Center for Teaching and Learning

April 2, 2020

17 – A CAUSE for Change: Exploring Faculty Adoption of Evidence-Based Teaching


  • Mallory Jackson, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle
  • Sungmin Moon, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle
  • Jennifer Doherty, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle
  • Mary Pat Wenderoth, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle


Evidence-based teaching has been shown to improve student learning in STEM courses. Faculty professional development programs can support implementation of evidence-based teaching methods. Following recommendations in the literature, we piloted the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Student Education (CAUSE). Each year, faculty from seven STEM departments enter a two-year program that pairs exploration of evidence-based teaching with support for classroom implementation. Faculty meet biweekly with the program facilitator to read literature about evidence-based teaching methods such as clicker questions, discuss how to implement these methods, and report back on successes and barriers. Faculty also observe classes on campus that include strong examples of evidence-based teaching. For each participant, we collect four lecture recordings and their students’ course exam scores each quarter. We code evidence-based teaching in lectures using the Practical Observation Tool to Assess Active Learning and provide this feedback to faculty. We also provide feedback on course exams by analyzing them for any achievement gaps.

Based on data from all the faculty (n = 47) who have enrolled in CAUSE, we have observed that many change their teaching, but the amount and type of evidence-based teaching varies, especially among departments. We asked three questions: 1) Which evidence-based methods do faculty most commonly implement during CAUSE? 2) What factors contribute to the variation in implementation among faculty? 3) Which aspects of CAUSE do faculty report are most supportive of their teaching? To explore these questions, we conducted interviews with a subset of faculty and qualitatively analyzed them to explore common themes. Preliminary results suggest that faculty often use multiple-choice polling questions and ask students to volunteer answers due to ease of implementation in large classes. Faculty report that CAUSE has broadened their knowledge and perspectives of evidence-based teaching across STEM disciplines and provided practical feedback on their teaching.