Appendix 1. Case Studies of SEI-Like Initiatives

The Technion, Israel Institute of Technology’s Disciplinary Learning Designers initiative

Duration of initiative: 2022-ongoing
Case study written: Fall 2023

Ilana Ram1, Olga Chuntonov2, Osnat Berger2, Keren Sagi2, Oded Rabinovitch3, and Ido Roll1.
1Faculty of Education in Science and Technology
2The Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching
3Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Starting March 2022, The Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, started implementing the Disciplinary Learning Designers (DLDs) initiative, which follows the Disciplinary-Based Education Specialists model. The initiative is managed by the Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching at the Technion. The goals of the initiative are to generate a large-scale institutional shift towards evidence-based teaching practices with an emphasis on the use of active learning pedagogies in the different STEM disciplines. To do so, the initiative is designed to:

  • Promote the implementation of best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment in STEM education across the different faculties and disciplines.
  • Improve the quality of teaching through the professional development of teaching staffs. This is done through workshops, one-on-one training sessions, classroom observations, as well as hands-on training in learning design and classroom orchestration.
  • Promote competency-based education that is grounded in each academic discipline, for example learning about ethical considerations in planning and engineering or learning how to collaborate in an interdisciplinary team.
  • Implement the use of educational technologies for the promotion of accessibility and flexibility in learning as well as for the promotion of students’ active engagement with learning materials (e.g., polling tools, interactive simulations, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, and the use of AI in education).
  • Promote the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at an institutional level.

Thus far, over one third of The Technion faculties are actively participating in the initiative in the year and a half since it begun. In this time, the initiative demonstrated impact through the implementation of pedagogical transformations in over 40 courses, as well as in the contribution to the professional development of teaching staff. These shifts were accomplished through the work of the DLDs with over 170 instructors, faculty, teaching assistants, and lab instructors. In addition, in some faculties the DLDs have collaborated with faculty leadership to design a strategic plan for teaching and learning at the faculty level. These processes promoted pedagogical transformations and the professional development of teaching staff in the participating faculties.
Furthermore, the initiative – through the work of the DLDs – promotes collaboration between faculties and departments to share skills and expertise, impacts policy at the participating faculties and streamlines access to institutional resources. Such resources include the issuing of several competitive calls for proposals that are open to all teaching staff for (1) pedagogical transformation in courses/programs and (2) the use of AI in educational contexts.

What is the context of the program?

Technion, Israel Institute of Technology (IIT)

  • Institution type: Medium-sized, research-intensive public technological university.
  • Size: ~10,000 students at the undergraduate level (40% women), ~4000 graduate students. ~600 senior faculty members, ~1300 junior teaching staff members, and ~1000 contract-based external instructors.
  • Of note: there are several streams for Technion instructors.
    • Research faculty tenure track: Researchers who teach as part of their contract.
    • Teaching faculty: Instructors who are not researchers and not on a track for tenure.
    • Contract-based external instructors: Instructors who are hired to teach specific courses. They are not researchers and are not on a track for tenure.
    • Teaching assistants: These are usually Ph.D. students or Postdoctoral fellows who teach in addition to their research work. Their teaching contracts are on a course-specific basis.

Departments involved in the initiative

  • Eligible departments: All Technion faculties were invited to participate in the initiative.
  • Participating departments: As of the Fall of 2023, seven faculties are actively participating in the program. These are the Faculty of Physics, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Faculty of Mathematics, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Data and Decision Science, Faculty of Material Science and Engineering, and the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Each of these faculties has a DLD.
    The search of additional DLDs continues in the other Technion faculties. As detailed below, recruiting excellent DLDs is the main obstacle of the program.

How is the program structured?

The DLDs initiative is funded by institutional and government funds

The DLDs initiative began in response to an open call for proposals made by the Israeli Council for Higher Education’s (CHE) Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC). The call was issued to promote the digitalization of higher education in Israel and as response to the shifts in teaching and learning which resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Technion, via the Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching, applied for the call and was granted funds to start the initiative. The initiative was funded for the first two years by the PBC. From the current year (2023), following the initial period of proof of concept, the initiative is fully funded from Technion internal funds. Funding is distributed over several channels:

  • Investment in human-capital, paying the salaries of the DLDs.
  • Funding devoted for pedagogical transformations in the participating faculties. This part of the budget is distributed on a course-specific basis.
  • Funding the purchases of educational technologies for specific courses in the participating faculties. This includes for example the purchase of digital lab simulations, the construction of several recording studios on campus, and the purchase of a digital anatomy table for the Faculty of Medicine.

