Evidence-based practice for STEM learning

‘…every university now has at its disposal the tools to improve undergraduate STEM teaching, and no defensible reason for not using them.’ (Bradforth et al, 2015) 

The ACDS has launched its first occasional paper “Evidence-based Practice in Learning and Teaching for STEM disciplines” from Prof Tina Overton (Monash) and Prof Liz Johnson (Deakin). This paper presents core principles for  effective learning and teaching strategies that can be derived from the research evidence of how students learn. The evidence is very clear that:

  • learning (and assessment) is constrained by available working memory,
  • learning can be improved by creating explicit links from existing to new knowledge and scaffolding learning
  • preparation before a new learning experience allows better learning, and
  • active learning strategies are much more effective ways to create deep learning.

The paper presents key research papers in STEM disciplines that build from this understanding of how learning learn to examine the evidence for the effectiveness for active teaching strategies including:

  • pre-lab exercises and preparatory reading for lectures,
  • flipped classroom that embeds scaffolding and active learning, and
  • authentic learning and assessment that is more engaging and can promote long-term learning
  • technology-rich teaching which is still an area of active research.

The authors link each finding to the implications for learning and match to practical advice for learning and course design that will improve learning outcomes.

Download here and use this paper to stimulate discussion in your discipline or Faculty about effective learning and teaching.

Bradforth, S. E., et al. (2015). “University learning: improve undergraduate science education.” Nature 523: 282-284.