K-20 Collaborations in Health Science and other STEM Areas

Janet Frost, WSU Health Science STEM Education Research Center, Washington State University

As a Health Science STEM Education Research Center, our most important collaborations at this time are with K-12 Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Biomed programs, our institution's health science colleges and programs, and the other local institutions of higher education (IHE) mathematics and mathematics educator faculty. All of these connections were made through personal and professional initiatives, based on past projects. The PLTW connections occurred because our Director was the coordinator for PLTW teacher training on our campus, and visited all schools where these teachers worked to accredit their programs. As a result, those schools feel a close connection with her and our campus. The connections with the health science colleges and programs occurred through making intentional efforts to learn about their work and offer support (e.g., faculty professional development, support for their "pipeline" programs). They are increasingly seeing us as a valuable resource. The connections with other IHE math educators occurred through many years of our Associate Director's (mathematics educator) collaborative work with them in a variety of professional development (PD) projects. This inter-institutional collaboration looks promising for developing a Center fees-for-service component in mathematics education that would be delivered by this collaborative group.

There are several advantages of working with these diverse groups. First, we are perceived as capable of offering valuable services, as well as helping them to find others with whom they can collaborate. We are seeing the results in a steadily increasing stream of requests to collaborate and/or provide services. Second, we have ready IHE and K-12 partners for new and innovative initiatives, including but not limited to NSF and NIH grants – although we have not yet obtained one of these grants, we have submitted NSF proposals that included partners from 3 IHE and several K-12 school districts, and others expressed interest in participating in the future. These kinds of collaboration will help the four new faculty hires planned in the next two years – they will be able to immediately develop a community of collaborators for their work. Third, these partnerships are already prompting new ideas for future innovations such that will ultimately benefit the Center, including the self-supporting status we need to develop. Fourth, our current collaborations help to generate new ones. For example, past PD projects have led to collaboration with a Rural Alliance, leading to developing an NSF proposal for delivering PD and support to rural teachers and students. This Rural Alliance collaboration has led to discussion of new ways to partner with the community colleges in our area on providing health science career education to rural students.

These examples and many other similar activities demonstrate that, despite being a relatively new Center, we are developing a strong sense of community across K-20. We believe this sense of community will provide an essential foundation for improving students' access to, retention in, and successful completion of health science and other STEM degrees.


Center Profile: WSU Health Science STEM Education Research Center - Washington State University