About the National Institute on Scientific Teaching

Our Philosophy

The National Institute on Scientific Teaching (NIST) is a non-profit organization devoted to empowering and inspiring the transformation of STEM education through evidence-based teaching practices. The Institute is dedicated to STEM education reform by improving science literacy and increasing diversity in universities across the United States.

We draw scientific teaching principles from models supported by peer-reviewed research and support participants to directly apply these principles in their classrooms and in their course development. The curriculum includes core elements of active learning strategies, effective assessment development, and inclusive teaching practices. Institute alumni continue to actively transform STEM education on their home campuses, contribute to national STEM education initiatives, and disseminate their evidence-based teaching efforts and research through peer-reviewed publications.

Our History

Founded by Professors Jo Handelsman and Bill Wood in 2004, the institute was fueled in part by the 2003 National Research Council report, Bio2010: Tranforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists. This report promoted faculty development as a crucial component of improving undergraduate education, recommending that universities provide faculty with opportunities to refine classroom techniques and better integrate math and physical sciences concepts into biology instruction. The “Summer Institute” began as an intensive series of multi-day workshops at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where it was held for eight years. The single institute expanded to multiple regional institutes across the country, with support from the National Science Foundation, National Academy of Sciences, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Helmsley Charitable Trust. The Mobile Summer Institutes began in 2014, designed to draw participants from the same department or institution. In addition to evidence-based teaching workshops, the Mobile Summer Institutes provide instruction in peer evaluation to drive long-term reflective teaching as well as facilitated strategic planning to develop a shared vision between administrators and mobile Summer Institute participants. In 2020, NIST became an independent non-profit organization.

Our Programs

The primary goal of NIST is to introduce STEM educators to the principles of evidence-based teaching. Participants include college and university faculty and future faculty from both research and teaching-intensive institutions. Current programs include both in-person and online workshops and institutes which vary in duration.

Image of "Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Eductin for Future Research Biologists" book cover
Image of "Vision and Change in Undergradute Biology Education: A Call to Action" book cover

Our Impact

Over 350 colleges and universities from across the United States and abroad, have sent over 2,000 faculty and future faculty to a total of 56 Institutes. The majority of surveyed program alumni report that the Institute training helped them increase their use of scientific teaching practices. Data from over 70 faculty and 5,000 students indicate increased student engagement and intent to persist in science when faculty trained in scientific teaching implement at high levels. NIST/Summer Institutes programs are often referenced in the literature as making a significant impact on STEM education in the United States.


"It was a wonderful experience, and I hope that more of my colleagues attend next year, so that an entire army of faculty are equipped with the latest weapons to make STEM education meaningful and a joy for all students."


"The Institute was an amazing experience and I would highly recommend to other colleagues. It was one of the best teaching experiences I have had in my career."


"It was great to observe how active learning in groups led to participation by all participants which allowed everyone to see the strengths of the model."


"For me the sessions have been extremely valuable because we have been actually practicing instead of just hearing about the topics in theory."

"This was a very valuable professional development opportunity for me. I feel better equipped with arguments for helping drive change in undergraduate education."


"I learned SO much, made some valuable professional connections, and got practice developing an active learning activity that was peer evaluated. The material was presented in a way that I felt like I could immediately apply/implement things from each session immediately in my classroom."

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