Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education

Current Projects:

NextGen STEM Teacher Preparation in Washington State (NextGen-WA)

This $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF IUSE program) will help create the next generation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher-preparation programs in the state.

The program is built around a common vision of STEM education in Washington State, and Western’s $1.8 million is part of a larger $3 million grant that was distributed among seven state partners: Western, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Seattle Pacific University, WSU-Vancouver, UW-Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland. Also participating in the study are faculty from the University of Washington, Washington State University, Walla Walla University, Whitman College, Heritage University, Northwest University, Western Governor’s University, and Seattle University as well as a number of two-year institutions and K-12 schools.

NextGen-WA is a collaborative effort by all the partners to make the science and mathematics teachers of tomorrow far more ready to enter the classroom and prepare Washington students for 21st century STEM jobs. By collaborating, instead of competing, we hope that NextGen-WA can serve as a model that can be replicated in other states or regions.

Besides creating better prepared STEM teachers, our project will also address a critical state need for graduating more teachers who reflect the state’s demographic diversity.

For more information click here PDF icon NextGen Project.pdf or contact:

Edward Geary, Principal Investigator, email:
Roxane Ronca, Project Director, email:
Julie Antilla, Co-Principal Investigator, SPU, email:
Kathryn Baldwin, Co-Principal Investigator, EWU, email:
Jennifer Dechaine, Co-Principal Investigator, CWU, email:
Tamara Holmlund Nelson, Co-Principal Investigator, WSU Vancouver, email:


Unifying Science for Students

A central assumption in most systems of education is that students can apply knowledge and skills beyond the context in which it was originally learned.  However, evidence in the education research literature of successful applications of knowledge across contexts, also called transfer, has been scarce.  In this project, research will be conducted within an undergraduate course series for future elementary teachers designed to develop coherent ideas about energy across four different science disciplines:  physics, Earth science, biology, and chemistry. A longitudinal study will generate quantitative measures of the transfer of energy concepts from the original learning context, physics, to a target domain, chemistry. Interviews, classroom observations, and analysis of written class work will be used to describe “what transfer looks like” by developing a taxonomy of discipline-specific transfer attempts. Finally, a quasi-experimental study will investigate the impact of metacognitive writing assignments on transfer.  Documenting what works in supporting transfer is imperative because transfer is both known to be elusive and is an assumed outcome on which many education systems are built. Finally, this project may help to establish the integrated science course series as a model of teacher preparation, and science education in general, for potential adaptation at other institutions.

For more information contact:

Emily Borda, Co-Principal Investigator, email:
Andrew Boudreaux, Co-Principal Investigator, email:
Todd Haskell, Co-Principal Investigator, email:
Sara Julin, Co-Principal Investigator, WCC, email:


Every Day Every Child (EDEC)

Every Day, Every Child: A Partnership for Research with Elementary Math and Science Instructional Specialists is an exploratory research project to understand and categorize instructional specialist models in mathematics and science; investigate the content knowledge, preparation and needs of teachers in these roles; determine the instructional effectiveness of instructional specialists; and determine the impact of instructional specialists on student learning and attitudes towards mathematics and science. This research will contribute to the knowledge base by providing a characterization of models of instructional specialization in mathematics and science at the elementary level. By investigating models of implementation, factors that influence implementation, preparation of teachers as instructional specialists, and their effectiveness at the classroom level, the results of this study will identify conditions under which the adoption of a specialist model is effective, which will be shared with educators across the country, both in higher-education and at the elementary level.

For more information visit the project website or contact:

Kim Markworth, Principal Investigator, email:
Chris Ohana, Co-Principal Investigator, email:


Discovery Research K-12 Model Of Research-based Education for Teachers (MORE)

In September 2011, the National Science Foundation funded a $3 million, five-year study at WWU, called Model of Research-based Education (MORE) for Teachers.  The purpose of the study is to examine how WWU prepares elementary teachers to teach science.  NSF’s DRK-12 program funds research projects around the country to “study the development, testing, deployment, effectiveness, and/or scale-up of innovative resources, models and tools”.  WWU’s innovative model to prepare elementary teachers to teach science includes course-work grounded in current research in education and cognitive psychology about how people learn, as well as a year-long internship.     

MORE’s research will help WWU better understand the impacts of its elementary science teacher preparation program on important beliefs, knowledge, skills, and instructional practices. MORE’s research includes four studies that isolate different components of the elementary science education program at WWU, and represent the continuum for preservice teachers, from their initial science content courses through their first few years of teaching.  Our four overlapping studies examine the following:

1) Impacts of the new science content sequence for elementary PSTs,
2) Effects of mentorship during the science practicum,
3) Impacts of the research-based science methods and practicum sequence, and
4) Science instruction of recent graduates from WWU’s elementary education program.

MORE article.pdf

For more information contact:

Chris Ohana, Co-Principal Investigator, email:
Mathew Miller, Co-Principal Investigator, email:
Dan Hanley, Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director, email:


Change at the Core (C-CORE)

Change at the Core: A Collaborative Model for Undergraduate STEM Education Reform (C-Core) is an NSF-funded institutional transformation project. Three institutions, Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College, and Skagit Valley College, are working together to transform courses in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Geology, Mathematics, and Physics from teacher- to student-centered learning environments. Currently, over 100 STEM faculty are participating in professional development workshops, implementing and observing evidence-based teaching and learning practices, and collaborating on curriculum changes and course alignment across the three institutions. Challenges include: student resistance to change, classroom and laboratory spaces not designed to support student-centered learning, assessments poorly aligned with student-centered learning practices, and faculty uncertainty about how to address the needs of diverse students. Preliminary data from student focus groups, faculty surveys, and case studies suggest that these challenges can be at least partially overcome through active engagement of department chairs, faculty learning communities, innovative student grouping strategies, explicit support and recognition for faculty reform efforts from deans, and establishment of regular communication among faculty, chairs, deans, and other administrators across the three institutions.

For more information contact:

Edward Geary, Principal Investigator, email:
Joann Otto, Co-Principal Investigator, email:
Emily Borda, Co-Principal Investigator, email:


External Evaluator for the Pacific Northwest National Resource Center on Canada

Joe Brobst is serving as the external evaluator for the Pacific Northwest National Resource Center on Canada, which is supported by a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The NRC is a partnership between the Center for Canadian-American Studies at WWU & the Canadian Studies Center in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.

For more information contact:

Joe Brobst, email: