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NSF Program Enhances Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for Undergraduate Students
Academicians from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines are sweeping aside traditional learning methods and transforming the foundations of undergraduate education. This revolution is occurring at the urging of pacesetters in American science education, including AAAS the science society and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
AAAS and NSF-affiliated undergraduate educators are trying to erase images of students in colleges and universities dutifully taking notes in large lecture halls, memorizing formulas and struggling through weighty reference books. They want STEM subjects to be taught the way they should have been long ago with an emphasis on hands-on learning, invigorating give-and-take among students and educators, and the freedom to pursue cutting-edge ideas.
The NSF's Division of Undergraduate Education is sponsoring the conference, in collaboration with the AAAS, runs from April 16 to 18 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Crystal City, Va. It will focus on the ways its Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) Program is enhancing the quality of education for undergraduate students in STEM programs. CCLI innovations are designed to enable the students to develop skills that better meet the needs of the scientific workforce and to contribute to societal advance in a rapidly changing technological world. For more information about the conference, click here.
Since its inception five years ago, the CCLI program now has more than 600 institutions participating in projects with a combined budget of $240 million, involving about 1.4 million students and 25,000 faculty members.
Four overarching themes invention, adaptation, assessment and impact will serve as conference centerpieces. These will form guiding principles for:
Poster sessions designed to spark an invigorating exchange of ideas. These sessions will feature innovative ideas and tools developed and tested under CCLI grants. Topics include enhancing student learning through materials and activities that take students out of the classroom and into nature's laboratory or into a pharmaceutical or forensic research laboratory; engaging students through case studies and independent research; and using computer-based resources to "virtually" transport students anywhere in the world to study the physical or biological characteristics of environments.
Interactive topical sessions that will provide hands-on experience with a diverse group of successful teaching materials and methods, including "Just-in-Time Teaching" to provide web support for students and faculty in active learning classroom environments, "Concept Inventories" to discover student misconceptions, "Visual Representations" to allow students to construct knowledge, and "Calibrated Peer Review" to probe student understanding through writing assignments.
Plenary sessions that provide keen insight and a variety of perspectives on innovation in STEM education. Featured speakers include: David Goldston, chief of ctaff for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science; Denice Denton, dean, College of Engineering, University of Washington; Eric Mazur, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, Harvard University; Frederick Humphries, president and CEO, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education; and Arden Bement, Jr., acting director of the NSF.
Conference participants will be sent an online survey six months after the event asking them to share what they are specifically doing to improve STEM education. The survey proposed by the CCLI is a good indicator that participants are being challenged to put innovations in learning to the test.
NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions.
13 April 2004