Date of this Version
CBE Life Sciences Education June 1, 2015, 14:ar18, pp. 1–12, DOI:10.1187/ cbe.14-10-0168.
Researchers, university administrators, and faculty members are increasingly interested in measuring and describing instructional practices provided in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses at the college level. Specifically, there is keen interest in comparing instructional practices between courses, monitoring changes over time, and mapping observed practices to research-based teaching. While increasingly common observation protocols (Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol [RTOP] and Classroom Observation Protocol in Undergraduate STEM [COPUS]) at the postsecondary level help achieve some of these goals, they also suffer from weaknesses that limit their applicability. In this study, we leverage the strengths of these protocols to provide an easy method that enables the reliable and valid characterization of instructional practices. This method was developed empirically via a cluster analysis using observations of 269 individual class periods, corresponding to 73 different faculty members, 28 different research-intensive institutions, and various STEM disciplines. Ten clusters, called COPUS profiles, emerged from this analysis; they represent the most common types of instructional practices enacted in the classrooms observed for this study. RTOP scores were used to validate the alignment of the 10 COPUS profiles with reformed teaching. Herein, we present a detailed description of the cluster analysis method, the COPUS profiles, and the distribution of the COPUS profiles across various STEM courses at research-intensive universities.