CU-Boulder funded to assess STEM classes

BOULDER – The University of Colorado-Boulder will receive $500,000 to evaluate the success of its undergraduate science, technology, engineering and math classes.

CU is one of eight universities chosen by the Association of American Universities to participate in the project funded by a three-year, $4.7 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust last October. The initiative also received a two-year, $284,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in May.

CU-Boulder’s initiative, which will be run out of the university’s Center for STEM Learning, will focus on working with faculty who teach undergraduate STEM classes to help them objectively assess the success of their teaching methods. The evaluations will complement the more subjective student course evaluations filled out at the end of a semester.

The money will be used, in part, to hire project staffers who will help participating faculty members interpret the collected evaluation data at the end of each semester and then make a plan to improve their teaching methods in the future.

“We want to recognize that research and teaching are not in competition but, in fact, are complementary activities,´ said CU-Boulder physics professor Noah Finkelstein, a director of the Center for STEM Learning. “The excellence to which we strive as faculty is a habit of mind applied to all our endeavors at the university.”

Over the last decade, CU-Boulder and other leading universities have developed a suite of tools that can more reliably measure the impacts of particular educational practices. The new project will work with faculty on a voluntary basis to find the most appropriate evaluation tools and implement them in their classrooms.

The eight campuses participating in the AAU’s STEM initiative were chosen from 31 applications. The seven other schools are Brown University, Michigan State University, University of Arizona, University of California, Davis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Pennsylvania and Washington University in St. Louis.

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