The Network

Jump down to: Purpose of the Network | Goals of the Network | Anticipated Outcomes | Participants of the Network

Project Leadership Team »With the remarkable attention being paid to STEM education nationally, with the growing engagement of universities and colleges in STEM education reform, and with the proliferation of STEM education centers assisting universities to achieve these STEM education reforms, we are building a potentially transformative form of infrastructure: the Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC). This work is funded under grant #1524832 from the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program of the National Science Foundation.STEM Center Profiles »

As of August 2021, NSEC currently links 203 STEM Education Centers/Institutes/Programs (SEC) at 165 institutions (from 297 SECs at 218 institutions identified to date). Yellow stars indicate institutions with centers with a profile at NSEC. Blue stars are centers that are engaged with NSEC through meetings and the listserv.

Purpose of the Network

The network is an organization of campus-based centers and offices that will serve as a catalyst for broader national educational transformation in STEM, including research on teaching and learning STEM disciplines at all levels.

The purpose of the Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC) is to support and amplify the work that STEM Education Centers are doing to improve undergraduate education by

  1. Building a learning, research, and implementation network for centers via conferences, workshops, communications, staff interactions, and an online platform.
  2. Showcasing, celebrating, and understanding the work of centers that are transforming undergraduate STEM education via case studies, research on center impacts, and center profiles.
  3. Serving as a resource and catalyst for centers, policy-makers, funders, administrators, and the public on what works in STEM education via a national online platform of effective practices and programs, directory of experts in STEM education, and research on effective center and institutional practices, and center impacts.
  4. Creating a coalition of actors that can address and engage in practices that are cross- and multi-institutional via seed grants for collaborative research and implementation proposals.
  5. Collectively working to improve institutional and national policies which strengthen undergraduate STEM education through guiding documents, participation in national dialogues, and policy statements.

Coming together as a network will allow those interested in STEM education reform to have a central place for information and approaches appropriate for center leadership, administrators, state and national policymakers. We are building a network that brings together the work of individual centers to help solve common and challenging issues in STEM education reform: translating research into practices that will spread, be adapted, and sustained across a campus and across the academy. This network addresses calls from the White House (Olson & Riordan, 2012) and National Academies (Singer et al., 2012) for multi-institutional / nation-wide approaches to scaling STEM education reform. While the more than 150 offices of STEM education have a variety of structures and titles, this network involves campus units with research and faculty activities that focus on the transformation of undergraduate teaching and learning of STEM disciplines.

Goals of the Network

The network is a community of centers that helps address key needs of centers, university administrators, funders, policymakers, and national constituents.

Centers

NSEC supports centers' needs for community and networking; increased institutionalization of STEM education centers; sustainable funding; and resources, strategies, tools, and access to national discussions on supporting transformation of undergraduate STEM education.

University leadership

To increase institutionalization and legitimacy of these centers, the network will help them demonstrate their high value to university administration via rich cross-institutional learning; research on center impacts that support investments in these organizations; access to funders; and national recognition via their center's accomplishments.

Funders/Policymakers

To support funders, policy-makers, and external constituents, NSEC is leveraging the vast expertise of the community of centers to help solve national challenges in education and are implementing these solutions across the network of centers. We seek to establish NSEC as the one-stop-shop for supporting transformation of undergraduate STEM education.

Anticipated Outcomes

The broad array of potential outcomes from building the network include:

  • supporting individual centers by sharing resources, models, people, and awareness and recognition;
  • identifying the research, programmatic, and cultural challenges that STEM education centers are particularly well-positioned to undertake;
  • developing critical resources for proposed, nascent, and established centers, including searchable database of centers and directors/staff; communication resources for centers; indicators to evaluate projects within centers as well as the overall impact of centers; and best practices for collaboration with cross-campus and external stakeholders.
  • addressing the needs of university administration to identity the purpose and role of centers and their resource requirements to support the shifting needs of higher education;
  • establishing a dissemination pathway for findings throughout the network and beyond;
  • serving as a resource for external agencies interested in linking with center efforts or communicating with the STEM community;
  • promoting collective action to address larger scale challenges rather than university-specific efforts and serve as an action platform for advocacy and policy; and
  • developing a robust model of network formation, apply this to create community among STEM education centers, and enhance the capacity of individual centers to improve undergraduate STEM education.

Accomplishments to Date

STEM education centers (SECs)serve as the hubs of campus-based efforts to transform undergraduate STEM education. They are positioned to serve as unique and powerful agents to scale evidence-based practices and programs that support student success in STEM across departments, colleges, and institutions.Centers are the primary locus for translating research into practices and programs that support the success of students (majors, non-majors, and future teachers) in STEM.

