Scientific Thinking and Integrative Reasoning Skills (STIRS)

AAC&U's Scientific Thinking and Integrative Reasoning Skills (STIRS) initiative was launched to develop tools to improve the capacity of undergraduate students to use evidence to solve problems and make decisions. The project has developed around the STIRS Framework, which outlines the need for college graduates in all fields of study to be able to discuss how evidence can be used to advance knowledge and/or to inform subsequent research; to apply an evidence-based decision-making approach, identifying elements which frame and drive decision making for problems in the sciences, social sciences, and/or humanities; to analyze the operation of complex systems using evidence and systems thinking; and to analyze ethics issues which are inherent in research and use of evidence.

In 2014, AAC&U named thirteen STIRS Scholars—competitively chosen to provide leadership to this emerging community of practice. The STIRS Scholars have developed STIRS Case Studies to draw national attention to evidence-based reasoning and decision-making as critical, multifaceted, cross-cutting capacities to be practiced by all undergraduate students in all degree programs. These Case Studies are course modules that help facilitate integrative, evidence-based inquiry into unstructured, real-world problems. The STIRS Case Studies are applicable to courses across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

The newest phase of the STIRS initiative will launch in the summer of 2015, as five competitively chosen STIRS Fellows will lead their institutions in an effort to scale up the framework beyond the course level, incorporating it within thematic, scaffolded, four-year curricula capped by longer-term student projects, which can serve as illustrations of the signature work called for in the AAC&U's LEAP Challenge.
 

The STIRS initiative has been supported by gifts from individual donors.

The STIRS Case Studies have been published. The case studies can assist faculty members incorporate actual assignments and modules that engage students in inquiry and evidence-based reasoning.

Check out the Fall 2012 issue of Peer Review, which features an introduction to the STIRS project by AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider as well as a background article written by Richard K. Riegelman, professor and founding dean, School of Public Health and Health Services at The George Washington University and Kevin Hovland, former senior director for global learning and curricular change at AAC&U.

To learn more about evidence-based reasoning and the intellectual foundations of the STIRS project and case studies, review An Introduction to Evidence-based Problem Solving.

Questions? For more information, please write to stirs@aacu.org.