MSU part of a national effort to improve science, math education

AAU-release-freshmen-seminarMichigan State University (MSU) is one of eight sites across the country selected by the Association of American Universities (AAU)to host a project designed to improve science and math education.

MSU was among 31 institutions vying to be project sites for the initiative. The project will work to improve the quality of undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM disciplines.

“It’s only fitting that MSU is a site for this initiative, as we are a recognized national leader in STEM education,” said Melanie Cooper, Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education who is leading the university’s role in the project. “We’re confident our contribution will make a difference for thousands of students who are interested in science, math and technology.”

Specifically, MSU will focus on reforming the so-called “gateway” courses within STEM. These are usually the introductory courses that are prerequisites for all STEM majors, and are generally lecture courses with large enrollments and little student participation.

“There is a great deal of evidence that many students are turned off by these courses or, at best, look at them as a hurdle,” said Cooper, who is jointly appointed in the departments of chemistry and teacher education, and in the CREATE for STEM Institute, housed in the College of Natural Science. “In addition, students often emerge from these courses without a meaningful understanding of important concepts and how to use them.”

Teams of faculty from the various STEM disciplines will come together to reform these courses.

“This will help to emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of modern science,” Cooper said.

These faculty will be recipients of a new STEM education fellowship, supported by MSU and the AAU funds. Their involvement in this project is part of a plan to promote a university culture that values faculty contributions to teaching, research and scholarship.

The AAU initiative is funded by a three-year, $4.7 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The grant enabled the association to develop the initiative framework, as well as provide $500,000 in seed money to each project site over the next three years.