We aim to deliver excellence in Texas Science education.
This will come about through close partnerships with learners, programs that integrate instruction with experiences and a culture supportive of instructional practices that benefit every student.
7. Launch and sustain efforts to help catalyze teaching excellence
Resources for Instructors
- Comprehensive support of CNS faculty and teaching assistants is helping with implementing evidence-based teaching and mentoring practices. Professional development opportunities include workshops and events centered around cutting-edge pedagogical practices, training and support for in-classroom teaching assistants and course design consultation.*
21st Century Undergraduate and Graduate Education Initiatives
- Curriculum Redesign is an ongoing initiative aimed at engaging departments in a collective process of designing and structuring their undergraduate degrees around a common set of principles. This work aims to:
- Define critical outcomes related to content knowledge and essential skills in the CNS disciplines.
- Intentionally structure degrees and course offerings to make explicit how students achieve outcomes as they progress through the degree.
- Encourage cooperation among faculty within departments to standardize different sections of the same course and to align objectives of courses students take in sequence.
- Facilitate communication between departments to coordinate links between courses students often take simultaneously.
- Make recommendations for changes to degree plans and courses to simplify the path to graduation, while also improving student achievement and satisfaction.
- Experiential Learning (EL) aims to make engaged learning processes whereby students “learn by doing” and then reflect on the experiences a defining feature throughout the undergraduate experience. The primary goals include:
- Establishing a set of EL student outcomes.
- Requiring all CNS students complete at least one immersive EL activity aimed at meeting a subset of defined learning outcomes.
- Encouraging broad implementation of EL within the classroom, giving students frequent exposure to experiential learning as part of their standard undergraduate coursework.
- Graduate Education initiatives commit the college to helping today’s students prepare for the multitude of career choices they’ll have after graduation and success across many domains. Primary goals include:
- Streamline and enhance students' paths to degree.
- Make graduate education more flexible and efficient.
- Ensure that all students explore and prepare for desired careers.
- Ensure that all Ph.D. students acquire big data skills.
Catalyzing Culture Change
- Several initiatives underway throughout the year are aimed at catalyzing culture change towards a college that values high-quality teaching, is open and committed to iterated and evolving teaching practices in alignment with evidence-based approaches and views teaching and student success as a shared responsibility of all educators. Examples of culture change initiatives include Teaching Discovery Days and other similar facilitated discussions, Course Design Institutes, Graduate Student Concentration in Teaching and Mentoring and programs for new faculty onboarding.*
Communities of Practice
- The college is piloting fellowship-like experiences that invite select faculty to come together in cohorts centered around timely and impactful themes such as growth mindset, quantitative curriculum modules, digital open-resource curriculum design or inclusive teaching practices.
Consultations to Improve Teaching Excellence (CITE)
- CITE is a fellowship-style program enabling faculty to gain experience providing comprehensive teaching consultations, which include interviews with faculty members, a holistic review of course materials and in-class experiences and formative as well as summative feedback on faculty teaching practices. These consultations aim to promote teaching excellence by providing high-quality external feedback that underscores the continuous cycle of teaching improvement. By broadening perspectives on what excellent teaching can be and by exercising care and empathy for our peers, the aim is to create a culture of transparency, enthusiasm for change and continuous improvement.
Mentoring for Success in Teaching
- This year-long fellowship for all new CNS faculty consists of monthly cohort meetings and other program activities aimed at supporting teaching from the moment faculty step foot on campus. Teaching efforts will be supported by both the mentorship of successful CNS faculty and the construction of a community of peers centered around teaching. Faculty will learn about teaching best practices, teaching tools and meaningful ways to support students, while also being set up for success in the teaching aspect of the promotion and tenure process.
Key updates and priorities for 2023–2024
Culture change and teaching: The college restructured what was previously its Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science (TIDES), creating in its place a dedicated Office of STEM Education Excellence (STEMx). The office acts as a hub for efforts to improve teaching and learning and works to advance a vision wherein all college instructors value undergraduate teaching as a joyful, scholarly part of their work and feel empowered to continually improve within a context of a transformative teaching and learning environment that equips students with the STEM knowledge, skills and attitudes that will allow them to change the world. The new Pathways grants program, administered by STEMx, provides college funding for pilot initiatives and efforts related to teaching.
