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Table 2 Categories of faculty-identified barriers for STEM education change

From: Faculty drivers and barriers: laying the groundwork for undergraduate STEM education reform in academic departments

Barrier category Description of category Example faculty comments
Time constraints Faculty is currently over-committed and does not have time to take on any more initiatives; working capacity is limited and involvement must be prioritized given other commitments 1) The amount of time available to “think about teaching” in a department where almost all of us are teaching in overload situations is not currently tenable; 2) There is limited time, so as more time is spent developing teaching materials less time is spent in other activities critical to one’s success as a faculty member
Instructional challenges Inability to cover necessary content if EBIPs are used, inability to manage EBIPs and assessment in large enrollment courses, classroom space is not conducive to EBIPs due to fixed furniture or layout 1) Covering essential content in the face of decreased number of credits in the curriculum; 2) Course size limits many teaching practices (meaningful assessment in a class of 278 that does not swallow me whole)
Loss of autonomy Perceived loss of autonomy in the classroom or over content; concern that one will be forced to use “one-size-fits-all” approaches with an increasing top-down management style 1) Force faculty to teach and assess all the same way, may not be best for their style; 2) Less individual control of content and methods
Resistance to change No reason to change current practices; currently engaged in other changes (do not want to change more things); is resistant to change in general 1) I already get high teaching reviews, for purposes of the university promotional process; 2) I don't want to have to change my teaching style
Insufficient assessment methods and processes Concern about how the administration will assess teaching effectiveness; concern about how faculty will assess learning in their classroom and/or determine if EBIPs result in improved student learning 1) Developing knowledge of meaningful assessment; 2) Emphasis on student evaluations as single measure
Inadequate resources Lack of resources needed to explore and adopt EBIPs (e.g., teaching assistants to help in the classroom or with grading, materials, adequate learning spaces) 1) Resource requirements for change deplete limited pool; 2) Change needed in resources - infrastructure
Conflicts with institutional rewards/priorities The tenure and promotion criteria are misaligned with the proposed initiative, research output carries more weight than teaching-related duties, and/or there is little incentive to focus more effort on teaching 1) Not so beneficial to me personally, in that teaching is not in my experience a strong criterion for obtaining tenure and promotions; 2) There is no reward for investing more in teaching
Student resistance Students resist EBIPs; this might impact end-of-course evaluations 1) A population of students will be resistant to change; 2) Students don’t always evaluate change or “new” things in a positive or constructive way (and evaluations impact promotion and tenure)
Current culture is unsupportive Department, institution, or higher ed. culture does not support pedagogical exploration, deviations from traditional lecture, and/or communities of practice 1) No current culture of experimentation; 2) We don't currently discuss as a department teaching practices
Competes with research Potential adopters’ priorities lie in research and the proposed initiative compromises their ability to devote their time to research 1) Movement towards teaching changes culture & not necessarily positive (research needs to maintain its level of respect); 2) It will take valuable time to implement. This is time spent away from research used to judge my work
Departmental divisions Concern that initiative will create departmental divides and negatively impact the social structure 1) Colleagues will evaluate each other's teaching, leading to conflict; 2) Will this change the tone of the faculty position
Lack of pedagogical skills/information There is a lack of knowledge about EBIPs; knowledge and skills are needed to identify and implement appropriate EBIPs 1) Time necessary to keep up with EBIP research; 2) Understanding & having time to research correct tool
Lack of confidence in EBIPs Validity of research or claims that support the use of EBIPs is in question 1) Doubts about outcomes/effectiveness; 2) Evidence based instructional practices are a fallacy
Underprepared students Students lack the knowledge, skills, and/or motivation to be able to successfully engage in EBIPs 1) Seems that students are more concerned about exam grades then understanding the material; 2) Students are hard-wired to standard learning environments
Rigid or ambiguous nature of EBIPs Lack of agreement about the appropriateness of various EBIPs 1) Formalized use of teaching tool for the incorrect application; 2) Conflict between faculty- lack of agreement on methods/standards
Vague end state/process to get there Indicates initiative and proposed end state lacks clarity 1) Uncertainty of goals (on retention); 2) Vague goals, why not concrete quantitative objectives
Challenges in engagement across faculty rank Departments may find it difficult to implement the initiative with faculty and teaching assistants not on the tenure track 1) Grads teach many labs w/o link to faculty; 2) No/little dialogue for adjuncts
Misalignment with accreditation requirements Proposed initiative is misaligned with accreditation requirements and/or may interfere with accreditation efforts 1) Required to complete Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) … results w/the course; 2) Curriculum dictated (somewhat) by American Chemical Society (ACS)