The program was recently evaluated. Following this evaluation, it was decided to continue the initiative’s funding for the next five years.

  • Successes.
    • Institutional funding: Now that the initial proof-of-concept period ended, the initiative is funded in full by internal Technion funds. This is an important achievement as it demonstrates the perceived effectiveness of the DLDs model of centralized distributed support in promoting teaching and learning in the institution.
    • Course-based changes: Thus far, ten faculties requested to participate in the initiative, of which seven have successfully hired into the Disciplinary Learning Designer position. Since March 2022, the DLDs have promoted pedagogical transformation in over 40 courses and have worked with more than 170 instructors and teaching assistants. These pedagogical shifts impacted the learning processes of over 4000 learners taking the different courses. (Notably, however, the number of students is likely an overestimation as some students took more than one course that participated in the initiative.) At this stage of early development and adaptation, the program’s uptake by the different faculties is very encouraging.
  • Challenges.
    • Hiring DLDs: The DLDs position requires a very specific combination of education, training, and skills. These include strong disciplinary background in the STEM fields in addition to teaching experience or formal background in Education. This hiring criteria narrows the pool of candidates, particularly in Engineering faculties, where most graduates continue to work as engineers rather than seek for additional training in STEM education. Adding to these hiring challenges is the definition of the DLDs’ position as a part-time position, which further limits the pool of candidates and narrows their impact.
    • Continuous funding for ongoing pedagogical changes: While major pedagogical changes were made in the initial period of proof-of-concept, it became clear that some pedagogical changes require ongoing funding (e.g., funds to pay additional teaching assistants for the implementation of active learning in the classroom, keeping learning resources up to date, etc.). The initiative’s funds were defined as setting-up funds; thus, these emerging needs require further consideration.

Participation in the initiative occurs at the faculty level

The initiative is structured to provide each participating faculty with localized and customized support in the form of the DLD position. The DLDs are supervised by the Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching but work closely with a representative of the faculty’s leadership (usually an associate dean or equivalent). This collaboration with faculty leadership includes connecting the DLD to relevant instructors, monitoring these collaborations, and co-constructing a teaching and learning agenda for the faculty. The outcome of collaboration with faculty leadership is the promotion of processes at the faculty level, i.e. across courses, such as creating shared resources or planning professional development workshops for the entire faculty. This included, for example, creating a shared pool of teaching resources for the Faculty of Physics, or the promotion of external accreditation processes of the Faculty of Medicine.

  • Successes.
    • External accreditation processes: The Faculty of Medicine is undergoing external processes of accreditation for its graduates to be certified in North America. This process emphasized the necessity of certain pedagogical transformations to which the DLD support contributed significantly.
    • Faculty level changes: In most faculties, the DLDs were invited to participate in faculty-level committees and forums: teaching, learning, and assessment committees, inclusion and equity in education committees, program evaluation committees as well as external accreditation committees. Participating in these venues enables the DLDs to promote the initiative’s goals and streamline access to institutional resources available through the Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching.
  • Challenges.
    • Faculty leadership buy-in:One of the main challenges in program implementation at the faculty level is ensuring that faculty leadership is on board and understands the full scope of the DLD role. Since support is provided on a course-specific basis within participating faculties, the DLDs’ ability to connect and promote change highly depends on the support of faculty leadership and on the openness to new ideas. While most participating faculties embraced the DLDs and provided connections and access within the faculties, not all faculties were as accepting. When this was the case, further explanation of the role of the DLDs was required as well as explicit requests to connect the DLDs to relevant forums at the faculty level.

The DLDs within departments act as agents of change

The DLDs’ organizational affiliation is to the Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching. Each DLD works in a different faculty to provide centralized distributed support. The DLDs are usually trained and educated in a similar STEM area as that of their faculty (e.g., the faculty of Mathematics has a DLD who has a PhD in Mathematics). This specific training allows them a unique perspective into the needs and challenges of teaching and learning within a given academic discipline. Their additional ongoing training in education and pedagogy enables them to offer a unique perspective to the changes required in their faculty. Working in the faculty, the DLD collaborates with teaching staff to understand issues and challenges on a course-specific basis. The DLD and the instructor(s) then work together to tailor pedagogical and/or techno-pedagogical solutions to these specific challenges. This approach is designed to make incremental changes at the faculty level.
In addition to these incremental changes, the DLDs work to promote change at the faculty level through participation in teaching related committees, seminars and forums (e.g., teaching committee), and design workshops tailored to their faculty’s teaching and learning needs and agendas.

