UC Davis is one of a handful of U.S. universities pioneering efforts to “flip” large classrooms from traditional chalk-and-talk lectures to interactive, discussion- and problem-based learning. The new approach aims to engage students and go beyond memorization and regurgitation of information to interpretation and application, said Assistant Vice Provost Marco Molinaro, who heads the UC Davis Educational Effectiveness Hub (formerly iAMSTEM Hub).
Molinaro’s team focuses on large STEM classes (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). They are working, for example, with teachers leading Introductory Biology 2A, the first class UC Davis undergraduates take in biological sciences. Other projects include classes in introductory chemistry, math, engineering and psychology.
“We’ve been able to raise expectations of student performance, dramatically increase the level of interpretation in tests, all while maintaining grades,” Molinaro said.
The goals of the hub are to better prepare students to succeed in the workplace or graduate school, and to address the “achievement gap” for minority students, Molinaro said.
“With these new approaches, students learn more and students with different learning styles are helped to succeed,” he said.
Making such major changes to teaching programs is not necessarily quick or easy, but Molinaro said he’s very optimistic they can change how teaching is delivered at UC Davis. Collecting data on how students are performing is crucial.
“My job is to make our teaching more effective through best practices and a culture of data,” he said.
The iAMSTEM Hub was established at UC Davis in 2012 to promote evidence-based improvements in teaching in STEM fields, with a special goal of improving retention of students from underrepresented minorities. In 2013, UC Davis was one of eight universities selected by the American Association of Universities to receive grants in an effort to improve STEM education, underwritten by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.