Center for Advancing Science Teaching, Learning, & Evaluation (CASTLE)

To improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and outreach initiatives at RIT and foster collaboration between STEM educators and education researchers.

College of Science, Rochester Institute of Technology
Established: 2013

Profile submitted by Scott Franklin

Vision and Goals

  • To create and nurture a broad community of faculty, administrators, and staff interested in STEM education and pedagogy, raising the level of discourse about evidence-based practices, the growing body of literature on STEM education, and rigorous methods of assessment and evaluation.
  • To establish a robust and sustainable infrastructure of institutional support that transforms STEM educational practices, supports discipline-based education research, and promotes K20 faculty recruitment, preparation, professional development, and outreach.
  • To foster innovations in STEM education by integrating an interdisciplinary community of scholars, promoting, sustaining, and evaluating reform efforts, advocating for diversity and access, influencing relevant policy, fundraising, and communicating with the public.

Center/Program Structure

CASTLE is an umbrella organization that brings together a variety of STEM education initiatives. CASTLE currently has a faculty director, 3 faculty associate directors (each in charge of a separate initiative), and 6 core research faculty (3 physics, 2 biology, and 1 chemistry). A key reason for the CASTLE's creation was to facilitate collaboration across initiatives, bringing together, for example, faculty interested in course development with those whose research is on assessment and evaluation. Seeking external funding is expected from all CASTLE projects.

CASTLE is currently hiring a full-time program coordinator, with external and institute funding that guarantees the position for at least 3 years.

Are there advantages of being structured this way?

Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?
Management is not a typical faculty strength.

Center Funding

Center receives 20% of F&A of external funding. Currently has several NSF-funded projects. LA program supported by institution (Dean, Provost, Departments.)

How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
External grants drive research; institutional F&A return allows significant flexibility in taking on new projects.

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

What are the challenges?
Multiple funding sources creates administrative issues, reconciling different agendas under the same program.

Has this funding structure has changed over time?

Description of Programming

CASTLE supports a vigorous discipline-based education research group: The Science & Math Education Research Collaborative (SMERC). Faculty from departments of physics, biology, and chemistry conduct rigorous research on issues involving postsecondary student performance within a scientific discipline. SMERC members have established a track record of peer-reviewed publications and external funding.

The Center hosts an NSF Noyce funded Learning Assistant (LA) program that recruits the next generation of STEM teachers. By working with faculty as they restructure their classrooms, LAs also foster change in the College pedagogical environment. The Center also houses a Toyota Foundation supported Summer Math Institute for in-service high school math instructors

Successes and Impacts

Each Center initiative has its own success story. The education research collaborative has significantly improved the tenure portfolios of three faculty. The Summer Math Institute annually brings 30 secondary math instructors to campus for professional development. The Learning Assistant program places approximately 16 students each semester in STEM courses.

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

Individual initiatives benefited tremendously from early and sustained College of Science support. The Center now receives institutional support in the form of 20% of all recovered overhead and additional staff assistance.

Supplemental Materials

Essay: Developing a Shared Mission and Vision - Scott Franklin, CASTLE Center for Advancing STEM Teaching, Learning & Evaluation, Rochester Institute of Technology