The IDEA Blog



Read the thoughts and impressions on a variety of topics written by IDEA staff as well as occasional guest bloggers.

Why I March
April 28, 2017

“The March for Science is a celebration of science.  It's not only about scientists and politicians; it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.”  -

The March for Science occurred in Washington D.C. on April 22 with more than 600 satellite marches taking place across the globe.  IDEA’s Senior Researcher, Steve Benton, participated in the St. Petersburg March for Science, so we asked him a couple of questions.

Q. Why did you feel compelled to march?

A. I march because of long-term negative trends in federal support for research, and more recent travel bans which place restrictions on immigration and scientists’ freedom of travel, which can affect the growth of the scientific community. I like the title of “March for Science.” I’d rather march for something than against something.

Q. IDEA’s overarching mission is to improve student learning in higher education. You and your team of researchers, or data scientists if you will, play an integral role in making that happen.  Can you explain how?  

A. We are always asking how we can use student ratings data to answer questions about which outcomes are most important to instructors, and which teaching methods are most highly correlated with student success on those outcomes. We’ve learned, for example, that students report greater progress on problem solving, skill development, and critical thinking when instructors emphasize learner-centered teaching methods. However, when it comes to simple knowledge acquisition, instructor-centered methods--such as clarity-- are still highly effective. Our team is responsible for the integrity of our Leadership Feedback Systems as well and the creation of publications and resources for the benefit of our client partners and the higher education community.

A real source of excitement are our IDEA Impact Grants, which are awarded to researchers in higher education who are interested in answering questions about teaching and learning and about leadership development. Last year, IDEA awarded more than $45K in funding to six institutions who investigated things such as increasing retention and graduation rates through peer mentoring programs and improving learning outcomes by providing faculty with supplementary training in instructional technology and active learning techniques. This year we had nearly 80 excellent applications, some of which will be funded the coming year.

So, at IDEA we are not only analyzing student ratings and other data collected through our feedback systems, we are collaborating with higher education researchers to answer questions about how best to prepare students for the future.

Steve Benton is the Senior Researcher at IDEA.

March for Science
Steve (4th from left) and some fellow marchers

For more information on the March for Science and its ongoing efforts, please visit
For information about IDEA and its research publications and resources, please visit

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