Seminars on Science Pedagogy

About the Seminar

UPDATE: The second Seminar on Science Pedagogy was rescheduled for July 11–17, 2021.

CIC is proud to announce the opening of the application process for the second round of a new seminar that aims to improve teaching effectiveness and student learning in introductory biology, chemistry, and physics courses.

CIC was awarded a grant by the W. M. Keck Foundation in support of two seminars, one in July 2019 and one in July 2021, for faculty members at CIC institutions. The seminars will use methods based on research in cognition and neuroscience that have been shown by Stanford University physicist and Nobel laureate Carl Wieman, with colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of British Columbia, and Stanford, to yield significant improvements in student learning in science courses at all levels. In this model, faculty members serve more as coaches than lecturers while students are challenged by increasingly complex problems; prompt and extensive feedback allows students to emulate how scientists think and then to discover new knowledge.

The active learning model that Wieman advocates has been implemented, with success, at large research universities, but science departments at CIC member institutions are well situated to take quick advantage of these new methods. As a recent CIC report demonstrates, smaller colleges and universities already produce disproportionately large numbers of graduates in the STEM disciplines who continue to graduate work and careers in those fields. Students who major in the STEM disciplines persist to graduation at a higher rate at private than at public colleges and universities and they complete their degrees in a much shorter time. (See Strengthening the STEM Pipeline: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges (CIC 2014).)

The effective teaching of science is now a national priority. Employers are eager to hire individuals who have knowledge of one or more STEM disciplines, while it is increasingly recognized that all college graduates should obtain a better working knowledge of science as part of their general education. A report by the Association of American Universities on undergraduate science, Progress Toward Achieving Systemic Change: A Five-Year Status Report on the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, which was published in 2017, makes an excellent case for more attention to improvements in teaching science and outlines ways for research universities to proceed.

There is no fee for participation in the Seminars on Science Pedagogy thanks to the generous support of the Keck Foundation.

Four students standing on balcony overlooking the Holy Names University campus

Current Status

UPDATE: The second Seminar on Science Pedagogy was rescheduled for July 11–17, 2021, in Oakland, CA.

The first seminar was held on the campus of Holy Names University in Oakland, California, July 15–19, 2019.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Current Status

​The first seminar will be held on the campus of Holy Names University in Oakland, California, July 15–19, 2019. The seminar will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, July 15, and end at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, July 19. Participants will be housed in residence halls on campus and may arrive on Sunday, July 14, 2019, and depart on Saturday, July 20, 2019, depending on travel schedules. Nearby airports include Oakland International Airport (OAK) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).


CIC will select nine institutions to participate in the 2020 seminar through a competitive application process. Each institution is expected to support a team of four faculty members from no more than two disciplines (biology, chemistry, or physics), including at least one department/division chair or dean. Team members will complete extensive preparatory work prior to the seminar, including assigned readings and an assessment of current teaching methods and student learning in introductory science courses. In the year following the seminar, at least two faculty members from each team will teach at least one introductory course per semester using the methods learned in the workshop. The team members also will serve as resources to help at least one of the departments incorporate the methods into all introductory courses, with full implementation in the second year following the seminar. Seminar participants will submit a final report at the end of the second year following the seminar and will be encouraged to present the results of the departmental transformations at meetings of their professional organizations.

These commitments will be supported and encouraged by CIC through the work of a seminar evaluator, who will assist institutions in establishing baseline data prior to the seminar and in collecting outcomes data during the two subsequent years. The evaluator will confer with participants with periodic conference calls and a site visit.


Teams of faculty members and administrators of CIC institutional members are eligible to apply for acceptance to the seminars. Participating faculty members must be full time and likely to continue on the faculty beyond the end of the project.

CIC seeks to attract a group of institutions to the seminars that is diverse demographically and in institutional type. Priority will be given to institutions that seek to serve first-generation and lower-income students through the program and, consistent with the interests of the Keck Foundation, to institutions in the western part of the United States. Institutions selected for the 2019 seminar are not eligible to apply for the 2020 seminar.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Application Guidelines

​Applications are due Monday, May 20, 2019.

Selection of participants will be announced no later than June 29, 2019.

Please provide:

A. A signed letter from the president that commits the institution to:

  1. Completion of the measurement and evaluation requirements, through the direct involvement of the college’s institutional research resources;
  2. Support of planning time for members of the institutional team as they implement course changes;
  3. Covering any costs of implementation not provided by CIC; and
  4. Implementation of the active learning methods in the introductory classes in at least one science department.