Consultations to Improve Teaching Excellence: Eight faculty fellows from different departments and tracks received training and conducted 50 consultations with CNS colleagues outside of their departments through CITE. Feedback from the fellows, faculty who received a consultation, and members of promotion committees is being used to improve and expand the program in 23/24, including increasing the number of fellows, adding a more robust calibration process, revising the summative report template and ensuring effective assessment is in place to determine its value to faculty, including in the promotion and tenure process.
Mentoring for Success in Teaching: All new faculty were invited to participate in the Mentoring for Success in Teaching program in its first year, and 15 new faculty members engaged with the opportunity to connect with half a dozen more seasoned college faculty members with a history of teaching excellence. New faculty interacted with mentors in monthly full-cohort meetings, discussing teaching topics such as syllabus writing, defining learning outcomes, and effective student engagement strategies, and also in smaller groups, where there were opportunities for community building and conversation a few times over the semester. Professional track faculty could participate in both this program and the New Faculty Network. An online resource hub for new faculty was also created.
Curriculum redesign: Having completed curriculum redesign processes involving degrees across the college, a formal assessment of the impact of this multi-year project is underway in the year ahead.
We aim to deliver a Texas Science education that prepares students for our dynamic, digital and global world.
Because scientific thinkers, humane leaders and creative experts are needed to solve emerging challenges, we are focusing on:
8. Provide educational options that respond to our changing world
Our Award-Winning Freshman Research Initiative
- The Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) and Accelerated Research Initiative (ARI) give first- and second-year students the opportunity to initiate and engage in real-world research experiences. FRI has become a national model for science education, as students who participate in it are more likely to stay in college, complete science and math degrees and graduate better prepared to pursue advanced degrees or jobs in the industry.†
Our Entrepreneurial Inventors Program
- In the Inventors Program, science and engineering students practice what they do best: creative problem-solving to make every-day life better. Teams of science and engineering students work together to solve real-world problems provided by local industry, community organizations, UT alumni and other partners. From these problems, students develop projects, where they design, prototype, test, conduct market research, and make procedure and policy change recommendations. Students test questions, make discoveries and invent together, while also getting to know community stakeholders and faculty mentors along the journey of transforming ideas from concept through innovation.†
Disruptive Education Models for Adult Learners
- CNS has an increasing portfolio of online master's programs that offer the rigor and excellence of a UT Austin degree to a wider audience in a flexible, online format. These programs include a Master of Data Science, Master of Computer Science and Master of Science in Nutritional Science.*
Taking High-Demand Disciplines to Scale
- With careful consideration from a soon-to-be-established working group, the college aims to bring high-demand disciplines, such as Data Science, Computing, and Public Health, to a broader swath of UT undergraduates. This might include new and/or expanded courses, majors or minors, new modules that can be imbedded across other curriculum, new introductory open-access resources for non-majors and/or non-STEM students and/or flexible, online distance learning opportunities. This work is centered upon the goals of student access, interdisciplinarity and 21st century education.*
Key updates and priorities for 2023–2024
Freshman Research Initiative and Inventors Program: More than 1,600 student participants and peer mentors engage with the FRI across 34 research streams. Our first FRI stream focused specifically on biotech career opportunities, Biomanufacturing, has connections to Austin Community College, local biotech companies and the Department of Defense’s BioMADE initiative. The Inventors Program is in the process of developing an area of Welch Hall as a rapid prototyping and design space, for program participants as well as other students across the college.
Artificial Intelligence-related educational advances: Given the importance of AI and its impact throughout the economy and society, the college has a number of initiatives underway. In partnership with the University’s Good Systems grand challenge, a large course available online will provide a broad introduction to the topic of AI for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff alike to help them develop AI literacy, both technically and from the perspective of ethics and the humanities. To compliment the new robotics undergraduate credential, Texas Robotics is adding an additional new FRI stream. Meanwhile, in the spring, the University’s new online Master’s in Artificial Intelligence will welcome its first cohort of students.
Interdisciplinary majors linked to high-demand areas: New degree plans for undergraduates are in development that will be some of the first interdisciplinary majors to cross departmental and college boundaries in years. They include a new credential in robotics, a more comprehensive public health degree options with partners from across campus and two new degrees in computer science that are hybrid degrees between computer science and biology and/or neuroscience.
First cohort of statistics and data science majors arrives on campus: The college welcomed the first cohort of students in its 16th major with dozens of new undergraduates majoring in statistics and data science and others delving into related undergraduate credentials for the first time.