The purpose of the Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC) is to support and amplify the work that STEM Education Centers are doing to improve undergraduate education by:

  1. Building a learning, research, and implementation network for centers via conferences, workshops, communications, staff interactions, and an online platform.
    • NSEC Conferences and Workshops – 7 national conferences including 100+ centers; with additional 5 national workshops, webinars and other community-building efforts.
    • Listserv of 450+ members from 200+ institutions
  2. Showcasing, celebrating, and understanding the work of centers that are transforming undergraduate STEM education via case studies, research on center impacts, and center profiles.
    • NSEC has a robust and growing web presence: with 130 live center profiles, a STEM Education Innovation Database , resources, & news for the community and stakeholders,
    • Leading research on Understanding STEM Education Centers with 10 site visits, cross site analysis, case studies and survey.
      1. Carlisle, Deborah L., and Gabriela C. Weaver. "STEM education centers: catalyzing the improvement of undergraduate STEM education." International Journal of STEM Education 5.1 (2018): 47. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-018-0143-2 (doi:10.1186/s40594-018-0143-2). This article provides insight into the role of six SECs. Through a multi-dimensional cross-site comparison we provide a lens into the ways in which SECs function on their campuses, illuminating possibilities for those seeking to strengthen undergraduate STEM education.
      2. A second manuscript, titled: The Role of Centers: Disrupting the Status Quo While Stabilizing Initiatives in Undergraduate STEM, describes a framework for centers as disruptors and stabilizers in undergraduate STEM education has been published in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. This publication utilizes our research findings to frame the ways in which SECs and CTLs offer balance to one another's roles. Here our research describes the roles of SECs that disrupt institutional norms and the roles of CTLs that promote iterative improvement and stabilize initiatives such that they may have a sustained impact. Both of these roles assist with the educational mission and innovative capability of the institution.
      3. A third manuscript, titled: The Role of STEM Education Centers and Centers for Teaching and Learning in Undergraduate STEM Education at U.S. Universities and Colleges, is in the final stages of preparation. This manuscript has theoretical underpinnings in organizational learning theory and innovation in higher education (Baregheh, Rowley, and Sambrook 2009), and it utilizes data from the site visits and the survey to frame the hypotheses and findings to inform the work of centers (SECs and CTLs) in undergraduate STEM education. The results describe the primary roles of centers in educational research, vertical and horizontal communication, the translation of research to practice, and explores key aspects of center networks.
    • Understanding the Formation of networks and best practices for building effective networks via national workshop and assembling tools for network leaders. Bruce Goldstein and team completed the white paper on Transformative Learning Networks: Guidelines and Insights for Netweavers that includes four case studies. In a special issue of the Social Innovations Journal and with support from NSEC and NSF, Bruce Goldstein examines how netweavers can build and maintain the enabling conditions for productivity, commitment, creativity, and purpose in a time of disruption. These papers emerged from a three-year partnership with some of the world's most highly experienced and effective netweavers. The core of these articles are the words of the netweavers themselves, which Goldstein organized and accompanied with commentary to make them coherent and cohesive. 
  3. Serving as a resource and catalyst for centers, policy-makers, funders, administrators, and the public on what works in STEM education.
  4. Creating a coalition to address and engage in practices that are cross- and multi-institutional via seed grants for collaborative research and implementation proposal.
  5. Collectively working to improve institutional and national policies which strengthen undergraduate STEM education
    • NSEC collaborates with National Academies, disciplinary societies, and professional organizations (AAU, ASCN, BVA, CIRTL, NABI, QUBES, POD, and others), to advance and advise on national issues in STEM education.

NSEC is building a community of centers that helps address key needs of centers, university administrators, funders, policymakers, and national constituents.

Participants in the Network

As of August 2020, we had 236 institutions and organizations/associations who are involved in NSEC programming. Another 29 organizations were involved in co-sponsored meetings.

