Enrichment of Landing Courses

This activity targets the experience of students “landing” in STEM majors, through a course redesign effort that serves to improve learning at STEM entry points while at the same time intensifying student engagement.

Four cohorts of faculty who teach STEM landing courses, at QC and QCC, will ultimately participate in the course redesign process, which will take place in the summers of years 1 through 4. The process includes an intensive week at the beginning of the summer, combining elements of faculty development initiatives previously offered by faculty at QC’s Center for Teaching and Learning (including a week-long Syllabus Bootcamp for faculty looking to embed learning-outcomes-based practices in their courses, a semester-long Teaching in English course for engineering faculty from Japan focused on best practices in higher education classes in STEM, and a year-long initiative on embedding quantitative reasoning into courses from any discipline). The course redesign workshop will focus on improving instruction by integrating research-based principles into courses: prior knowledge, organization of knowledge, motivation, mastery, practice and feedback, course climate, and self-directed learning.

This initial intensive session is followed by time over the rest of the summer, during which faculty (professors, lecturers, and college laboratory technicians (CLTs)) redesign and test lab activities and assignments in the revamped courses. In this period, faculty utilize the skills developed in the CLT-supported teaching workshop to develop new lesson plans that include more active learning components. 

Ultimately, each redesigned course will feature a refined set of learning outcomes, a new set of in- and out-of-class activities linked to the learning outcomes, and a set of resources for engaging students in self-directed learning. The impact of the course redesign will be assessed through additional structured observations, by collecting course artifacts (syllabi, learning outcomes, assignments, student work), and by examining additional measures of student achievement (performance on assignments, final grades). Evidence suggests that even within a very short time frame (e.g., a few months), faculty participation in professional development can have positive impacts on teaching practices and therefore on learning. The structured observations, analysis of course artifacts, and analysis of student performance will be conducted on all redesigned courses offered as treatment sections, every time they are offered as such.

Students will register for sections that will be randomly assigned to treatment or control conditions. There will be no indication in the registration materials that a particular section is associated with the project. We estimate that some 24,000 students will receive treatment over the duration of the project. The proposed order for the redesign is strategic: disciplines with larger enrollments come online earlier, and Mathematics (thematically and programmatically quite different from the other disciplines) is scheduled for the second implementation year, to give more time for the development team to analyze its courses and teaching practices.

A key measure of the success of this activity will be student performance at the next stage of entry into STEM: the “gateway” courses which, as proposed earlier, are where students demonstrate competency to succeed in the major. We predict that participation in redesigned landing courses will improve performance not only in landing courses but also in subsequently taken gateway courses.