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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 213 STEM Education Centers/Institutes/Programs (SEC) at 170 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
- Building a learning, research, and implementation network for centers via conferences, workshops, communications, staff interactions, and an online platform.
- Showcasing, celebrating, and understanding the work of centers that are transforming undergraduate STEM education via case studies, research on center impacts, and center profiles.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
As of 12/10/2021
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in collaboration with members of the STEM education community, and with support from this National Science Foundation, have created the Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC). NSEC amplifies the work of STEM Education Centers (SECs) and supports the unique and powerful roles that centers play to improve undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.
What do STEM Education Centers (SECs) do?
SECs serve as the hubs of campus-based efforts to transform undergraduate STEM education. They are unique and powerful agents to address the calls for scaling and sustaining educational change to ensure that evidence-based, inclusive practices and programs that support student success in STEM are widely adopted across departments, colleges, and institutions. Based on research by Carlisle and Weaver (2018, 2020, and in press), centers have four distinct campus roles. They centralize reform efforts and elevate the importance of STEM education. They use data to improve teaching and learning, provide expertise in educational research and measurement of interventions, and conduct discipline-based education research. They translate and communicate across boundaries of disciplines and across organizational levels, bridging the research to practice gap; and centers network/connect individuals with others working in similar areas and/or with resources/services.
Building a national Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC)
We share here five outcomes and associated deliverables that resulted as part of this work.
1) Built a learning, research, and implementation network for centers via conferences, workshops, communications, staff interactions, and an online platform.
- Formed a stable network boasting 213 centers and 170 institutions (from 293 SECs at 220 institutions in the United States identified to date).
- Advanced community and network learning via 9 national conferences with associated proceedings dating back to 2013.
- Created common understanding and co-created resources via 9 workshops, ranging from center design to diversity equity and inclusion to teaching evaluation
2) Showcased, celebrated, and studied the work of centers that are transforming undergraduate STEM education via case studies, research on center impacts, and center profiles.
Created a taxonomy of center types and approaches via 135 center profiles and research studies.
Developed 12 institutional case studies and conducted a national survey of centers, which expanded our understanding of the capacities and roles of SECs and Centers for Teaching and Learning, and which resulted in three peer-reviewed research articles published and in progress (Carlisle and Weaver 2018, 2020, and in press), a Model for Center Practices in Undergraduate STEM Education, a white paper, and Guidebook for self-assessment for centers (in draft).
Expanded the scholarship on creating effective STEM education networks by drawing from a series of case studies (Goldstein et al 2017) and dialogues with network leaders (Goldstein 2021f), which provided 27 actionable steps for building and sustaining a national network (Goldstein 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d, 2021e), Guidance for Network Leaders (Desmarais et al 2017), and which has been further translated for netweavers at the Netweaving Network Platform.
3) Served 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, and research on effective center and institutional practices.
Scaled innovative and promising practices by sharing practices and resources via an online platform, listserv, and national conference proceedings.
Developed a toolkit for centers that include key resources of interest to centers, including governance, finance, and communication strategies; several dozen promising practices in a STEM innovation database; and report and inventory of state-wide STEM networks.
Publications (all publicly available versions) produced as part of this grant: (Horii et al 2017; Henderson et al 2017a, 2017b; Magliaro and Ernst 2018; Krim et al 2019; Carlisle and Weaver 2018, 2020; Redd and Finkelstein 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020; Desmarais et al 2017; Goldstein et al 2016; Goldstein et al 2017; Goldstein 2017, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d, 2021e, 2021f)
4) Created a coalition of actors that are addressing and engaging in practices that are cross- and multi-institutional via seed grants for collaborative research and implementation proposals.
Incubation of 4 new communities in STEM education: NC-FEW, STEM DBER Alliance, CARET, and RECCUSE.
5) Collectively improved institutional and national policies which strengthen undergraduate STEM education through participation in national dialogues.
- We have coordinated and collaborated with other networks to advance STEM education, including with the AAU STEM Education Initiative, the Accelerating Systemic Change Network, the BayView Alliance, the National Academies, the POD Network, and the TEVal (teaching evaluation) coalition.
- We are drafting a summary of what NSEC learned about centers from the work led by Gabriela Weaver and Deborah Carlisle, what we learned about building and sustaining networks from Bruce Goldstein's scholarship, and insights from Kacy Redd and Noah Finkelstein, co-directors of NSEC (will be published here).
Participants in the Network
As of December 10, 2021, we had 298 institutions and organizations/associations who are involved in NSEC programming.
- 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 institutional site visits that informed the research on the roles of centers.
- 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.
- 10 institutions participated in the Teaching Evaluation Workshop, which was held virtually on October 28-29, 2020. There were 38 participants.
- 118 institutions were represented at the Transforming Institutions Conference in 2021, which was co-sponsored by NSEC and ASCN.
- NSEC has a STEM 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.
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:
- APLU's Science and Mathematics Teaching Imperative (SMTI) has been addressing, in part, the needs of centers engaged in teacher preparation through the SMTI National Conference.
- The Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education is devoted in part to improving teaching and learning.
- The Bay View Alliance is a network of nine institutions seeking to promote change across higher education.
- The AAU STEM education initiative is promoting undergraduate change among their network.
- PKAL is dedicated to empowering STEM faculty to graduate more STEM students.
