Initial Publication Date: January 28, 2016

Campus Centers in STEM Education

Jump down to: Who are the Centers? | Missions of Centers | Audience of Centers | Where are Centers

STEM education centers and related offices are hubs of campus-based efforts leading transformation of undergraduate STEM education at their institutions and beyond. While there is large variety in the structure and identity of the campus-based units which house STEM education efforts across different institutions, they have common functions and goals. STEM education centers, Centers for Teaching and Learning with STEM-focused programs, and the related institutes and offices, all have common and overlapping goals of improving undergraduate education, including teacher preparation and connection of the undergraduate experience with K-12, community efforts, and broader impacts. All centers have core goals of incorporating evidence-based instructional practices into academic programs, setting learning targets, and aligning assessments of student learning.Building a Successful STEM Center »

This site offers a faceted search of STEM Education Center Profiles, where you can learn more about STEM education centers' missions/goals, structure, programming, and their successes and challenges.

Who are the Centers?

STEM education centers serve a variety of audiences and have a diversity of visions and missions, sources and levels of funding, sizes, years of experience, and locations on and within campuses. Some have internal collaboration, while others include external collaborations; some are stand-alone, while others are made up of colleagues who work across a campus and others extend to cross-unit collaborations. Centers range in size from single digits to hundreds of FTEs, which can include faculty scholars, faculty positions (full and part-time), administration and professional staff (full and part-time), and student workers - including both undergraduate and graduate students.

Analysis of the exiting center profiles helped to map the objectives of centers interested in forming each community. While many centers have multiple foci, two larger groups focus on teacher preparation/K-12 partnerships and broader impacts, and a smaller group of centers serve undergraduate STEM education reform. Existing associations of STEM education centers either do not address the needs of this latter group or try to address the entire range of objectives. Given that shared identity in a network is an essential component of success (Wenger, 1998; Goldstein and Butler, 2010a,b), we have chosen to build a network of centers whose focus is on undergraduate STEM education reform. Having a tightly focused agenda where centers with similar missions can share successes and challenges is the key to building a robust network. At the same time, we will create strong ties to overlapping communities in the K12 and Broader Impacts worlds.

Missions of Centers

Preliminary analyses of center profiles yielded these insights on the missions of STEM Education Centers (SECs):

  • SECs work with their institutions to contextualize undergraduate STEM education needs of our nation from K-12 education into higher education and the workforce.
  • SECs facilitate innovation through research activities to identify evidence-based best practices for teaching and learning, often in collaboration with other research institutes. Common research foci include strengthening gateway courses, increasing student persistence, and inclusive teaching pedagogy.
  • SECs disseminate knowledge and support the application and implementation of new knowledge and practices for individuals, into classrooms, and across programs by providing training, consultation, and professional development services.
  • SECs advocate for change in policy at the institutional, state, and national level that will lead to improved outcomes for STEM education.

And major themes for centers include:

  • Improving the STEM learning experience for students on campus
  • Improving the flow of students into STEM programs
  • Improving the preparation of students for STEM undergraduate majors
  • Making significant contributions through the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and discipline-based education research (DBER)
  • Broadening the impact of campus research
  • Supporting national and regional scale improvement in STEM education

Audiences of Centers

  • K-12 students and teachers, through outreach
  • Local citizens, as part of public outreach
  • Faculty, for professional development and instructional support
  • Teachers, as preparation and professional development
  • Faculty and staff, for grant-seeking support
  • Principal Investigators, for assistance with broader impact projects
  • Research projects with faculty from different campus units
  • Internal and external projects, through evaluation support

Where are Centers?

As of August 2017, STEM Education Centers are mostly based at doctoral granting institutions:

  • 74% of centers are at doctoral granting institutions (50% highest, 18% higher, 6% moderate)
  • 15% are at Master's granting institutions
  • 6% are at Bachelor's, Associate's, or Special-Focus schools
  • 5% are university systems, national labs, or state-wide networks.