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Center for Teaching Excellence

STEM Engineering Course

Active Learning in STEM Courses: Practical Strategies and Proven Successes


Research has shown active learning strategies in STEM courses improve student learning. But how do you incorporate active learning in your courses? The National Research Council and the Association of American Universities have recommended greater adoption of active learning strategies, but perhaps that has not helped you change your teaching—yet!

This workshop features five USC STEM faculty, each of whom will share a specific active learning exercise from their flipped classrooms. Caryn and Wayne Outten will share examples from upper division biochemistry; Linda Hazlett's example is from an epidemiology course for majors; and Elina Levina and April South will share examples from gateway biology laboratory courses.

Whether you teach STEM courses or are simply interested in hearing from colleagues who are successfully employing active learning strategies in a flipped context,  this session will offer tips, practical strategies and opportunities to discuss this powerful teaching approach.

About the Facilitators

Caryn Outten received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern University. She has been teaching and directing a research group in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at USC for the past 10 years.  She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in biochemistry for the College of Arts and Sciences and a medical biochemistry course in the School of Medicine.  In the fall 2015 semester she developed and implemented a new upper-level undergraduate course focused on the biochemistry of human diseases using the flipped classroom approach.  

 Wayne Outten received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Northwestern University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.  He established his own lab at the University of South Carolina in 2005.  Since then he has received research awards from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to study the role of metals in biology.  He is also actively involved in improving undergraduate biochemistry education at USC and in promoting STEM careers among undergraduates.

 Linda Hazlett received her B.A. in Medical Technology from Ball State University and her MPH and Ph.D. in Epidemiology from USC's Arnold School of Public Health. For over 20 years, her research and consulting work has been primarily in clinical trials research performed in a clinical research setting. As graduate director for Epidemiology, her focus is on student-centered approaches to learning. Through her interactions with prospective and current graduate students, she is intimately aware of the skills and competencies that students with undergraduate degrees in Public Health need in order to be competitive. She has taught EPID 410 for six semesters to over 500 students and has been instrumental in developing and modifying the content and operationalization of Epidemiology 410.

Elina Levina is a cancer cell biologist with extensive international research experience. Currently she oversees Introductory Biology (101) labs as an instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences. She holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Oncology from the Cancer Research Center in Moscow, Russia, and a master’s degree in Biochemistry with honors from Moscow State University, Russia.

April South is an instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences as well as the Ecology and Evolution Lab Coordinator. She currently works with undergraduates in several areas including animal behavior and pathogen sequence analysis. South holds a Ph.D. in Biology from USC and earned her bachelor's degree in Animal and Veterinary Sciences from Clemson University.


Active Learning in STEM Courses: Practical Strategies and Proven Successes