  • 20 institutions in a Research Action Cluster for Round 1 (2016).
  • 21 institutions in a Research Action Cluster for Round 2 (proposed for 2017); 8 of which are new institutions to a RAC.
  • 14 institutions in a RAC for Round 3; 8 of which are new institutions to a RAC.
  • 131 institutions/organizations have center profiles at NSEC.
  • 12 institutions have agreed to have us do a site visit.
  • 514 individuals representing 202 IHEs, 8 organizations, and 1 state government entity are on the listserv.
  • NSEC has aSTEM Education Innovation Database with 40 practices, 12 of which were contributed from a NSF funded INCLUDES project (#1649214) and feature programs that lead to broadening participation from under represented groups.
  • 62 institutions attended the SMTI NSEC 2016 National Conference.
  • 52 institutions attended the NSEC 2017 National Conference.
  • 70 institutions attended the NSEC 2018 National Conference.
  • 58 institutions were represented at the NSEC 2019 National Conference.
  • 65 institutions were represented at the NSEC 2020 National Conference.
  • 36 institutions were represented at the POD/NSEC 2015 workshop.
  • 25 institutions participated in the NSEC 2016 Toolkit Workshop.
  • 42 institutions and 5 associations/organizations participated in the NSEC/ASCN Workshop on Diversity and Inclusion.
  • 10 institutions were selected for the Teaching Evaluation Workshop in 2020.
  • 19 institutions and 6 associations/organizations were represented at the STEM DBER Alliance Meeting at AAAS on November 18-19, 2016.
  • 34 institutions and 7 associations/organizations participated in the STEM DBER Alliance Meeting held at HHMI on May 8-10, 2017.
  • 32 institutions attended the Innovating Teaching and Learning in the Food - Energy - Water-Nexus: Toward a National Collaborative for Food, Energy, & Water Systems Education (NC-FEW) conference held May 22-23, 2018 in the Washington, D.C.
  • 30 institutions were represented at the SEMINAL+PTC+NSEC meeting held on May 29-31, 2019, in Lincoln, NE.

The Centers are drawing on insights from other efforts such as:

 

Synergy with other Communities, Networks, and Associations

This STEM Education Centers Network also complements efforts from disciplinary and professional societies and others that have more targeted focus and communities, or do not engage centers directly. In this effort, we engage leadership from these other key networks and draw from their models of what works to ensure synergy rather than competition and to enhance the capacity of all networks. We are drawing on insights from other efforts such as:

 

Broader Impacts

Creating a national network of roughly 200 university-based education centers that enhances their capacity and allows for novel forms of educational transformation by working across institutions will directly impact hundreds of faculty and positively influence the educational experiences of hundreds of thousands of undergraduates.

Pilot Work - demonstrating need and capacity to build the network

The present effort grows out of pilot work from APLU, which convened STEM education center directors with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in 2013. APLU invited centers that focus on undergraduate STEM education transformation because the association regularly convenes presidents, provosts, and other academic leaders who are seeking solutions to improve undergraduate STEM education. We have held three meetings with the directors of STEM education centers (September 2013October 2014, and June 2015 with 167 participants from 100 centers). These meetings established a first cohort of leaders, identified interest and needs for an ongoing community or network, and created a public online presence for the community addressing the priority need to learn more about other centers. Participants concluded that the next step was to build a community that can share ideas, practices, and resources through on-line mechanisms and convene when needed to address specific topics.

More about the Pilot Project »

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1524832. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

References

Olson, S. & Riordan, D. G. (2012). Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Report to the President. Executive Office of the President.

Singer, S. R., Nielsen, N. R., & Schweingruber, H. A. (Eds.). (2012). Discipline-based education research: Understanding and improving learning in undergraduate science and engineering. National Academies Press.

Riordan, D.G. (2014). STEM education centers: a national discussion. APLU/SMTI Paper 8. Washington, DC: Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

Goldstein, B. E. & Butler, W. H. (2010a). Expanding the scope and impact of collaborative planning: combining multi-stakeholder collaboration and communities of practice in a learning network. Journal of the American Planning Association76(2), 238-249.

Goldstein, B. E. & Butler, W. H. (2010b). The US Fire Learning Network: Providing a narrative framework for restoring ecosystems, professions, and institutions. Society and Natural Resources23(10), 935-951.

Goldstein, B. E., Wessells, A. T., Lejano, R., & Butler, W. (2013). Narrating resilience: transforming urban systems through collaborative storytelling. Urban Studies, 0042098013505653. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0042098013505653

Narum, J. and Manduca, C. (2012). Workshops and Networks in Bainbridge, W. S. (Ed.). (2011). Leadership in science and technology: A reference handbook. Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1-4129-7688-6 p. 443-451

Henderson, C., Beach, A., & Finkelstein, N. (2011). Facilitating change in undergraduate STEM instructional practices: an analytic review of the literature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching48(8), 952-984.

Kezar , A. & Gehrke, S. (2014). Lasting STEM Reform: Sustaining Non-Organizationally Located Communities of Practice Focused on STEM Reform. Paper prepared for the 2014 ASHE Annual Conference, Washington, DC

Kezar, A. (2014). Higher Education Change and Social Networks: A Review of Research. The Journal of Higher Education85(1), 91-125.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge university press. Goldstein, B. E. & Butler, W. H. (2010a). Expanding the scope and impact of collaborative planning: combining multi-stakeholder collaboration and communities of practice in a learning network. Journal of the American Planning Association76(2), 238-249.

Goldstein, B. E. & Butler, W. H. (2010b). The US Fire Learning Network: Providing a narrative framework for restoring ecosystems, professions, and institutions. Society and Natural Resources23(10), 935-951.