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U Michigan Launches Project To Improve STEM Teaching

University of Michigan is preparing for a new project, called REBUILD, which aims to improve STEM education with implementation of evidence-based teaching practices.

According to the REBUILD team, more than half of students who begin a STEM degree do not complete it, both at U-M and nationally, and many of those students abandon STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) at the introductory course level. The faculty members leading REBUILD think they can improve student retention in STEM programs by moving away from traditional lectures and employing student-centered instructional methods, particularly at the introductory course level. The National Science Foundation has expressed support for the project with a $2 million grant.

The REBUILD (Researching Evidence-Based Undergraduate Instructional and Learning Developments) team will include faculty members in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, and math, working together with colleagues from the School of Education. The project will formally launch in January 2014, and team members will spend the first nine months studying evidence-based teaching methods and planning for implementation. They will then begin to roll out changes in the classroom in fall 2014. The project will transform 21 courses and affect 8,000 students each semester, and the team expects the overhaul process to be complete in three years.

According to Laura Olsen, professor of biology at U-M, the new teaching methods won't be one-size-fits-all, and faculty teams will be free to "choose what works best for their courses," she said in a prepared statement.

Over the long term, Martha Polack, provost of U-M, hopes the project will "create a model for transforming curriculum across the university," she said in a prepared statement.

The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, MI, with satellite campuses in Flint and Dearborn. The university serves approximately 28,000 undergraduate and 13,000 graduate students and employs more than 6,500 faculty members.

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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