Research & Innovation

Stevens Awarded NSF Grant to Transform STEM Courses

Stevens Institute of Technology has been awarded $ 2.8 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Education & Human Resources, under its Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program.  

STEM involves the teaching of integrated subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a way that synthesizes the disciplines into a real-world context.

The five-year project, Foundations: Integrating Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning Practices into the Core Engineering Curriculum, led by Keith Sheppard, Associate Dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering & Science (SES) also includes team members:

  • Patricia Holahan, Associate Professor, School of Business
  • Frank Fisher, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
  • Arthur Camins, Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering & Science Education
  • Susan Metz, Director of Diversity & Inclusion
  • Constantin Chassapis, Associate Provost for Academics

Susan Lowes of Columbia Teachers College will also be engaged in the research and evaluation aspects of the project.

According to Sheppard, there are significant challenges facing faculty in transitioning from the traditional didactic “sage on the stage” mode of teaching to the active, student-centered approaches to learning that educational research clearly shows are more effective.  

“The NSF grant will help faculty learn new approaches, and also address those challenges that accompany significant changes to how they structure their classes and interact with students,” says Sheppard.

In order to improve student outcomes within and across disciplines, many institutions have already recognized the need for an evolution in teaching STEM courses, but systemic changes are needed to accomplish these goals. The Foundations Program will provide the training, support, and recognition that enable the participating faculty to make methodical, transformative changes in their STEM pedagogy.

The Stevens researchers will test new practices that can be applied to other schools, especially research-intensive universities, which include conceptualizing and implementing effective models for evidence-based teaching approaches in major core STEM courses.

The program will focus on the teaching of early STEM courses that are considered gateways to student success.

“We have to address the institutional culture to support the faculty in adopting transformative teaching practices while they simultaneously direct their efforts towards research, meeting dual goals of the university’s mission,” says Sheppard. “For students, too, there are challenges because active learning can be less predictable, so they need to be socialized into a new culture and paradigm for learning STEM.”