National and local initiatives focused on the transformation of STEM teaching in higher education have multiplied over the last decade. These initiatives often focus on measuring change in instructional practices, but it is difficult to monitor such change without a national picture of STEM educational practices, especially as characterized by common observational instruments. We characterized a snapshot of this landscape by conducting the first large scale observation-based study. We found that lecturing was prominent throughout the undergraduate STEM curriculum, even in classrooms with infrastructure designed to support active learning, indicating that further work is required to reform STEM education. Additionally, we established that STEM faculty’s instructional practices can vary substantially within a course, invalidating the commonly-used teaching evaluations based on a one-time observation.