  • Successes. The DLD role is a particular strength of the initiative as they can reduce faculty time needed for change and provide knowledge to support that change, including disciplinary expertise and skills. This is relevant to both course-specific changes as well as faculty-level efforts. Therefore, in some faculties, the DLDs are perceived by faculty leadership as a valuable resource and are trusted with the promotion of faculty-wide initiatives.
  • Challenges. In some cases, faculty or faculty leadership were not on board with conducting pedagogical transformations in their courses. When this was the case, the DLD’s contact within the faculty (i.e., associate deans) were responsible to ensure cooperation or redirect the DLD’s efforts elsewhere. However, in some cases, particularly around transitions in the role of associate deans, such processes were delayed. In the few cases where the DLDs were not integrated deeply enough into the faculty to promote change, the Center’s intervention was required to get the program back on track.

DLDs receive regular oversight and supervision

The DLDs meet on a weekly basis for one-on-one advising with the head of the Learning Design Department at the Center. These meetings are dedicated for discussing project progress. In addition, their training includes a bimonthly team meeting for professional development sessions.

  • Successes. These meetings are critical for keeping projects on track and for the efficient use of DLD time.
  • Challenges. DLDs are currently part-time employees, thus coordinating professional development sessions was challenging. In addition, considering that this is a part-time position, these meetings were time consuming at the early stages. Furthermore, the growth in number of processes, courses, and teaching staff members participating in the initiative raised the issue of documenting the work of the DLDs in the different faculties.

The central organization is growing and developing

The Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching is running and coordinating the initiative at the Technion, with the support of the Technion’s Vice President and the Deputy Senior Vice President for the Promotion of Teaching and Learning. This support enables the Center to promote several simultaneous initiatives to lead pedagogical changes at an institutional level.
First and foremost, this support pays the salaries of the DLDs, who work as change agents from within the participating faculties. Additionally, this support enabled the Center to open several competitive calls for proposals for pedagogical initiatives to promote the digitalization of courses and pedagogical transformations (e.g., the integration of Artificial Intelligence in Education). Furthermore, this support was also provided in the form of opening a Research Associate position at the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology at the Technion. The Research Associate works alongside the Center to integrate the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at an institutional level.

  • Successes. Many courses in different faculties are undergoing profound pedagogical transformations with the support of the Center via the DLDs. This support comes in the form of funds but also the expertise of the DLD and the Center’s staff. Furthermore, the work of the DLDs and the pedagogical changes is being documented in several educational research projects. These efforts yielded several peer reviewed presentations in local SoTL conferences and serve as a basis for data-driven institutional decision-making.
  • Challenges. With the growing number of partners and participants, it became clear that the Center should focus more on formulating guidelines and procedures for the documentation and supervision of the different processes.

What are the key outcomes of the program?

Winds of change

The initiative has been running for less than two years, thus it is still early to talk about outcomes. Notably, however, it is important to mention that the initiative is the catalyst for several processes at four different levels: (1) course-specific changes, (2) faculty-level processes, (3) changes at the Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching, and (4) institution-level processes.
At the course level, there are currently more than 40 courses going through pedagogical transformations in accordance to the pedagogical goals set by the Center, mainly the integration of evidence-based teaching practices and the integration of educational technologies. These shifts in courses impact hundreds of students every term. While there is still a long way to go (as not all courses are participating in the initiative) we hope that as the program continues more courses will join it.
At the faculty level, the initiative facilitated the creation of a strategic plan tailored to the needs, goals, and vision for teaching and learning in some (but not all) participating faculties. In addition, the DLDs provide hands-on training and take part in the professional development of teaching staffs in their disciplines. The outcome of these processes is the greater consideration given to teaching efforts and requirements within the participating faculties.
In terms of changes made at the Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching, the DLD initiative situated the Center as a local hub of expertise in STEM education. In terms of organizational changes, the initiative enabled several personnel changes, mainly the hiring of the DLDs.
At the institutional level, The Technion considers teaching and learning an important part of its official agenda. This is reflected by the management’s willingness to continue to fund the initiative following the initial period of government-based funding.

How do I get more information?


Contact: for more details please contact Dr. Olga Chuntonov,
Head of the Center for the Promotion of Learning and Teaching


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The Science Education Initiative Handbook Copyright © 2018 by Stephanie V. Chasteen (University of Colorado Boulder) and Warren J. Code (University of British Columbia) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.