Innovative Higher Education

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 469–479 | Cite as

Studying Professional Development as Part of the Complex Ecosystem of STEM Higher Education

  • Nathan EmeryEmail author
  • Jessica Middlemis Maher
  • Diane Ebert-May


Professional development in teaching is a critical component of ongoing work to improve student learning outcomes in higher education, especially STEM education. While there are many large-scale professional development programs designed to help participants change the way STEM is taught, few have thoroughly evaluated the outcomes to determine whether faculty members have adopted new techniques and transferred what they learned to their teaching practice. Importantly, without substantive assessment of long-term professional development outcomes, we are left with little evidence of program effectiveness. In this article we examine the current state of professional development evaluation in STEM higher education, propose possible study design elements to use when investigating the impact of professional development on instructors, and describe a novel longitudinal research design for the evaluation of professional development activities.


Professional development STEM Higher education Faculty Teaching 



The authors acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation DUE 1623834 entitled “Collaborative Research: Investigating Contextual Factors that Impact Early-Career Faculty Teaching Practice,” participation from faculty members in the longitudinal study, and support from the departmental faculty and chairs in the participating institutions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan Emery
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jessica Middlemis Maher
    • 2
  • Diane Ebert-May
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant BiologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Delta Program in Research, Teaching, and LearningUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA

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