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Reforming Undergraduate STEM Education The AAU Initiative. Tobin Smith AAU Vice President for Policy NSF S-STEM Projects Meeting Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, Virginia October 16, 2012.

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Reforming Undergraduate STEM Education

The AAU Initiative

Tobin Smith

AAU Vice President for Policy

NSF S-STEM Projects Meeting

Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, Virginia

October 16, 2012

aau its history in stem education

- Boyer Commission Report, 1998 “Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities”

- Undergraduate Research Pilot Study, 2001

- Standards for Success, 2003 “Understanding University Success"

- Informal Survey of STEM Retention Programs at AAU Universities, 2010

- AAU Undergraduate STEM Initiative, 2011

AAU & its History in STEM Education
recent reports

President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST): Engage to Excel Report

  • National Research Council (NRC): Discipline-Based Education Research Report
Recent Reports
mission statement

The goal of the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative is to help influence change in the culture of STEM departments at AAU universities so that they will use evidence-based, student-centered, active, sustainable pedagogy in their classes, particularly at the freshman and sophomore levels.

Mission Statement

Workforce needs → Competitiveness

  • Desire for a scientifically-literate population
  • New scholarship on what works in the classroom: evidence-based teaching methods
  • Several AAU institutions are already at the forefront of improving STEM undergraduate education

STEM completion rates not good

  • Research universities don’t produce as many STEM majors as other colleges and universities
  • Evidence-based teaching methods are not widely adopted. Why?
  • Teaching (and learning) are not effectively evaluated and rewarded
key components

Framework (Goal #1)

  • Demonstration Projects (Goal #2)
  • Incentives (Goals #3 and #4)
  • Promising Practices (Goal #5)
Key Components
framework goal 1

What is the Framework?

A menu of evidence-based practices that can be used to improve STEM teaching and to measure these improvements.

Core Component  Pedagogy

Who will use it?

The framework is designed to be used by several different stakeholders including:

  • Faculty
  • Administrators
  • Departments
  • Institutions

How will it be used?

The framework is usable along several dimensions:

    • To improve teaching and learning in the classroom
    • To coordinate courses within the department
    • To determine how broadly evidence-based techniques are being used
Framework [Goal #1]
demonstration projects goal 2

A subset of AAU institutions will be identified to serve as demonstration sites that will implement the framework.

Activities will include implementing practices to:

  • Improve the quality of teaching and learning in STEM classes
  • Determine if and how evidence-based teaching methods are being used
  • Measure the effects of using improved teaching methods on STEM and Non-STEM majors


Demonstration Projects [Goal #2]
preliminary demonstration site criteria

Presidents/Chancellors must make a public commitment to serving as a demonstration site.

  • Institutions must contribute substantial resources to the demonstration project and provide a plan for sustainability.
  • Institutions must include at least 3 departments with some rational connection within their demonstration projects.
  • Respected senior faculty within participating departments must be engaged.
  • Institutions must include assessment within their demonstration projects.
Preliminary Demonstration Site Criteria
incentives goals 3 and 4


  • Work with federal agencies on mechanisms to encourage good teaching

Explore institutional and departmental incentives for good teaching


  • Working with Cottrell Scholars, HHMI professors and others on identifying and disseminating promising practices for evaluating teaching in promotion and tenure


Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education

Incentives [Goals #3 and#4]
promising practices goal 5

To develop effective means for sharing information about promising & effective undergraduate STEM programs, approaches, and methods.

Key Projects

  • Promising Practices Resource Booklet& Workshop
  • Program Evaluation Techniques
Promising Practices [Goal #5]
areas of stem reform

Course Content/

  • Curriculum
  • Recruitment/Retention of Women and URM
  • Graduate Student Training
  • Pedagogy
  • Faculty Development
  • Future Faculty Development (graduate student training)
  • Institutional/State/Federal Policy
  • Course content/curriculum
  • K-12 Teacher Development
  • Workforce Development
  • Recruitment/retention of underrepresented student populations in STEM (including women and minorities)
  • Undergraduate STEM Education Reform
Areas of STEM Reform
organizations addressing these areas of need

Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU)

    • K-12 Teacher Development
  • Business Higher-Education Forum (BHEF)
    • Workforce Development
  • Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL)
    • Faculty Development and Policy
  • Association of American Universities (AAU)
    • Pedagogy
  • Disciplinary Societies
    • Faculty development and curriculum
  • Many others…
Organizations Addressing These Areas of Need:
thank you

Thank you

Tobin Smith

Vice President for Policy

Association of American Universities

Phone: 202-408-7500