NSF Awards Drive Comprehensive Reform of Undergraduate Education
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The increasing complexity of the American workplace and culture has convinced officials at Prince George's Community College in Maryland that traditional approaches to science and mathematics teaching are no longer adequate to meet the needs of its students. And not just science, math or technology majors.
The college is undertaking a major effort to upgrade teaching technology and to fully integrate the content of science and mathematics curricula to increase the technological literacy and skills of its students, say officials.
These new ideas will have a chance to blossom at the college, thanks in part to a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is awarding 17 colleges and universities nationwide a total of $3.4 million for their commitment to changing the status quo.
Through NSF's three-year-old Institution-wide Reform of Undergraduate Education (IR) program, "these schools are shepherding in a new era in the institution-wide reform of science, mathematics, and technology-related higher education," said Luther S. Williams who heads NSF's education programs.
Prince George's initiative is one of many such efforts to impress upon students the interdisciplinary nature of science and mathematics, and is among many of the progressive curricula and infrastructure changes being made by two- and four-year colleges and universities NSF recognizes by virtue of these awards.
"The problems that the nation's future citizenry and workforce -- managerial and trade, as well as scientific and technical -- will face in their years following college will demand a more sophisticated and integrated view of life and the technology that governs 21st Century civilization," said Norman Fortenberry, who heads NSF's Division of Undergraduate Education. "Too many institutions still have not gotten the word that an institution-wide commitment to breaking down the artificial barriers between departments and disciplines is necessary and inevitable," he elaborated.
NSF launched the Institution-wide Reform of Undergraduate Education as a three-year pilot program in 1996 to reward colleges and universities that had made measurable improvements in the quality of undergraduate education and that are now prepared to initiate the next step of introducing sweeping changes to extend the innovations to benefit all students -- not just majors in the science, mathematics, and technology areas. The changes reflect the institutions' responses to the new demands that undergraduates will encounter in a highly technological society.
The IR initiative addressed serious and continuing national deficiencies in undergraduate education that were highlighted in a 1996 NSF report (NSF 96-139), Shaping the Future: New Expectations for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology. IR grants were open to all institutions that enroll undergraduate students and focus on planned new programs to improve education in science, mathematics, technology and engineering.
Recipients Of 1998 NSF Awards For Institution-Wide Reform Of Undergraduate Education
Science Education for Tomorrow
Faculty are modifying introductory science and statistics courses by incorporating real-world data and expanding multimedia technology for teaching. Modules are being developed by interdisciplinary teams of faculty on issues at the intersection of science and public policy, which make use of role-playing as a learning technique.
Critical Thinking and Information Literacy Across the Curriculum
The college is developing workshops, symposia, electronic courseware, tutorials, technical support and peer assistance to provide faculty with new tools that will allow them to include critical thinking and information literacy skills.
Building Bridges: Science Education Reform
Bryn Mawr is: developing workshops for faculty from diverse disciplines who are teaching in a new cross-disciplinary College Seminar program; developing courses that incorporate the new pedagogical approaches and that bridge mathematics and science with teacher education; and developing a peer tutorial program.
A Problem-solving, Simulation, and Teamwork Approach to Teaching Integrated Science
California State-Chico is changing its core curriculum to one that uses educational technology to teach integrated science by tying together courses from different disciplines. Students working in teams attempt to solve complex and significant real world problems, whose solutions require knowledge and skills drawn from several scientific fields.
Rediscovering the Liberal Arts: Regaining Lost Linkages to Science
A summer institute will enable faculty to create general education courses that will focus on the similarities and differences with which the science, social sciences, fine arts and humanities approach problem solving and provide opportunities for non-science majors to engage in a research project designed to connect with each student's major field of study.
Creation of a Faculty/Student Information and Instruction Technology Cluster for SME&T Education Reform
An interdisciplinary team of faculty is employing informational and instructional technologies to recognize and accommodate different student preparation, as well as different skills and learning styles. Partnerships are being established with a variety of institutions including high schools in the New York City area, small liberal arts colleges and historically black and minority colleges.
Achieving Institutional Reform: The Full Integration of Science Into the General Education Curriculum
Drury College is conducting seminars for faculty development and for constructing materials for general education core courses to integrate methods and ideas that will lead students to a greater understanding of the complex connections between the sciences and the humanities.
Institution-wide Implementation of the Inter-professional Projects Program
An Inter-professional Projects Program will include: a summer leadership institute for graduate student project leaders and program development workshops for faculty; a colloquium on project-based learning and multi-functional teams across professions that will attract faculty and other specialists in academia and industry to share effective teaching and learning approaches via team projects; and a project sponsorship program with private companies. The program also involves demonstrating a collaborative web-based scientific laboratory to bridge disciplines, campuses and sponsors.
Furthering Advances Toward Learner-centered Education
Multi-disciplinary teams of faculty, staff and students are developing a resource guide for faculty that includes successful models of learner-centered instructional strategies and assessment tools. Competitive mini-grants will be awarded to faculty to apply innovative reform initiatives.
Building a Teaching and Learning Community at Montana State University
Three complementary initiatives are being developed. The Start-Up program provides incentives for new science, mathematics, engineering and technology faculty to team with experienced faculty and graduate students to improve learning and teaching. The Campus Profile initiative is a resource for campus-wide formative assessment of reform efforts. A Faculty Teaching and Learning Portfolio facilitates rewarding the practice and scholarship of teaching.
Institution-wide Reform of Science Laboratories
More than 20 science faculty are revising laboratories in most introductory and core science courses that will not only teach techniques but also develop students' ability to ask interesting, insightful, testable questions, and enhance their use of formal reasoning, mathematics and statistics.
Technology-based Problem-solving Method in Learning
The College will increase the technological literacy and skills of its students and their understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of science and math by engaging faculty from several disciplines to design and develop technology-rich, interdisciplinary modules for use in courses and curricula across the institution.
Improving Scientific Competence in Undergraduates
A set of introductory core science courses is being developed to link science to important societal issues and minimize lectures in favor of discourse, minilabs, collaborative learning and "hands-on" problem-solving. Courses are being developed and taught by senior faculty from the core science departments.
Institution-wide Reform of Science, Mathematics & Technology Instruction
Faculty are developing new required courses that provide all students with direct experiences with inquiry and active learning of important science, mathematics, engineering and technology concepts in a real-world context. New partnerships are being formed with regional businesses across departments to improve course offerings.
Engaging Non-science Majors in Methods of Investigation and Exploration
Science, mathematics and engineering faculty are developing new student-centered, inquiry-based science courses for non-majors. Interdisciplinary scientific literacy courses are team taught and immerse students in a research experience that focuses on real-world problems that have ties to societal concerns. Courses employ an integrated classroom/laboratory/field format, communicating, and appropriate use of mathematics and technology.
A Mathematics, Science and Technology Program for Non-technical Majors
The University is providing a broad background in SMET so that teachers are better able to evaluate scientific information and make informed judgments about technical issues. Hands-on math and science courses for K-8 teachers will allow prospective teachers to become leaders in education reform.
Investigative Approaches in the Natural Sciences
Faculty are creating new investigative laboratory courses for non-science majors. Reform of existing non-laboratory science and mathematics courses will provide experiences in formulating and testing hypotheses, collecting and analyzing data, thinking critically, and working in cooperative groups to solve problems through their active participation in a scientific investigation.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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