STEM Education Center

Research into the improvement of STEM teaching and learning through

College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Established: 2009

Profile submitted by Gillian Roehrig

Vision and Goals

The Center is focusing on four main areas of STEM education:

STEM Integration

The first focus of the Center is STEM Integration. STEM Integration is the merging of the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in order to: deepen student understanding of each discipline by contextualizing concepts, broaden student understanding of STEM disciplines through exposure to socially and culturally relevant STEM contexts, and increase interest in STEM disciplines to broaden the pipeline of students entering the STEM fields.

The needs that guide the Center's research agenda around STEM Integration are as follows:

Learning and Cognition

The second focus of the Center is understanding how people learn to think scientifically and mathematically. Current research on this question addresses simple concepts of less relevance to questions of K-20 STEM instructors. STEM Education Center researchers will investigate how students understand complex scientific concepts, and how their understanding can be improved through the use if technology supports. They will also investigate how people master the abstract mathematical concepts and formalisms necessary for successful careers in STEM fields. This research will expand and strengthen the foundational psychological and neuroscience knowledge underlying STEM practice and education.

Research on Instructor Preparation

The third focus of the STEM Education Center is research on the preparation and development of P-20 STEM instructors. Research in the preparation of K-12 STEM teachers will address instruction in the STEM disciplinary departments as well as the initial licensure courses housed in the College of Education and Human Development. Improvements in teaching and student learning at the undergraduate level being researched by STEM Education Center faculty will provide teacher candidates experience with the types of reform-based instruction called for at the K-12 level. Research in K-12 teacher preparation addresses life-long learning across pre-service, induction and professional development years looking at teachers

Evaluation and Assessment

The final focus of STEM Education Center is evaluation and assessment. This will include research about how best to evaluate STEM programs and how best to assess understanding of STEM, which includes curriculum development. Existing evaluation and assessment techniques need to be refined and more carefully aligned with the actual purpose they are purported to serve. The most appropriate statistical, interpretive and measurement techniques and how these approaches can be optimized to provide useful information to decision makers needs to be determined. Furthermore, careful assessment of student learning and incorporation of these measures into evaluations of STEM programs, such as instructor preparation, is critical to improving STEM education and to improving STEM assessment and evaluation.

Center/Program Structure

The STEM Education Center is administratively housed within the College of Education and Human Development with affiliate faculty from College of Science and Engineering, College of Biological Sciences, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Science, and the Medical School. Leadership is provided by faculty from the STEM Education program within the department of Curriculum and Instruction. Faculty and staff include six tenured faculty, two clinical faculty, one professor emeritus, three research associates, approximately 25 full-time graduate research assistants (funded on center grants), and 1.5 administrative staff positions. Collaboration toward external grant funding is expected.

Description of Programming

The primary focus of the STEM Education Center is research not education outreach ( Our research incorporates a significant number of teacher professional development institutes and workshops - two of our larger programs are described below:

Successes and Impacts

Our biggest success is our ability to bring in external grant funding to support the research associates and graduate students within the STEM Education Center. Over $30 million of external funding and $500,000 of business sponsorship has already been secured. This funding impacts STEM teaching and learning from pre-school through undergraduate levels both in Minnesota and nationally.

A more recent success is the development of an external advisory board designed to help the STEM Education Center achieve its mission and vision by providing necessary guidance and assistance. In fulfilling this role, the objects of the advisory board include but are not limited to the following:

Community Builder- the board will help the STEM Education Center to build successful partnerships and support for collaborations with a variety of constituencies, including legislators, school districts, potential donors, the business community, community organizations and the media.

Resource- the board will provide expert advice and consultation, idea generation, financial support and other investments in support of the STEM Education Center's mission

Center of Influence- the board will serve as an active advocate, with both internal and external constituent groups, in assisting the STEM Education Center in achieving strategic priorities and promoting its local and national prominence.

Elements Contributing to Success

See more Center Profiles »