Publications to date
As of December 10, 2021
|Horii, C., Redd, K., Ouellett, M., Finkelstein, N., Beach, A., Carlisle, D., ... Weaver, G. (2017, November 17). Collaborating at the Centers: Report from a STEM Education Transformation Workshop Involving Leaders of Centers for Teaching and Learning and STEM Education Centers. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/pknbf|
|Krim, J. S., Coté, L. E., Schwartz, R. S., Stone, E. M., Cleeves, J. J., Barry, K. J., ... & Keller, J. M. (2019). Models and impacts of science research experiences: A review of the literature of CUREs, UREs, and TREs. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 18(4), ar65.|
|Henderson, Charles, Mark Connolly, Erin L. Dolan, Noah Finkelstein, Scott Franklin, Shirley Malcom, Chris Rasmussen, Kacy Redd, and Kristen St John. "Towards the STEM DBER Alliance: Why we Need a Discipline-Based STEM Education Research Community." International Journal of Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education (2017): 1-8. Available at http://doi.org/10.1007/s40753-017-0056-3|
|Henderson, C., Connolly, M., Dolan, E. L., Finkelstein, N., Franklin, S., Malcom, S., Rasmussen, C., Redd, K. and John, K. St. (2017), Towards the STEM DBER Alliance: Why We Need a Discipline-Based STEM Education Research Community. J. Eng. Educ., 106: 349–355. doi:10.1002/jee.20168|
|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).|
|Carlisle, Deborah L. and Weaver, Gabriela C. (2019). Capacities and Roles of Centers in Undergraduate STEM education. White paper for NSEC. Available at https://osf.io/2b7jn/.|
|Deborah L. Carlisle and Gabriela C. Weaver (2020) The Role of Centers: Disrupting the Status Quo While Stabilizing Initiatives in Undergraduate STEM, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 52:1, 60-70, DOI: 10.1080/00091383.2020.1693852 https://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2020.1693852.|
|Goldstein, B. E., Chase, C., Frankel-Goldwater, L., Osbourne-Gowey, J., Risien, J., & Schweizer, S. (2016). Transformative Learning Networks. Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2016 Boulder, CO, USA, 1(1), Article 1. https://journals.isss.org/index.php/proceedings60th/article/view/2781|
|Redd, K., & Finkelstein, N. (2015). Proceedings NSEC 2015 National Conference. OSF Preprints. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/w3gx5|
|Redd, K., & Finkelstein, N. (2016). Proceedings NSEC 2016 National Conference. OSF Preprints. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/5gzp7|
|Redd, K., & Finkelstein, N. (2017). Proceedings for the NSEC 2017 National Conference. OSF Preprints. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/9u8jc|
|Redd, K., & Finkelstein, N. (2018). Proceedings for the NSEC 2018 National Conference. OSF Preprints. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/tsnaj|
|Redd, K., & Finkelstein, N. (2019). Proceedings for the NSEC 2019 National Conference. OSF Preprints. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/cwe3n|
|Redd, K., & Finkelstein, N. (2020). Proceedings for the NSEC 2020 National Conference. OSF Preprints. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/ka7n5|
|Proceedings from the Transforming Institutions Conference (2021). Available at https://ascnhighered.org/ASCN/transforming_institutions/2021/program/index.html|
|Desmarais, M., Redd, K., Finkelstein, N., and Goldstein, B. (2017). Guidance for Network Leaders. Networks of STEM Education Centers' Network Leaders Workshop, June 22, 2017. Available at https://osf.io/w4uxp.|
|Goldstein, Bruce Evan. "System Weaving During Crisis." Social Innovations Journal 5 (2021). Available at https://socialinnovationsjournal.com/index.php/sij/article/view/710|
|Goldstein, Bruce Evan. "Maintaining Innovative Potential Over Time." Social Innovations Journal 5 (2021). Available at https://socialinnovationsjournal.com/index.php/sij/article/view/709|
|Goldstein, Bruce Evan. "Jumpstart Virtuous Cycles Within Social Innovation Communities." Social Innovations Journal 5 (2021). Available at https://socialinnovationsjournal.com/index.php/sij/article/view/708|
|Goldstein, Bruce Evan. "Love and Discord: Creating Passion Through Leadership." Social Innovations Journal 5 (2021). Available at https://socialinnovationsjournal.com/index.php/sij/article/view/707|
|Goldstein, Bruce Evan. "Weaving Social Innovation Communities During Times of Disruption." Social Innovations Journal 5 (2021). Available at https://socialinnovationsjournal.com/index.php/sij/article/view/706|
|Goldstein, B. (2021, November 24). STEM Netweaver Dialogues: Creating, Designing, and Managing Transformative Networks. Available at https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/wtb9e|
|Goldstein, B. (2017). Transformative Learning Networks: Guidelines and Insights for Netweavers. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/94c27|
|Goldstein, B. E., Chase, C., Frankel‐Goldwater, L., Osborne‐Gowey, J., Risien, J., & Schweizer, S. (2017). Transforming with a soft touch: Comparing four learning networks. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 34(5), 537-543.|
|Magilaro, S. G., & Ernst, J. V. (2018). Inventory of Statewide STEM Education Networks: Final Report. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/z2hj4|
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.
Summative External Evaluation
Summative Evaluation Report Network of STEM Education Centers (Acrobat (PDF) 225kB Dec6 21)
Nancy Shapiro's evaluation of NSEC in December 2021 is here.
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 2013, October 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.
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