Broader Impacts

The Active Learning Catalysts project has strong potential for broader impacts through several pathways.

  1. Contribution to STEM education by improving an area of recognized need – Adoption of active, inquiry-based pedagogy by faculty in the sciences is presenting a substantial challenge to the goal of reforming STEM education at the post-secondary level. There is now a considerable body of literature documenting the positive effects of these techniques for students. Because both academic institutions and funding agencies recognize the potential of active learning techniques to enhance the likelihood of transformational change in STEM education, it is important to create a replicable framework for facilitating its adoption.
  2. Participation in the evolution of technology facilitated active learning – This project will build upon existing active classroom methodology (e.g., SCALE-UP, MIT's TEAL classroom, and the University of Minnesota's ALC initiative) and further the implementation and assessment of technological innovations. This information will be shared as part of the dissemination of results for this project and will contribute to the development of this area of education.
  3. Build the STEM education community – This project intentionally includes individuals, both Catalysts and other faculty, who have not participated in STEM reform programs before. We will provide the tools and resources that these faculty need to network among themselves as well as with individuals involved in STEM education outside the University. In addition, this project will contribute to the general knowledge about STEM education through participation in educational conferences and other venues by the PIs and others.
  4. Broadening participation in science and engineering – The project also has a likelihood of broadening participation in STEM through the advocacy of active learning pedagogies. These techniques have been documented to be particularly effective with women and minorities who continue to show low participation nationally. Similarly, there is an increasing cohort of young students with substantial comfort with technology who will likely find our technologically-facilitated approaches effective.
  5. Provide enhanced STEM education for rural population – NMU supports a highly rural population: only 28% of U.P. residents live in the 12 towns larger than 4000 residents; 55% of NMU students in fall 2008 were from the U.P. The area is physically remote and climatically rugged given its location in the upper Great Lakes region. Bringing innovative educational techniques to this region has the potential to make STEM education more accessible to our rural population and increase participation in STEM fields.
  6. Enhance infrastructure for science and engineering education – This project will also have broader impacts at NMU by allowing us to develop the new active learning studio classroom. This project is intended to be a pilot on campus. It is our hope that this project will lead to the development of additional active learning instructional spaces during upcoming replacement of our primary teaching facility, Jamrich Hall. Inclusion of similarly designed studio classrooms would support these active-learning techniques across disciplines (including beyond STEM) and would aid sustainability of this project into the future.
  7. Provide opportunities for undergraduate researchers – This project will provide opportunities for undergraduate students to be involved in educational scholarship by serving as project research assistants, important experiences for developing future scholars.
  8. Impact on future K-12 educators – All majors in the NMU School of Education incorporate STEM courses in their requirements. Students in the NMU College of Education seeking certification for teaching K-12 that enroll in courses offered by project personnel will participate in active learning experiences. This project will serve to model active learning techniques for these students that may be incorporated into their future pedagogy.


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