TFW that awesome workshop you did last month had no lasting effect

It happens. You go to a fantastic and intense workshop. The facilitators are enthusiastic. The participants are enthusiastic. It’s invigorating. You feel energized, excited, motivated. You get back to your office and draft up your concrete list of takeaways and to-dos. You start putting things into action, and are pretty excited about the preliminary results.

But, eventually, your email starts piling up. Your to-do list becomes full of other things. And, slowly—or sometimes quickly—the excitement of new ideas starts to fade, and you end up right back where you were before.

As Henderson, Dancy, and Niewiadomska-Bugaj report, this story is repeating time and time again for physics faculty and their use of Research Based Instructional Strategies (RBIS).

It turns out that workshops (and talks and papers—the most standard dissemination methods for RBIS) are great for letting people know that RBIS exist and motivating them to try them out, but pretty terrible at promoting continued use: After trying out a RBIS, 1/3 of faculty quit using it.

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90% of physics faculty know about 1 or more RBIS, but 1/3 of faculty who try a RBIS discontinue use.  (Figure credit: [1] (CC BY 3.0))

The authors conclude that “successful [change] strategies provide support during implementation in the form of performance evaluation and feedback.” More recent work extends this, pointing out the importance of informal social interactions in the dissemination process.

Paired teaching, anyone?


[1] Charles Henderson, Melissa Dancy, and Magdalena Niewiadomska-Bugaj. Use of research-based instructional strategies in introductory physics: Where do faculty leave the innovation-decision process? Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 8, 020104 (2012).

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