Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)

To advance the research and practice of teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the STEM disciplines.

University of Maine
Established: 2000

Profile submitted by Susan McKay

Vision and Goals

The RiSE Center's work is focused around three themes, including excellence in:
- STEM education research
- interdisciplinary STEM education and cross-institutional collaboration
- professional learning for STEM professionals at all levels of instruction

Center/Program Structure

The Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center) is an interdisciplinary center organized to conduct research, graduate education, and professional development, and to build community partnerships focused on improving the research and research-based practice of STEM education at all levels of instruction. Members of the RiSE Center include faculty, staff, and graduate students engaged in education research across multiple STEM departments and the College of Education at the University of Maine.

RiSE faculty, staff, students, and collaborators contribute to knowledge of teaching and learning across STEM subject areas, with significant national and international contributions in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Education, Engineering, Food Science, Marine Sciences, Mathematics, and Physics.

The RiSE Center provides education and professional development for emerging educators through undergraduate and graduate opportunities, including teaching and research assistantships, a Master of Science in Teaching degree with a teacher certification option, and an interdisciplinary STEM Education PhD program.

The RiSE Center also facilitates community partnerships with K-12 schools and school districts, teachers, university faculty, and other organizational partners in Maine and beyond to improve STEM education and teacher preparation through research-supported practices.

Day-to-day operations of the RiSE Center are overseen by a director (faculty member), seven professional staff (6.5 FTE), and an undergraduate administrative assistant. Support is provided by research assistantships for some of the 30+ Master of Science in Teaching (MST) graduate students enrolled through the center. The 20 STEM and STEM education research faculty members guide the work of the center through an executive committee and additional committees that oversee specific aspects of the center.

The RiSE Center is one of 16 interdisciplinary research centers and institutes at the University of Maine that report to the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Are there advantages of being structured this way?
Yes, we have support through the office of the Vice President for Research and connections with the other centers and institutes on campus, as well as interdisciplinary collaboration across campus.

Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?


Funding for our work is provided through a combination of budget from the university, external grants, internal grants, and funding from school districts for support provided to K-12 classrooms.

How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
In 2010, we received a large grant from the NSF (DRL 0962805) that provided seed funding to start the Faculty Course Modification Incentive Grant - Maine Learning Assistant (FIG-MLA) program, focused on improving undergraduate STEM education at UMaine and modeled after the University of Colorado Boulder's highly successful Learning Assistant Program. When the NSF grant funding ended in 2015, the University of Maine began providing support to continue the FIG-MLA program beyond grant funding.

What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?

What are the challenges?

Has this funding structure has changed over time?
The RiSE Center grew considerably through external grants and efforts to sustain work seeded by those grants. Our current funding structure reflects innovations to sustain programming as well as ongoing development of new programs.

Description of Programming

The RiSE Center, with its twenty faculty members and over thirty graduate students in the Master of Science in Teaching (MST) Program, had twenty refereed journal articles and conference proceedings published or accepted for publication and over 120 research presentations at conferences and other venues last year alone. Graduate and undergraduate students are integral to the center's research and, in the past year, six Master's theses, one doctoral thesis in discipline-based education research, and 27 honors theses and senior capstone research projects were mentored by RiSE faculty members. Six MST degrees were awarded through the RiSE Center. In addition, RiSE faculty are Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on eight new and twenty-four continuing external grants, totaling over $25 million.

The RiSE Center has continued to take important steps to support and enhance its grant-funded partnerships with elementary, middle and secondary teachers as grant support for the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership (NSF-DRL 0962805) and the Maine Elementary Sciences Partnership (Maine Department of Education) have ended. To sustain these valuable partnerships, involving over 1000 Maine science and mathematics teachers and impacting over 25,000 students, these two partnerships have merged to form the Maine STEM Partnership at the RiSE Center.
The Maine STEM Partnership also includes the Faculty Course Modification Incentive Grant – Maine Learning Assistant (FIG – MLA) Program which, in the past year, involved 28 University of Maine faculty in the STEM disciplines, and expanded to 34 course offerings with total enrollment of over 4,000 students. Thus, the Maine STEM Partnership at the RiSE Center continues as a state-wide improvement community for STEM teaching and learning over the grade span PK-16+. During the past year, funding to support and expand the work of this partnership came from grants, partnering school districts and over $200,000 in private donations. Leadership in the RiSE Center has taken a more active role in seeking philanthropic support for the Center's work and pursuing Maine Department of Education commitments to continue this statewide STEM education improvement initiative.

During this year, the prestigious NSF Teaching Fellowship Program, designed to support new science and mathematics teachers from the MST Program as they begin their careers teaching in rural high-need Maine districts, continued with seven of the fellows teaching in high-need districts. Fifteen of the twenty-two fellowship positions have been awarded to date and we anticipate that the remainder will be selected within the coming year. Fellows are supported in their transition from student to teacher by a pool of leading science and mathematics mentor teachers, who are connected with them to provide guidance in all aspects of their classroom practice and their new professional role.

Successes and Impacts

Evaluation and Assessment

How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation?

Elements Contributing to Success

Supplemental Materials