NSF Grants Serve as Catalyst for Undergraduate Chemistry Reform
This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $10 million to catalyze reform of the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. The grants, which comprise the first round of full awards in the Systemic Changes in the Undergraduate Chemistry Curriculum program, will go to four higher education coalitions around the country for a duration of five years. Each of the four coalitions involves a variety of institutions ranging from large universities to four-year and community colleges. Overall, more than 50 institutions are formally involved in the projects.
According to Robert F. Watson, director of NSF's Division of Undergraduate Education, "the projects hold promise of bringing about dramatic changes in the undergraduate chemistry curriculum, including substantial integration of the study of chemistry with the study of other science disciplines, and of greatly increasing the abilities of students to work with one another in exploring and solving meaningful problems in the sciences. Special emphases are placed on modifying curricula to meet the needs of students who expect to teach in elementary, middle, or high schools, or who are pursing two-year degrees in advanced technology fields."
The Systemic Changes in the Undergraduate Chemistry Curriculum program is brining about major changes in the chemistry curriculum by further integrating and enhancing some of the most promising results of previous NSF-funded work. It provides large, multi-institutional projects which build on smaller grants that have been made over the last ten years for very specific curriculum development through the Course and Curriculum Development program or through the Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement program.
Previously in the Systemic Changes program, the Foundation awarded 14 planning grants in FY1994 and 3 planning grants in FY1995. In this first round of full awards, The University of Wisconsin at Madison leads a group of institutions in the project "Establishing New Traditions:Revitalizing the Curriculum." The group will use $3,750,000 to redesign courses to emphasize active student involvement in the learning process, to make effective use of information technology and computer tools as aids in this process, and to establish interdisciplinary course clusters that will allow students to integrate their studies in selected areas of the sciences and humanities.
An award of $1,525,000 to the City College Consortium centered at the City University of New York will allow participating institutions to develop "A Workshop Chemistry Curriculum." This project has its major focus on developing a new learning culture in chemistry that will affect all levels of the curriculum. For example, introductory courses will include student-led workshops and mentorship by recent completers of the courses.
The ChemLinks Coalition, led by Beloit College with a grant of $2,715,000 for its project "Making Chemical Connections," will cooperate with the ModularChem Consortium, led by the University of California at Berkeley with a grant of $2,865,000 for its project "Sweeping Changes in Manageable Units: A Modular Approach for Chemistry Curriculum Reform." These two groups are developing a complementary set of modules, each focusing on a real-world problem as a way to introduce important core concepts, to show the links between chemistry and other disciplines, and to create a flexible model for curriculum reform.
Watson predicts "the cooperation within the consortia among faculty from a variety of institutions and disciplines will establish new models for designing and disseminating curricular changes."
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) 2017, 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.
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