Discipline-based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering
The United States faces a great imperative to improve undergraduate science and engineering education. Preparing a diverse technical workforce and science-literate citizenry will require significant changes to undergraduate science and engineering education. These changes include supporting an emerging, interdisciplinary research enterprise that combines the expertise of scientists and engineers with methods and theories that explain learning. This enterprise, discipline-based education research (DBER), investigates learning and teaching in a discipline from a perspective that reflects the discipline’s priorities, worldview, knowledge, and practices. Informed by and complementary to research on learning and cognition, DBER already has generated insights that can be used to better prepare students to understand and address current and future societal challenges.
Recognizing DBER’s emergence as a vital area of scholarship and its potential to improve undergraduate science and engineering education, the National Science Foundation requested that the National Research Council
convene the Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research to conduct a synthesis study of DBER. Looking across physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, the geosciences, and astronomy, the committee’s charge was to
• synthesize empirical research on undergraduate teaching and learning in the sciences,
• examine the extent to which this research currently influences undergraduate science instruction, and
• describe the intellectual and material resources that are required to further develop DBER.