A Faculty Professional Development Model That Improves Student Learning, Encourages Active-Learning Instructional Practices, and Works for Faculty at Multiple Institutions

CBE Life Sci Educ. 2018 Jun;17(2):es5. doi: 10.1187/cbe.17-12-0260.


Helping faculty develop high-quality instruction that positively affects student learning can be complicated by time limitations, a lack of resources, and inexperience using student data to make iterative improvements. We describe a community of 16 faculty from five institutions who overcame these challenges and collaboratively designed, taught, iteratively revised, and published an instructional unit about the potential effect of mutations on DNA replication, transcription, and translation. The unit was taught to more than 2000 students in 18 courses, and student performance improved from preassessment to postassessment in every classroom. This increase occurred even though faculty varied in their instructional practices when they were teaching identical materials. We present information on how this faculty group was organized and facilitated, how members used student data to positively affect learning, and how they increased their use of active-learning instructional practices in the classroom as a result of participation. We also interviewed faculty to learn more about the most useful components of the process. We suggest that this professional development model can be used for geographically separated faculty who are interested in working together on a known conceptual difficulty to improve student learning and explore active-learning instructional practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Faculty*
  • Humans
  • Models, Educational*
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Students*
  • Teaching