The College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin is among a dozen recipients of new "mini-grants" focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from The Association of American Universities (AAU). The announcement comes days after the AAU published a book of case studies about improving STEM education for undergraduates, which includes a chapter about the College's Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science (TIDES).
The mini-grant will support work that is underway in the College to improve peer observations of teaching. Faculty on a task force led by Dr. Jen Moon, assistant dean for non-tenure track faculty, will use the funding to implement a series of strategies that bolster teaching evaluation. A major aspect of the project is hiring new curriculum consultants who will work within TIDES, partnering with faculty and departments to implement changes in the classrooms.
The AAU STEM Education Network's small grants program aims to further existing efforts to improve undergraduate education in STEM disciplines. The network is an outgrowth of the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, a major project begun in 2011 to encourage STEM departments at AAU universities to use teaching practices proven to be effective in engaging students in STEM education and in helping students learn. The initiative originally supported major project sites at eight universities. This is the first time UT Austin's College of Natural Sciences has received support though the program.
"AAU remains committed to improving the effectiveness of undergraduate STEM teaching and learning at research universities," said AAU President Mary Sue Coleman. "We are excited to support innovative concepts to scale education reforms at our member campuses."
The announcement comes just five days after the AAU published "Improving Undergraduate STEM Education at Universities: A Collection of Case Studies." Among the case studies about large-scale, transformative initiatives at universities is a section on TIDES written by former institute director Dr. Erin Dolan.
The mini-grants are made possible by a five-year, $1 million grant from the Northrop Grumman Foundation, which supports diverse and sustainable national programs to enhance the STEM education experience for students and provide STEM teachers with the training and tools they need to be successful in the classroom. Other institutions that will receive grants are the California Institute of Technology; Cornell University; Iowa State University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; McGill University; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Kansas; University of Missouri, Columbia; University of Virginia; and Yale University.