Evidence-Based Teaching


Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) studies indicate that evidence-based instruction is more effective in improving students' conceptual understanding, knowledge retention, and attitudes about learning than traditional lecture-based methods. These instructional strategies require that learners are actively engaged and apply the methods and principles of a discipline to build their understanding. Usually this occurs through interactions with fellow students under the guidance of an instructor. Though the terms are not interchangeable, there are several terms that are used almost interchangeably for this type of instruction, including: active learning, student-centered instruction, research-based instruction, evidence-based teaching or evidence-based pedagogy. These strategies have been shown to be effective across all STEM disciplines (Kober, 2015).

As described by Kober (2015) effective instructors approach teaching as they would research. In general this involves:

  • Changing a mindset on what constitutes teaching. Moving from a traditional transmission of information towards helping students acquire a certain level of understanding and skills.
  • Establishing learning objectives that define what students should know and be able to do by the end of a unit, course, or lesson.
  • Designing or adapting curriculum materials and instructional strategies that will help students achieve these objectives.
  • Collecting evidence to determine how well these objectives are being met. Evidence can be traditional assessments (quizzes and exams), pre- and post-instruction surveys of students, and reflection and note-taking after each class on what worked and what didn't.
  • Using the evidence collected to guide teaching and subsequent improvements to the course.


Evidence-Based Teaching Resources

  • Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, Learning (CIRTL): http://www.cirtl.net/
  • Science Education Resource Center (SERC): http://serc.carleton.edu/index.html
  • STEER Transforming STEM Education: http://www.usf.edu/atle/steer/#
  • STEM Central: https://stem-central.net/
  • STEMEdhub: https://stemedhub.org/
  • Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies (SCALE-UP): http://scaleup.ncsu.edu/
  • The Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) Project: https://pogil.org/


References and Further Reading
Felder, R.M. and Brent, R. (2016). Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Freeman, S., et al. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., (111), 8410–8415.

Kober, N. (2015). Reaching Students: What Research Says About Effective Instruction in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. (2012). Engage to excel: producing one million additional college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Washington, D.C.: The White House.

Singer, S.R., Nielsen, N.R., & Schweingruber, H.A. (Eds.). (2012). Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.