Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Michelle Withers

Committee Co-Chair

Jim Belanger

Committee Member

Jonathan Cumming

Committee Member

Michelle Richards-Babb

Committee Member

Katrina Stewart


In the absence of formal pedagogical training, educators tend to teach the way they were taught, using traditional lecturing. Numerous studies have shown that engaging students in active learning improves student learning and retention of knowledge. Reforming STEM education has become a national imperative. Since the turn of the millennium, many initiatives have sprung forth in response to a growing awareness of the need for reform in post-secondary biology education. The National Academies Summer Institutes (NASI) is one such initiative. The Summer Institutes provide training in evidence-based strategies for biology educators from primarily research universities where lecture-based teaching in large enrollment introductory classes results in unacceptable rates of attrition. In 2010, the first regional offshoot of the SIs was piloted at West Virginia University (NASI WVU) which expanded the reach of the SIs by serving current and future STEM faculty from any post-secondary institution. Analysis of exit survey indicated that the original SI, participants of the NASI WVU highly valued the experience and reported increases in teaching knowledge, skill and implementation of active learning strategies regardless of discipline or rank. While current and future faculty reported differences in their opportunities to teach and reported using active learning strategies at different frequencies, they both reported using active learning strategies at higher rates after the NASI WVU compared to before. A small theme analysis of open-ended responses on support to implement scientific teaching or challenges they would face revealed that both current and future faculty identified peer support as key in improving their instruction. When teaching videos of participants were evaluated with validated observation protocols, the participants were found to use higher levels of both active and student-centered strategies (p>0.05) than a control cohort of STEM faculty who did not take part in the NASI WVU. In addition to directly training current and future faculty, the SIs have provided a model for programs to train graduate students and teaching assistants (TAs) in evidence-based teaching. The program developed at WVU to train graduate TAs for the newly reformed introductory biology teaching laboratory (BIOL 115/117) employed a combination of SI workshops and peer-review to foster reflective teaching practices and adoption of student-centered approaches. Teaching assistants who took part in this training program were evaluated with two observation protocols. Teaching assistants were found not to be significantly higher in their use of active learning or student-centered strategies after two rounds of peer-review that focused feedback on increasing use of these strategies. Varying outcomes for the graduate teaching assistants indicate that while scientific teaching workshop does create changes towards student-centeredness, there still needs to be refinement that will indicate similar improvements are occurring in graduate students as seen in faculty instructors.