Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education


Current Projects:

Advancing Excellence and Equity in Science at WWU

The Advancing Excellence and Equity in Science (AEES) program is funded by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence grant for $1 million over 5 years, starting in September, 2017.  The major goal of this program is to enhance the number of women, under-represented minorities, and first generation students in the natural sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, physics and astronomy).

The AEES program takes a multi-faceted approach to improve the success of students.  First year and transfer students are in cohorts during a two seminar course sequence which emphasizes reading science articles, modeling scientific results, and topics related to the process of learning, such as growth mindset, metacognition, and study habits.  Faculty and peer mentoring occur in conjunction with the seminars.  First year students take a new math course designed to delve into mathematical concepts important for the natural sciences (e.g., logarithms, fractions, scientific notation) in scientific contexts.  A special section of English 101 for AEES students emphasizes scientific readings.  Faculty and teaching assistants are being trained to use inclusive, student-centered learning approaches in their teaching; these teaching strategies have been shown to enhance the success of all students.  Finally, policies that may negatively influence the success of faculty seeking to transform science education and traditionally under-represented students will be identified and modified.

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

Joann Otto, Project Director joann.otto@wwu.edu

or one of the members of the Core Leadership Team:

Spencer Anthony-Cahill, Chair, Chemistry  Spencer.Anthony-Cahill@wwu.edu
Emily Borda, Chemistry and SMATE  emily.borda@wwu.edu
Jessica Cohen, Math  jessica.cohen@wwu.edu
Edward Geary, SMATE Director  edward.geary@wwu.edu

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:  Edward.Geary@wwu.edu
Roxane Ronca, Project Director, email: Roxane.Ronca@wwu.edu
Julie Antilla, Co-Principal Investigator, SPU, email: antillaj@spu.edu
Kathryn Baldwin, Co-Principal Investigator, EWU, email: kathrynb@ewu.edu
Jennifer Dechaine, Co-Principal Investigator, CWU, email: dechaine@cwu.edu
Tamara Holmlund Nelson, Co-Principal Investigator, WSU Vancouver, email: tnelson1@vancouver.wsu.edu

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:  Emily.Borda@wwu.edu
Andrew Boudreaux, Co-Principal Investigator, email:  Andrew.Boudreaux@wwu.edu
Todd Haskell, Co-Principal Investigator, email:  Todd.Haskell@wwu.edu
Sara Julin, Co-Principal Investigator, WCC, email:  sjulin@whatcom.ctc.edu

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:  Chris.Ohana@wwu.edu
Mathew Miller, Co-Principal Investigator, email:  Mathew.Miller@wwu.edu
Dan Hanley, Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director, email: Daniel.Hanley@wwu.edu

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:  Edward.Geary@wwu.edu
Joann Otto, Co-Principal Investigator, email:  Joann.Otto@wwu.edu
Emily Borda, Co-Principal Investigator, email:  Emily.Borda@wwu.edu

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:  Joe.Brobst@wwu.edu