STEM Education Center


STEM Mission

The Center is focusing on four main areas of STEM education:

  1. STEM integration
  2. Learning and cognition
  3. Research on instructor preparation
  4. Evaluation and assessment


STEM Integration

The first focus of the Center is STEM Integration. STEM Integration is the merging of the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in order to: deepen student understanding of each discipline by contextualizing concepts, broaden student understanding of STEM disciplines through exposure to socially and culturally relevant STEM contexts, and increase interest in STEM disciplines to broaden the pipeline of students entering the STEM fields.

The needs that guide the Center's research agenda around STEM Integration are as follows:

  • Students need rich and engaging learning experiences that foster deep content understanding in STEM disciplines and their intersections.
  • Most teachers have not learned disciplinary content using STEM contexts, nor have they taught in this manner, and therefore new models of teaching must be developed if STEM integration is to lead to meaningful STEM learning; and
  • There is a need for curricula that integrate STEM contexts to teach disciplinary content in meaningful ways that go beyond the blending of traditional types of understandings.


Learning and Cognition

The second focus of the Center is understanding how people learn to think scientifically and mathematically. Current research on this question addresses simple concepts of less relevance to questions of K-20 STEM instructors. STEM Education Center researchers will investigate how students understand complex scientific concepts, and how their understanding can be improved through the use if technology supports. They will also investigate how people master the abstract mathematical concepts and formalisms necessary for successful careers in STEM fields. This research will expand and strengthen the foundational psychological and neuroscience knowledge underlying STEM practice and education.


Research on Instructor Preparation

The third focus of the STEM Education Center is research on the preparation and development of P-20 STEM instructors. Research in the preparation of K-12 STEM teachers will address instruction in the STEM disciplinary departments as well as the initial licensure courses housed in the College of Education and Human Development. Improvements in teaching and student learning at the undergraduate level being researched by STEM Education Center faculty will provide teacher candidates experience with the types of reform-based instruction called for at the K-12 level. Research in K-12 teacher preparation addresses life-long learning across pre-service, induction and professional development years looking at teachers


Evaluation and Assessment

The final focus of STEM Education Center is evaluation and assessment. This will include research about how best to evaluate STEM programs and how best to assess understanding of STEM, which includes curriculum development. Existing evaluation and assessment techniques need to be refined and more carefully aligned with the actual purpose they are purported to serve. The most appropriate statistical, interpretive and measurement techniques and how these approaches can be optimized to provide useful information to decision makers needs to be determined. Furthermore, careful assessment of student learning and incorporation of these measures into evaluations of STEM programs, such as instructor preparation, is critical to improving STEM education and to improving STEM assessment and evaluation.