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From Grassroots to Institutionalization: RIT's CASTLE

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A Seminar with Dr. Scott Franklin, Professor of Physics and Director of Center for Advancing Science/Mathematics Teaching, Learning and Evaluation, Rochester Institute of Technology

Event Date:

23 February 2015 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM


114 McAlister Building

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ABSTRACT: Overcoming institutional barriers to transformative STEM education requires a concerted strategic effort. Critical hurdles include faculty skepticism, impact on tenure and promotion, and defining the place of education research within STEM Colleges.

In 2010, five faculty from three College of Science departments came together to form the Science and Mathematics Education Research Collaborative (SMERC) devoted to rigorous discipline-based education research (DBER). The group made a conscious effort to bring about broad culture change, creating a community of practice among other STEM faculty and a Learning Assistant program to support course transformation. As a result, the 2013 College of Science strategic plan explicitly cited SMERC as a model interdisciplinary research group and incorporated SMERC goals into the college's strategic plan. The group now includes 10 faculty and enjoys recognition and support across the College. 

At the institute-level, these efforts were framed as lying at the intersection of important institutional strategic priorities, advances basic research and discovery while driving pedagogical change that results in improved student learning. Recognition of these synergies led RIT to create the CASTLE Center for Advancing Science/Math Teaching, Learning & Evaluation. By highlighting the complementary nature of institute priorities, CASTLE has carved a unique position as broadly interdisciplinary, rigorous in research and pedagogy, and embedded in institute culture.

In this talk, I'll present the development and CASTLE through the lens of an outside-in model for institutional change. Doing so reveals institutional and personal characteristics that proved critical to the center's success. I'll conclude by discussing two CASTLE flagship programs: a Learning Assistant program to help faculty implement student-centered classroom practice and IMPRESS, an NSF STEP program to increase retention of deaf/hard-of-hearing and first-generation STEM majors through a focus on metacognition.

CASTLE Diagram


About Dr. Scott Franklin

Scott Franklin received his B.S. (1991) in physics from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. (1997) from the University of Texas-Austin.  His dissertation, under Professor Michael Marder, was a computational and theoretical study of the complex dynamics of dislocations in Aluminum alloys.  He subsequently was awarded a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in STEM Education which allowed him to work with Professor Priscilla Laws at Dickinson College.  There he co-authored Explorations in Physics, an activity-based curriculum for non-science majors published by John Wiley & Sons.  In January 2012, Explorations was awarded the Science magazine prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction.

Since arriving at RIT in 2000, Scott has conducted research both in granular materials that cohere through particle geometry and physics education research.

In 2010, he co-founded the Science & Mathematics Education Research Collaborative, a group of faculty from the departments of physics, biology, and chemistry that conduct discipline-based education research.

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