National Science Foundation Awards $160,000 Grant to University of La Verne

October 1, 2012 by University of La Verne

The National Science Foundation, NSF, has awarded more than $160,000 to the University of La Verne. Professor of Biology Christine Broussard, Associate Professor of Biology Kathleen Weaver, Associate Professor of Education Marga Madhuri, Biology Instructor Pablo Weaver, and Director of the Office of Sponsored Research Amy Velasco were all involved in the application process.

The NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education in the Sciences (TUES) grant will be used to develop learning materials that integrate two of La Verne’s “high impact” learning practices, research immersion in laboratories and science literacy training.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Associate Professor of Education Marga Madhuri; Biology Instructor Pablo Weaver; Professor of Biology Christine Broussard; Associate Professor of Biology Kathleen Weaver

“The NSF grant will allow us to standardize our approach by having both consistent learning materials and STEM-focused assessments,” Broussard said.

At La Verne, high impact practices are already in place in STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

One of the national goals for STEM areas of study, according to Professor Broussard, is to get students more involved in research.

“Literature on how people learn indicates that for STEM, the earlier you get students involved in research, the more likely they will stay in college and graduate in STEM fields,” Broussard said.

A portion of the grant will be used to fund the group’s work creating teaching materials that they will develop not only for La Verne, but also for other universities and community colleges.

La Verne’s Biology department already uses a research immersion approach called DYOE, design your own experiment, developed by Professor Broussard, and now a literacy component with a focus on students’ communication, pioneered by Associate Professor Kathleen Weaver, will be added. Though the DYOE approach has been in place at La Verne since 2007, the fall 2012 semester will be the first time science literacy and communication will be implemented.

Broussard said that the NSF has encouraged La Verne to commercialize learning materials so that more institutions can adopt the high impact approach. Biology Instructor Pablo Weaver, who has experience in the development of teaching materials, will be responsible for the design of the manual.

“The main goal is to facilitate the adoption of high impact practices in STEM by other institutions,” Broussard said. “To achieve that goal, we have to demonstrate that the manuals and instructional techniques we have and will design are effective at our own and other pilot institutions.” To achieve that goal, Associate Professor Marga Madhuri will provide expertise in developing assessments that address educational effectiveness.

“Publishing the learning materials will increase the recognition of our innovative and successful program,” Broussard said. “We need to radically change how science is taught.”

Broussard said the goal is to have most of the first draft of learning materials completed by the end of the fall semester and to have a test-ready draft completed by the end of spring 2013.

“Because the University of La Verne has been at the forefront of pedagogical innovation for many years, we feel an obligation, and the NSF has encouraged us, to share the techniques we have developed,” Broussard said. “The hope is that schools across the nation will follow the University of La Verne’s example and experience the same success in not only graduating students in STEM, but also in having those students pursue graduate professional or academic training.”

If your institution is interested in participating as a pilot institution, please contact Professor Broussard by email at cbroussard@laverne.edu.

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