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AAU Launches STEM Education Initiative at Eight Member Universities

The Association of American Universities (AAU) has selected eight of its member institutions as project sites for a five-year initiative to improve undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects by implementing key elements of the AAU STEM framework. The AAU created the program to encourage STEM departments "to adopt proven, evidence-based teaching practices and to provide faculty with the encouragement, training, and support to do so," according to a news release.

Thirty-one of the AAU's 62 member universities submitted concept papers, and the AAU evaluated them based on the degree of department or faculty engagement, institutional commitment, likelihood of sustained organizational change, and commitment to evaluation and assessment. The eight universities selected as project sites for the program are Brown University; Michigan State University; the University of Arizona; University of California, Davis; University of Colorado, Boulder; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Pennsylvania; and Washington University in St. Louis.

The AAU will provide each project site with $500,000 in seed money over the next three years. During that time, the project sites will each implement a major undergraduate STEM education project that addresses major elements of the AAU STEM framework, such as assessing and rewarding teaching excellence, faculty professional development, and assessing student learning. According to AAU president, Hunter Rawlings, the changes "will make teaching and learning far more interactive and participatory," and the AAU hopes they "will enhance overall student learning in STEM fields and reduce the number of students who chose to drop out of these majors."

Activities planned at the eight project sites:

  • Brown University will address mathematical competency among STEM majors to ensure that all STEM majors are prepared for interdisciplinary and research-based science courses;
  • Michigan State University will develop a new gateway STEM curriculum for first and second year students that focuses on disciplinary and cross-disciplinary core ideas and science practices;
  • University of Arizona will redesign three introductory STEM courses for life science majors and two engineering courses to improve information and quantitative literacy, use of real-life applications in problem solving, and use of hands-on demonstrations and experiments to develop conceptual understanding;
  • University of California, Davis will provide STEM faculty with data on which teaching and learning practices are most effective in their courses and redesign five large-scale introductory STEM courses to use evidence-based teaching methods;
  • University of Colorado, Boulder will use more effective measures to assess teaching and increase the value of teaching in the university culture by creating community support structures within departments and designating faculty "anchors" to support evidence-based educational practices and quality teaching;
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will use mentor-apprentice relationships between faculty members to adopt student-centered, active teaching methods in large courses that have traditionally been taught by the lecture method;
  • University of Pennsylvania will create blended introductory courses in math, chemistry, physics, and engineering the combine open, online learning with in-class student activities; and
  • Washington University in St. Louis will incorporate active-learning techniques in STEM courses, design and implement a professional development program in active learning techniques and practices for faculty and graduate students, and promote culture change by creating a faculty teaching community that integrates and values research and teaching.

As part of the initiative, the AAU will also create the AAU STEM network to help faculty and administrators at all of its member institutions share best practices and promote sustainable change in undergraduate teaching and learning.

Further information about the AAU undergraduate STEM education initiative can be found on AAU's site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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