B. An application narrative of no more than five pages (2,000 words) that addresses the following questions:

  1. What is the institution’s rationale for participating in the seminar, and what are the expected outcomes? (maximum 500 words)

    Questions to consider:

    • What is the current state of introductory science courses on campus? Why do you feel a need for change?
    • How will participation in the seminar complement and expand existing initiatives on campus to strengthen instructional quality and improve student retention and completion in science departments?
    • How will participation support faculty members in their work to improve student learning in the sciences?
    • How will participation advance the college’s goals and strategic plan?

  2. Which faculty members will participate? (maximum 250 words)

    Questions to consider:

    • Why have you identified this (these) disciplinary area(s) to address during the seminar? What experience and expertise do the selected faculty members bring to this project?
    • How will the department/division/program support efforts to change teaching methods?
    • Do these faculty members have the potential to influence others on campus?
    • How will the institution ensure diversity of faculty participation, including race and gender?
    • Which of these faculty members also is serving in an administrative role (department or division chair or dean)?

  3. How will the institution measure the key outcomes listed below? (maximum 500 words)

    • Changes in faculty members’ attitudes about their teaching, their knowledge of evidence-based practices, and their teaching practices, both for faculty members who participated in the seminar and for others in departments where new methods will be introduced in all introductory courses;
    • Changes in student attitudes about introductory science courses and learning in the sciences;
    • Changes in student course completion;
    • Changes in student learning;
    • Changes in student persistence in STEM majors; and
    • Changes in student degree completion.

  4. How will the institution ensure that the new teaching methods are implemented during the grant period and continue to be applied afterward (that is, after the 2021–2022 academic year)? (maximum 250 words)

    Here are some faculty incentives to consider in your response:

    • Recognition (for example, teaching excellence awards);
    • Reassigned time;
    • Stipends;
    • Salary increases;
    • Consideration for promotion; and
    • Research opportunities (for example, papers on the scholarship of teaching and learning).

  5. What plans does the institution have to expand the program and/or build upon positive outcomes beyond the grant period (that is, after the 2021–2022 academic year)? (maximum 350 words)

    Describe preliminary ideas about further application of the new teaching methods in additional departments or programs to improve student learning outcomes, persistence, and degree completion. Please identify possible sources of funding for this sustaining work.

  6. What additional costs do you anticipate for the institution to participate in the seminar and then implement the new teaching methods (that is, costs not covered by CIC and the Keck Foundation)? How will the institution cover these costs? (maximum 250 words)

    Additional costs to consider:

    • Faculty incentives; and
    • Cost of implementation of new methods.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why are the seminars limited to courses in biology, chemistry, and physics?
    The seminars are limited to courses in these three areas to encourage sharing of content expertise and the development of student exercises across institutional teams, since nearly all colleges offer courses in those areas. Institutions with interdisciplinary introductory courses in these areas are eligible to apply.

  2. Why are participants being selected a year in advance?
    CIC will select participants a year in advance for two reasons. The seminar facilitators will assign extensive readings that participants should complete before the seminar. In addition, team members and their departments will collect assessment data on current teaching practices in introductory courses during the 2019–2020 academic year. Data will be used to establish baselines on student learning in introductory courses so that the impact of grant-supported activities can be determined. The program evaluator will help teams structure these assessments.

  3. What travel allowance is provided by the grant?
    The grant provides for up to $1,000 per team in approved travel expenses.

  4. What is the schedule for the 2020 seminar?
    The seminar will be held July 20–24, 2020. Activities will begin at 9:00 a.m. each day and run through 5:30 p.m., with a break for lunch. Expect team or individual work to be assigned for the evenings.

  5. Who are the facilitators for the first seminar?
    The facilitators for the first seminar are: Warren Code, associate director, Faculty of Science Skylight Centre for Learning and Teaching, University of British Columbia; Georg Rieger, professor of physics and director of the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative for the department of physics and astronomy, University of British Columbia; and Michelle Smith, associate professor of biological sciences, Cornell University. All three facilitators have extensive experience with the methods and materials to be developed in the seminar and have been trained by Carl Wieman.

  6. What follow-up support will be available to institutions after the seminar?
    The facilitators will offer webinars for the group, as well as conference calls and a site visit for each institution.

Contact Information

​Please contact Kathy Whatley, CIC senior advisor for academic programs, at, or Stephen Gibson, director of programs, at or (202) 466-7230 with any additional questions about the Seminars on Science Pedagogy or the application process.