Scaling STEM Reform – About

Background and Focus

The Scaling Undergraduate STEM Education Reforms at AAU Institutions project seeks to use the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative as a real-time, field-based innovation to examine the role a national organization can play in achieving scale of evidence based teaching practices among its members. The overall objective of the initiative is to influence the culture of STEM departments at AAU universities so that faculty members are encouraged to use teaching practices proven to be effective in engaging students in STEM education and in helping students learn. The study will focus beyond the 8 funded institutions to identify how AAU institutions are more broadly influenced by the discussions that result from the initiative, the networking opportunities, and the support through access to frameworks, data and other resources. The study will also examine the distributed leadership role of AAU and its influence as a result of being a highly esteemed organization in higher education.

The overarching objective is to understand how the AAU STEM Initiative achieves scale of reforming undergraduate STEM teaching and learning. The value of this project will be to contribute significant insight into the mechanisms that can be used by major national organizations such as AAU to help promote and scale STEM pedagogical reforms that are unknown to date. The study builds on prior knowledge of taking a systems approach to scaling changes by examining the role of external groups that have been ignored in previous studies (Austin, 2011), and is framed by literature on scaling up innovations in higher education (Kezar, 2001; Kezar, 2011). It will provide key data about areas that remain underexplored in relation to scale STEM pedagogical practices that have been proposed as important within several national reports, by numerous scholars and which have been identified in literature in scaling up reforms in practice in other fields.

Project Funding

The Scaling Undergraduate STEM Education Reforms at AAU Institutions project is funded by a three-year grant from the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE: EHR) program within the Department of Undergraduate Education of the National Science Foundation (Grant No. NSF DUE-1432766). The IUSE: EHR program recognizes and respects the variety of discipline-specific challenges and opportunities facing STEM faculty as they strive to incorporate results from educational research into classroom practice and work with education research colleagues and social science learning scholars to advance our understanding of effective teaching and learning. The program seeks to improve the quality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for all undergraduate students and supports efforts to create, adapt, and disseminate new learning materials and teaching strategies to reflect advances both in STEM disciplines and in what is known about teaching and learning. It also funds projects that develop faculty expertise, implement educational innovations, assess learning and evaluate innovations, prepare K-12 teachers, or conduct research on STEM teaching and learning.

Research Design & Methodology

This study entails a mixed methods approach using interviews, observations and previously collected metric data. Previous studies of scale in policy, international development and education have used predominantly qualitative methods to examine how scale is achieved (Coburn, 2003; Elmore, 1996; Samoff, Sebante & Dembele, 2003). This study design draws on the most valid and systemic approaches to studying scale emphasizing interviews and observations that help understand the key underlying mechanisms around motivation, ownership, norms and sustainability (Dede, 2006).