The University of Oklahoma will join a consortium of 104 colleges and universities from across the United States taking part in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence 3 Learning Community. The HHMI IE3 initiative aims to support and incentivize teaching and learning practices that increase student success outcomes, particularly in STEM fields.
The participating institutions are grouped into Learning Community Clusters, forming cohort groups from a range of small to large public and private colleges and universities. OU is a part of Cluster 4, focused on the “meaningful evaluation of effective and inclusive teaching, which will inform faculty practices, including promotion and tenure decisions.”
The OU project team is led by Keri Kornelson, Ph.D., professor in the David and Judi Proctor Department of Mathematics, Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences, with OU coinvestigators Ulli Nollert, Karen Hennes, Lori Snyder, Megan Elwood Madden and Geneva Murray.
Cluster 4 also includes the following participating institutions: Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania State University, University of La Verne, Bryn Mawr College, North Carolina A&T State University, Georgia Gwinnett College, University of Oregon, University of Portland, Whittier College, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pomona College, Providence College, University of Georgia, Georgia Southern University and Gustavus Adolphus College.
“Nationally, the diversity of students entering college intending to study STEM reflects well the nation’s population,” David J. Asai, senior director of HHMI, said in a statement. “But this promising representation changes to significant underrepresentation by the time they leave with a bachelor’s degree.”
Kornelson said their cluster proposes to “leverage the collective experience, resources and effort of our 16 institutions as we develop and disseminate tools and resources to support introductory STEM classroom practices.”
Cluster 4 has three primary goals:
- Examine, enact and evaluate clearly articulated policies that incentivize and reward inclusive teaching, with the expectation that doing so increases the relevance of inclusive teaching practices in promotion and tenure decisions.
- Create models of instructor development that can reach all or most faculty within the participating institutions, with the administrative support needed to bring inclusive practices to the classroom.
- Identify and develop best practices in the use of holistic evidence to evaluate teaching.
Each of these three focus areas will be led by smaller learning teams, Kornelson said. The full cohort will convene virtually monthly and in-person annually to share their findings.
“As our primary focus, the OU team will contribute to the professional development goal,” Kornelson said. “In particular, we will work with the learning team and the wider LCC (Learning Community Clusters) to develop a pedagogical partnership program at OU, modeled in part after the Students as Learners and Teachers program at Bryn Mawr, allowing us to benefit from their mentorship within the LCC. The project will be offered via the Center for Faculty Excellence and managed by Dr. M. Geneva Murray.”
As a secondary focus, the OU team will also assess whether a new, end-of-semester survey gives useful and more actionable feedback to instructors that is less prone to bias.
“The Student Experience Survey was developed and piloted at OU over the last two years and is now the official student course survey. The Core Team will assess the impact of the SES compared to traditional surveys while mentoring LCC partners wishing to develop and implement a new course survey,” said Kornelson.
A unique aspect of the LCC approach is the ability to study from a research perspective whether implementation of these practices is simpler or more difficult based on context such as the size or structure of the institution.
“For example, we will be able to say something about how these pedagogical partner programs work across institutions. We know SaLT works at Bryn Mawr, which is one of our cluster partners and is a small elite liberal arts college,” Kornelson said. “Is it different to do it here at OU or some of our other cluster institutions? Are there challenges we will face that they didn’t? I think that will be very interesting to figure those things out and disseminate our findings.”
An external evaluation team will help the participating institutions also study how effective the cluster teams are at making progress toward their goals using this kind of cluster-based decision-making. The six-year grant begins this month and will conclude in 2028.