Exploring the Use of the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol to Develop Finegrained Measures of Interactive Teaching in Undergraduate Science Classrooms

WCER Working Paper No. 2013-06

Matthew T. Hora

October 2013, 34 pp.

ABSTRACT: Detailed accounts of teaching are important in order to shed light on instructional practice, yet few data exist that describe how undergraduate science classes are taught. Current approaches are also limited in their reliance on binary categorizations of teaching (i.e., lecturing versus interactive teaching). In this paper I introduce the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol (TDOP) that entails scoring 47 codes across five dimensions of instruction every two minutes. To illustrate this approach I report data from observations of 56 science and engineering faculty. While various forms of verbal exposition (i.e., lecturing) remain pervasive, students are spending an appreciable amount of time in interactive modalities, including answering verbal questions (observed in 19% of all two-minute intervals), clicker questions (8%), desk work (16%), and working in small groups (11%). Social network analyses are used to compare two instructors' data who extensively lecture but exhibit different teaching approaches, and results show that 61% of the faculty lectured for no longer than 20 minutes. Findings suggest that the TDOP can be used to improve the design of experimental studies, inform the framing of educational reform initiatives to be more aligned with local practice, and produce robust feedback to support the professional growth of faculty.

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keywords: higher education, interactive teaching, STEM education, classroom observations.