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Undergrad STEM Ed and Research Gets $4.8 Million Lift

A multi-million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation is helping the Association of American Colleges and Universities redesign how schools evaluate their STEM education efforts. The organization received $4.8 million to implement a new, interdisciplinary approach to STEM higher ed reform.

While quality teaching — in the form of evidence-based practices — has proven to be "one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of student interest and retention in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," the organization noted in its grant abstract, what's been tougher is "developing a common language for articulating successful teaching practices" to STEM educators.

Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) will use the funding to run a five-year community of practice for faculty and researchers, especially those from under-represented groups, with the goal of graduating more students in STEM fields "who are competitively trained and liberally educated." PKAL was founded in 1989 to advocate for transforming undergraduate STEM teaching and learning.

The latest project will help participants develop metrics associated with student success, retention and degree completion that can be used to identify "quality undergraduate STEM teaching." This professional development model will include face-to-face and virtual interactions. A network of scholars and practitioners will meet up through "knowledge studios," regional clinics and an online platform to share ideas, projects and outcomes.

The knowledge studios are designed to develop leaders and teams that will create research and development efforts to address the challenges facing low-income students in their pursuit of STEM degrees. The regional clinics will be designed to "sustain momentum and provide support" for the teams as they move forward on their projects. And AAC&U's "STEM Central" web platform will be enhanced to for easier interaction and to connect STEM education researchers and disciplinary faculty as part of the community of practice.

"This work represents a unique opportunity for aligning education research and evaluation with proven undergraduate STEM teaching practices that contribute to diversifying the STEM disciplines," said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella in a prepared statement.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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