Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University Partner to Promote Student Success


A new partnership between researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University has been created to help improve teaching and learning through educational innovation and technology.

Steven W. Leslie, executive vice president and provost at The University of Texas at Austin, said the partnership brings together top educational researchers from the Mazur Group at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Department of Physics with educational innovators from The University of Texas at Austin. They will lead the implementation and dissemination of cutting-edge, evidence-based, interactive strategies of instruction that leverage educational technology to improve student learning and success. The primary vehicle for the collaboration will be the university's new Course Transformation Program, a state-of-the-art effort to advance pedagogical innovation, effective teaching and student success in general education courses.

The Course Transformation Program already is transforming large, lower division gatekeeper courses at The University of Texas at Austin to improve student academic success and increase learning gains. The project eventually will reach more than 40,000 students in a five-year period.

Dr. Gretchen Ritter, vice provost for undergraduate education and faculty governance at The University of Texas at Austin, is director of the program, which is being developed and implemented by the university's Center for Teaching and Learning under the leadership of Dr. Harrison Keller, vice provost for higher education policy and executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. Ritter said the initiative is a key part of a campaign by the university's president, William Powers Jr., to make The University of Texas at Austin a leader in reinventing higher education for the 21st century.

"Universities around the country are increasingly aware that the Internet has significantly changed the way our students learn," Ritter said.

She said advising for the project is provided by two faculty led panels — the Research and Assessment Advisory Panel, co-chaired by Dr. Chandra Muller, a professor of sociology, and Dr. Paul Resta, the Ruth Knight Millikan Centennial Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and the Educational Technology and Learning Analytics Advisory Panel, chaired by Dr. Bruce Porter, chair of the Department of Computer Science.

Leslie said innovative, technology-enhanced approaches to teaching and learning "will help us better connect to all of our students, better support their academic and professional development and better prepare them for tomorrow's workplace."

"The Course Transformation Project's integration of educational technology and scientific approaches to ensuring student academic success unique to this partnership will place The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard at the forefront of undergraduate education reform," said Dr. Julie Schell, postdoctoral fellow from Harvard and lead collaborator.

Schell is the senior educational researcher in the Mazur Group at Harvard. Dr. Eric Mazur, the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and area dean of applied physics at Harvard, heads one of the largest physics research groups at Harvard and is an internationally renowned laser physicist. Mazur also is the developer of Peer Instruction, an innovative, evidence-based teaching and learning method used in thousands of classrooms throughout the world.

"I'm excited to be part of a faculty-led push to innovate in lower-division courses across the campus at The University of Texas at Austin," Mazur said.

The Mazur Group develops and researches technology-based learning methods that drive student success by transforming conventionally taught courses. More information about the Mazur Group can be found at: mazur.harvard.edu.

For more information, contact: rmeckel [at] mail [dot] utexas [dot] edu (Robert D. Meckel), Office of Public Affairs, 512 475 7847; Gretchen Ritter, Office of the Provost, 512-232-3312.