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Education - An Overview of NSF Research
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Photo, caption follows:

A child inspect the "Wall of Lights" exhibit at the San Francisco Exploratorium.
Credit: San Francisco Exploratorium

Cover Page Credit: The Beacon News, Aurora, Illinois

It's a competitive world in which science, technology, mathematics and engineering impact our economy, health, societal well-being and policy. The National Science Foundation plays a key role in enriching education and training while preparing a diverse workforce and a technologically literate citizenry. NSF supports research to educate future leaders in critical fields that lead to groundbreaking innovation and advancements in academic disciplines.

Since its establishment in 1950, NSF has supported student education -- from the early introduction to mathematics and science, through the college and postgraduate experiences. NSF also trains elementary, secondary and college teachers, and develops opportunities for future research scientists. NSF-supported scientists, engineers and educators provide the ideas and knowledge base for U.S. leadership in science and engineering.

The directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) has a simple goal: to serve all learners well. Besides the activities in EHR, nearly all NSF research components support education or training programs aimed at students of all levels, as well as out-of-school populations. That includes support for potential innovators who will contribute to our nation's scientific and technical knowledge, those who plan to pursue careers in science and technology (including teaching) and those who will enhance our understanding of the societal influences and impacts of science and technology as a foundation for responsible citizenship.

For example:

  • An interdisciplinary group of researchers at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is examining how quality physical science courses affect diverse student populations in a large school district. In addition to gathering achievement data, this Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI) study is using video analyses of student interactions to identify the effects of course materials on various groups of eighth grade students.
  • Graduate teaching fellows at the University of Pennsylvania are learning how to become skilled math and science teachers while supporting district teachers in the predominantly African-American classrooms of West Philadelphia. The classroom experience is helping the graduate students and teachers-to-be to better prepare for diverse school environments, while supporting learning among West Philadelphia students. The goal is to provide necessary fundamentals and encouragement to enable students to successfully compete for science and engineering-related jobs and careers.
  • NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program, at Oklahoma City Community College, has worked with local school districts to bring quality biotechnology curricula into high schools, while involving parents and mentors to raise interest among underrepresented students in biotechnology related studies and careers.
  • NSF supports public television series like Dragonfly, a series in which children engage in their own scientific and hands-on investigations. In 2002, more than 250 public television stations carried the show, reaching 25 million people. While most were children aged 6-11, about one-third of the viewers were adults, suggesting that many families watch the program together. Meanwhile, other out-of-school learning opportunities like exhibits and museums focused on science and aimed at children are an important part of NSF's nationwide commitment to increase awareness, knowledge and literacy in mathematics and science among student young and old.

To carry out its mission, NSF is developing a rigorous knowledge base by asking key questions.

  row bullet How do we learn?
  row bullet What do teachers need to know?
  row bullet How do we measure and evaluate learning?
  row bullet How does technology affect learning?
  row bullet How do we attract and retain outstanding teachers and education leaders?