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  1. The construct of active learning permeates undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but despite its prevalence, the construct means different things to different people, groups, and STEM domains. To better understand active learning, we constructed this review through an innovative interdisciplinary collaboration involving research teams from psychology and discipline-based education research (DBER). Our collaboration examined active learning from two different perspectives (i.e., psychology and DBER) and surveyed the current landscape of undergraduate STEM instructional practices related to the modes of active learning and traditional lecture. On that basis, we concluded that active learning—which is commonly used to communicate an alternative to lecture and does serve a purpose in higher education classroom practice—is an umbrella term that is not particularly useful in advancing research on learning. To clarify, we synthesized a working definition of active learning that operates within an elaborative framework, which we call the construction-of-understanding ecosystem. A cornerstone of this framework is that undergraduate learners should be active agents during instruction and that the social construction of meaning plays an important role for many learners, above and beyond their individual cognitive construction of knowledge. Our proposed framework offers a coherent and actionable concept of active learningmore »with the aim of advancing future research and practice in undergraduate STEM education.« less
  2. We compared 236 geoscience instructors’ histories of professional development (PD) participation with classroom observations using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) that describe undergraduate classes as Student-Centered (score ≥ 50), Transitional (score 31–49) or Teacher-Centered (score ≤ 30). Instructors who attended PD (n = 111) have higher average RTOP scores (44.5 vs. 34.2) and are more frequently observed teaching Student-Centered classes (33% vs. 13%) than instructors with no PD (p < 0.001). Instructors who attended PD that is topically-aligned with content taught during the classroom observation are likely to have RTOP scores that are higher by 13.5 points (p < 0.0001), and are 5.6 times more likely to teach a Student-Centered class than instructors without topically-aligned PD. Comparable odds of teaching Student-Centered classes (5.8x) occur for instructors who attended two topical PD events but were observed teaching a different topic. Models suggest that instructors with at least 24 h of PD are significantly more likely to teach a Student-Centered class than instructors with fewer hours. Our results highlight the effectiveness of discipline-specific PD in impacting teaching practices, and the importance of attending more than one such PD event to aid transfer of learning.