STEM Ed Centers: A National Conversation > Center Profiles > Center for STEM Learning, University of Colorado Boulder
Author Profile

Center for STEM Learning

University of Colorado Boulder
Established: 2012 as a Center; 2008 as a signature initiative of the university

Profile submitted by Noah Finkelstein

Vision and Goals

Description of Programming

Centers in general and the CU Center for STEM Learning (CSL) are positioned to serve as key resources and to establish key infrastructure both within and among universities. Within the university the CSL creates a network among the 75+ programs in STEM education, bridges between university administration and on-the-ground efforts and individual faculty, catalyzes and supports STEM education innovations, supports leading research in STEM education and conducts research across educational programs and on institutional change. The CSL also serves as a focal point for STEM education communication, policy, and identity outside the university. The CSL is positioned to create strong ties with other university centers, creating a network among the many disparate programs, importing and exporting relevant educational innovations and research. The CSL contributes to, promotes and helps to shape the state and national dialogs in STEM education. In parallel we build networks among programs for community, the K12 school system, informal education, policy, and public at large.

General activities:

Specific programmatic activities:

Successes and Impacts

The Center incubates, hosts, and advances new models of educational change and effective practices.

Evidence of CSL impact and success:

Elements Contributing to Success

The CSL has taken an intentional grass-roots approach to seeding engagement and interest in STEM education on this campus. As described above the CSL has supported a broad variety of programs that support individuals, programs and departments to engage in STEM education.

At the same time the CSL has worked with the administration to provide hooks to provide institutional capacity for those efforts that are spreading and beginning to take root. CSL provides a mechanism to link the senior administration (top down) with the individual programs (bottom up) approaches. At the same time the CSL provides resources for each of these communities, providing examples of successful programs to scale/advocate for at the administrative level, and institutional support for programs at the grassroots level.

The center, as described above, is distributed across campus; it does not have a major building or home. This approach honors existing institutional structures (e.g. departments and disciplines) while providing venues for emerging / expansive approaches (interdisciplinary work).

The project was seeded with extramural funding, most substantially by the NSF i3 program (institutional innovation through integration). Efforts in directed, disciplinary based education programs can be traced back to the 1950's (early work in the physics department), and a long trajectory of building STEM education programs on campus. Currently the CSL is helping address the pressures on the university for improved education (increased learning outcomes, and retention of majors / graduates), cost models, and promise of new technologies.

Most notably this center builds on the success of key programs in engineering (integrated teaching and learning program), Arts & Sciences (the Science Education Initiative) and education (the Learning Assistant program).

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