Partnerships are the foundation for innovation

Laird Kramer, STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University

Partnership and collaboration are core identities of Florida International University's (FIU's) STEM Transformation Institute. Partnerships facilitate knowledge transfer and develop community, often by validating challenges and promising techniques across various boundaries. We envision expansion of evidence-based instructional practice, research on those changes, and institutional change as extremely challenging arenas, thus bringing diverse and out of the box solutions to bear on these challenges optimizes the ultimate chance for establishing instructional culture change. At FIU, we embrace diversity as it brings a plethora of ideas to the table.

The most critical partnership for the STEM Institute is the vertical partnership across the student-faculty-administrative domains, perhaps better framed as an ecosystem. In one direction, faculty design, carry out and measure classroom interventions and students serve as agents of change in those interventions, either as learners in the classroom providing feedback on the work or as learning assistants facilitating the dialogues and reporting back to the instructional team. Feedback from the students, in turn, improves the curriculum and pedagogy. In the other direction, classroom change impacts institutional measures, research productivity, financial efficient and institutional prominence, all critical to the institution's administration and thus fostering a partnership with the administration. Resource allocation, policy development and political cover are critical to implementing and sustaining transformation.

Specific actions that illustrate components of this partnership are numerous. Establishment of the Learning Assistant Program began through a grant-funded initiative, but institutional funding was added soon after the first evidence of the impact of LA's on classroom practice and retention was provided to administrators. Funding has continued to increase over the years as the LA program evolved into a signature campus program. The LA program erupted out of partnership, by being adopted from University of Colorado Boulder through the PhysTEC grant. The LA program would not be successful without our student agent partners, both the LAs that make it possible and the students who continue to advocate for LAs in all of their courses. A second example of the partnership is establishing active learning classrooms on campus. Originally conceived by FIU's previous Provost to 'prevent faculty from lecturing', the classrooms were positioned to incentivize active learning. Access to the rooms is limited to faculty utilizing active learning techniques and their popularity (and impact on student success and faculty practice) are evidence of its effectiveness. Other examples include establishment of the STEM Transformation Institute as well as commitments of a number of disciplinary-based education researcher (DBER) faculty lines to the institute. Outcomes of the partnership have also positioned FIU as a national leader in STEM education, leading to hosting a White House College Opportunity Summit Workshop that featured John Holdren, the President's Science Advisor and FIU President Rosenberg's participation on two National Academies STEM committees.


Center Profile: STEM Transformation Institute - Florida International University