U of S benefits from Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant to improve undergraduate teaching and learning

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - November 15, 2012 2012-11-06-ULC SASKATOON - The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) is a member of a North American network of universities conducting research to improve undergraduate teaching and learning that has been awarded a grant of $803,942 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Bay View Alliance (BVA) will seek to understand the kinds of leadership practices that best support the widespread adoption of effective teaching methods, with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Along with the U of S, BVA membership includes Indiana University Bloomington, Queen's University, University of British Columbia, University of California Davis, University of Kansas and University of Texas Austin.
"The Bay View Alliance was formed by publicly funded, research-intensive universities which, like the U of S, are committed to innovation in teaching and learning," said Jim Greer, director of the University Learning Centre. "With the Sloan Foundation grant, we will certainly be able to advance that innovation agenda more rapidly."
In addition to significant work on innovation in curricula, Greer said the university's area of strength with the BVA is research designed to better understand the attitudes of faculty to change, and how to address barriers to successful innovation in teaching and learning.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant, to be provided to the BVA over four years, will support the unique partnership among the participating institutions and will pave the way for future partnerships, said Greer. Patricia McDougall, who will become the university's vice-provost of teaching and learning on Jan. 1, will lead U of S participation in the BVA. The network will examine leadership practices on its partner campuses by designing and implementing a range of pilot intervention efforts, and then studying the results of these interventions to gauge the effect on the adoption rate of evidence-based teaching approaches.
"Innovation in teaching is critical to supporting learning in key STEM disciplines," said Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Program Director Elizabeth S. Boylan. "The Foundation is excited to partner with the Bay View Alliance in its efforts to learn and disseminate information on the best ways to spread the adoption of evidence-based teaching methods in undergraduate STEM education, efforts that will, in turn, provide benefits to both the faculty and their students."
"We certainly see the foundation grant as a positive endorsement of the direction we are taking here at the U of S , and collectively as an alliance," said Greer. "For an organization that is only about one year old, the BVA has already made significant headway in its effort to co-ordinate research and bring together the leaders in this field. "
There is already a robust body of knowledge about what works, and what does not, when teaching undergraduates, said Lorne Whitehead, professor of physics at the University of British Columbia and principal investigator of the BVA project, "yet for reasons we don't completely understand, that knowledge has had trouble making its way into classrooms and curricula.  We're studying what leaders at every level, including those among the faculty, can do to help fix that."

About the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant making institution that supports original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance.  The BVA project is supported through the foundation's STEM Higher Education program, which aims to increase the quality and diversity of higher education in STEM fields.  www.sloan.org.
About the Bay View Alliance
The Bay View Alliance (BVA) is a network of universities carrying out applied research on the leadership of cultural change for increasing the adoption of improved teaching methods at universities. BVA aims to identify and evaluate more effective ways for those of influence at all levels of a university to inspire and enable enhancements of teaching and learning, through adjustments to common educational methods and procedures. Currently, BVA has seven member universities (Indiana University Bloomington, Queen's University, University of British Columbia, University of California Davis, University of Kansas, University of Saskatchewan and University of Texas Austin). www.bayviewalliance.org.
For more information, contact:
Jim Greer, University Learning Centre
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-2234
David Stewart, Bay View Alliance
(650) 288-9522
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