The University of Arizona will use a $500,000 grant to redesign five undergraduate courses and add several faculty and curriculum programs to boost science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
The UA is among eight institutions nationally to be selected for funding by the Association of American Universities (AAU) under the group's STEM Undergraduate Education Initiative, which is funded by a $4.7 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
The nationwide initiative is intended to support major cultural shifts in STEM education, the UA said. Business and academic groups are pushing improved STEM education to help meet the demand for qualified workers in STEM fields and to help drive economic development.
Under the initiative, the university has established the UA AAU STEM Project, "a comprehensive, interdisciplinary effort that significantly will expand STEM-related collaborative enterprises, curricula and funding opportunities," the UA said.
Leading the effort as principal investigators on the AAU grant are Gail D. Burd, UA vice provost for academic affairs and a UA distinguished professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology; and Vicente Talanquer, professor in the UA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
The UA AAU STEM Project will be funded through 2016. Among other efforts, the UA project will include:
• The redesign of three foundational STEM courses (general chemistry, introductory biology and introductory physics/mechanics) and two other courses (elements of chemical engineering II and also computer programming for engineering applications) with support from the UA Office of Instruction and Assessment. The courses are being revised "to include more active learning approaches and student-centered learning opportunities," the UA said.
• The creation of "instructional development teams," whose members will develop course materials and interactive Web-based resources.
• The creation of "faculty learning communities" to analyze the effectiveness of evidence-based STEM undergraduate teaching and learning at the UA.
• New professional development opportunities for faculty, including an annual workshop and a teaching symposium in the third year of funding.
• The creation and expansion of teaching awards that will provide funding to tenured and non-tenured faculty recognized for "successful evidence-based teaching practices."
• The hiring of a new postdoctoral fellow who will focus on program assessment.
• Evaluations of student learning and course effectiveness to guide improvement or further development of teaching practices and strategies.
• Modification of several existing facilities to enhance teaching and learning environments.
The AAU is an association of 60 U.S. and two Canadian research universities.