All three partner institutions have challenges regarding success rates for STEM students, particularly those from under-represented and minoritized (URM) groups and first generation (FG) groups. At UCI, although STEM students typically display high retention and graduation rates, there are consistent and discernible achievement gaps between students from URM groups and non-URM students as well as between FG and non-FG students. At Cal Poly Pomona, only 56% of students who declare a STEM major upon entry obtain a STEM degree in six years. There are also inequities in graduation rates among racial/ethnic groups, gender groups, first generation college students, and different socioeconomic groups. The average graduation rate gap for Hispanic students across the California State University system is 4%; at CPP it is 13%. For the cohort of first-time freshmen starting in 2011, the combined six-year graduation rate for all Engineering and Science students was 74%; for URM students it was 55%. At SJSU, the 6-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen in engineering (2012 cohort), is only 45.9% for Hispanic (12.4% gap) and 46.7% for AFAM students (11.6% gap). Many students from these groups enter the higher education with inadequate academic preparation due to persistent socioeconomic barriers. Once in higher education, economic necessity may require limiting time and attention to studies in favor of paid work.
STEM education is being transformed by a combination of pedagogical innovations and emerging technologies. Encouraging STEM faculty to successfully engage students, particularly students from underrepresented and minoritized groups, with the goal of helping them improve academic outcomes, is critical to this transformation. Key to successful engagement and teaching in STEM is fostering a growth mindset among faculty and students (Canning et al., 2019; Miller, 2015).
A collaborative team from the University of California Irvine (UCI), San Jose State University (SJSU), and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (CPP), will create a cohort-based faculty development program, the Teaching Experiment Academy (TEA). This program is designed for STEM faculty teaching lower-division undergraduate courses to redesign an existing course guided by the mastery learning model and employing specifications grading to encourage a growth mindset for student success. The TEA will facilitate a faculty learning community and support up to 35 faculty across UCI, SJSU, and CPP to revise syllabi and class activities around mastery learning and specifications grading. Estimating class size of 40 – 100, with 35 faculty participating, approximately between 1,400 and 3,500 students should be directly impacted.
In developing and implementing the TEA, the project team will investigate the following hypotheses:
- Mastery learning supported with technology and implemented with specifications grading is beneficial for student success and in alignment with growth mindset theory.
- The faculty development model is effective in helping faculty to implement a mastery learning curriculum due to a growth mindset among the faculty.
The major faculty development activities in this project are:
- A number of short workshops or webinars on mastery learning/specifications grading, as a recruitment device;
- A two-day Institute to educate participants about mastery learning/specifications grading and give them time to make progress on their own courses;
- A yearlong Faculty Learning Community (FLC) on each campus to sustain progress; and,
- Campus-based showcases for faculty to present their work to their campus communities.