Discipline-Based Educational Research

Dolan, E. L., Elliott, S. L., Henderson, C., Curran-Everett, D., John, K. S., & Ortiz, P. A. (2018). Evaluating discipline based education research for promotion and tenure. Innovative Higher Education, 43(1), 31-39.

Discipline-based educational research (DBER) is an emerging field of scholarly research wherein researchers "investigate learning and teaching in a discipline's priorities, worldview, knowledge, and practices. It is informed by and complementary to more general research on human learning and cognition." (National Research Council [NRC], 20212, p. 9).

In other words, DBER seeks to develop evidence-based knowledge and practices to improve student learning outcomes within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. DBER typically refers to educational research that takes place within the context of STEM fields, though it can be applied in virtually any field. 

DBER complements the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Both seek to improve student outcomes by finding evidence of practices and techniques that help students improve their learning. However, SoTL does this through a cognition- and behavior-based approach, while DBER seeks to understand how practices and techniques within specific disciplines can be improved to help student learning. For instance, a SoTL-based research project might look at how active learning improves student performance on assessments within a circuits course. A DBER-based research project in electrical engineering might look at which active learning techniques help students understand fundamental concepts of circuits, which apply across many different courses. 


An Introduction to Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) for Columbia Faculty

  • Excellent summary about SoTL and DBER, identifying the key differences between the two areas of scholarly research.

Publishing SoTL vs DBER

  • Focuses on publishing geological science education research, but the information can be applied to other STEM disciplines as well.

Evaluating Discipline-Based Education Research for Promotion and Tenure

  • DBER can be a very useful component in one's teaching portfolio for the purposes of promotion and tenure.

Additional Research Resources