Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education

The Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence aims to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for people of all ages.

Bowling Green State University
Established: 2002

Profile submitted by Bob Midden

Vision and Goals

NWO Mission
The Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence aims to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for people of all ages. Our purpose is to work with community partners to (a) generate new knowledge about the science of teaching and learning, (b) apply this knowledge by developing the expertise of K-12 educators and higher education faculty, (c) increase public support for, and understanding of, the STEM subject areas, and (d) stimulate the interest of young people, especially those in underrepresented groups, in these rewarding fields of study and career opportunities. The following NWO goals guide this vision.

Goal 1: Develop the expertise of pre-service and in-service teachers in STEM and STEM education disciplines.
Goal 2: Attract and retain students in STEM disciplines through a progression of educational opportunities for students, teachers, and faculty.
Goal 3: Conduct and communicate collaborative research in STEM and STEM education disciplines
Goal 4: Develop and sustain a regional collaborative alliance including university, school, informal education, and business partners through a shared vision and collaborative spirit for tackling current STEM education issues.
Goal 5: Support higher education faculty and future faculty in pursuit of the best practices in STEM and STEM education disciplines to enhance undergraduate and graduate education.

Center/Program Structure

NWO is an independent unit within Bowling Green State University reporting directly to the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. There are eight full-time staff members: a faculty director (he is also a professor in the chemistry department), two assistant directors, a STEM education coordinator for the BGSU campus (we are in the process of filling this new position), project evaluator, communications manager, secretary, and project director for a large NSF MSP project. There are approximately 20 faculty members in three colleges that are affiliated with our Center in some way. This includes faculty in all of the science disciplines as well as mathematics, some in technology, and in science and math education. Some faculty are very involved in our programming filling various roles from consultant to researcher to oversight, some are involved in our grant projects including serving as PI or in some other capacity including project evaluator, and some assist with various aspects of administration.

We serve the 30-county region of northwest Ohio. We have a large number of external partners in this region including several other higher education institutions, non-profit agencies and businesses that are devoted in some way to STEM education, and a large number of K-12 districts, educational service centers, and career-technical education agencies.

Description of Programming

We promote the adoption of evidence-based teaching practices (EBIP) across campus in a variety of ways. One tactic is to lead faculty learning communities that focus on specific aspects of EBIP such as how to correct student misconceptions, how to increase student motivation and engagement, how to effectively employ peer learning assistants in the classroom, and how to use various means of promoting active learning in the classroom.

We administer four undergraduate STEM scholarship programs for science and math students. Two are supported by grants from the State of Ohio: one is intended to encourage students to prepare for and pursue careers in renewable energy technology and the other is a multi-faceted program that enhances the preparation of students to serve as K-12 science and math teachers. Another is supported by two grants from the National Science Foundation to increase participation and success of under-represented students in science and mathematics majors. This program overlaps with one that is funded by our University.

We serve various roles in a variety of STEM education reform and research grant projects ranging from serving as the lead agency to providing project evaluation services and everything in between. Among the projects in which we serve as lead is a $7.2M grant from the NSF Math-Science Partnership program which involves the integration of the practice of citizen-science research across the curriculum by students in grades 3-8 in two medium-size school districts in our region.

We host an annual Symposium for STEM Teaching that is attended by 300-600 K-12 and college educators and administrators, most from Northwest Ohio and some from elsewhere in Ohio and other neighboring states. There are typically 70-120 individual sessions on a vast range of topics spanning the STEM disciplines aimed at all levels from pre-kindergarten to college, addressing various issues of STEM teaching and learning.

We offer monthly professional development sessions for K-12 teachers and college faculty on a variety of topics but with the unifying theme of inquiry. Attendance ranges from about 50 to 150 depending on the topics and the conditions. This program has been funded by the State of Ohio at times in the past but is now funded by registration fees and corporate sponsorships. At times we integrate targeted professional development initiatives that are funded by grants from the State or other sources.

We host an annual competition, the Ohio Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, for junior high and high school students to present and celebrate their STEM research attended typically by about 100 students. The caliber of the work that is presented sometimes rivals what accomplished undergraduates or even some graduate students do demonstrating the impressive promise of today's youth

We host an annual event titled "STEM in the Park" for families to enjoy with their children. There are typically about 70 or more hands-on activities led by educators and others from about 50 colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, and businesses, spanning the STEM disciplines. Last year more than 2600 people participated and we anticipate attendance of more than 3000 this year.

Successes and Impacts

Our successes and impacts are related in our Annual Reports which can be viewed and downloaded on our website at: - These reports provide myriad evidence of our impact ranging from surveys of participants in our various initiatives, projects, and events, to reports of findings from research conducted on salient aspects of STEM education such as the relationship between student engagement and student academic achievement. We also have demonstrated impact in promoting a markedly higher level of achievement and success of the students in our scholarship programs compared to similar students who are not involved. For instance, our AIMS program has had a 4-year graduation rate of 60% for students who nationally average less than 15%

Recently our most visible impact to the public has been our STEM in the Park event which attracted more than 4000 participants this year. Impact is measured by responses to our online survey indicating that families found the activities highly engaging and stimulating leading to further exploration of STEM phenomena and sparking additional inquiries by their children. Impact is also measured by the strong response from area corporations that have stepped up to provide all of the financial support needed to continue to offer this exciting event.

Other successes are measured in the enthusiastic responses of teachers to our professional development programs in the evaluation surveys and the high level of continued participation in our programming that participants indicate is due, in part, to our reputation for highly effective and valuable experiences.

Elements Contributing to Success

Several factors have contributed to our success. We are fortunate to have a core group of faculty from multiple colleges who embrace collaboration that crosses college boundaries so that we have an unusually large number of faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences who enthusiastically connected and worked productively with a large number of science and math education faculty in the College of Education and Human Development. This has made possible a number of innovative projects that have greatly benefited from the combined expertise from multiple disciplines.

Critical to our success has been strong support from the University administration, perhaps recognizing the strength arising from this strong collaborative environment. Financial support has provided some of the infrastructure that we have leveraged to generate a substantial amount of support from a wide variety of other sources.
The availability of a diverse array of willing partners external to our campus has also been an important factor that includes several K-12 education agencies dedicated to innovation and creative reform, as well as a number of non-profit agencies and some businesses dedicated to advancing the quality of STEM education in our region.

Supplemental Materials

Access to all of our evaluation and annual reports: