesis center model, providing a cyberinfrastructure (the online platform QUBESHub) and associated social infrastructure. Via QUBESHub, Partner projects have been able to address hard problems in biology education reform including assessing impact, dissemination, scaling, and project sustainability. Faculty in the QUBES community have access to Partner project resources, computational tools, and professional development programs to help them find, adapt, and use resources more effectively. QUBES emphasizes practices that promote scholarly teaching practices, including use of evidence based pedagogies, thoughtful reflection on implementation results, and sharing outcomes with the community. QUBESHub was purposefully designed to offer inclusive access to professional development and instructional resources so that all faculty regardless of local constraints could participate in the quantitative education community. In particular, open educational practices are supporting equitable access by being free (no cost barriers), open license (lower adaptation barriers), and democratic (lower social barriers by embedding resources in community discussions of teaching and learning, promoting peer interactions and professionalization of teaching).

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