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Drexel University is a private, urban, comprehensive research university currently offering over 70 undergraduate majors including 28 STEM majors. Drexel's primary strengths are its empirical focus and reputation for innovation and experiential learning. Drexel's Strategic Plan emphasizes academic excellence, increased retention and improved academic success. The funds from HHMI will support activities intended to increase STEM student persistence, consistent with Drexel's Strategic Plan. We will accomplish this with two strategies: 1) Build mentored intellectual and social communities for STEM students that support student identity development as important contributors to their discipline; 2) Incentivize STEM faculty participation in the development of evidence-based education competencies through community building, mentored support activities and recognition of innovative teaching.

To effectively build student communities in STEM disciplines we will develop a new model for a required freshman experience course to promote student community building, adjustment to university life, academic success, and professional identity development. This course will be supported by peer mentors serving as role models to foster student success. By the end of the funding period all STEM majors will engage in this revised course. We will assess effectiveness of community building and changes in student attitudes as a result of this intervention. We expect that this approach will support student integration into communities in their majors, improving their perceptions of their abilities as STEM learners and their likelihood of persisting.

Selected STEM faculty will engage in a peer-mentored course that supports their development as educators that use evidence-based pedagogical tools known to support student learning. Through the course faculty will reflect on their current teaching approaches, learn about pedagogical practices of interest and develop plans to implement new approaches into introductory STEM courses. Participating faculty will serve as a nucleus for a learning community focused on improving STEM education that will meet regularly for seminars and journal club events. By the end of the funding period at least 32 Drexel STEM faculty will be supported in their development as educators through these mechanisms. We will assess changes in faculty attitudes and use of these new pedagogical approaches. We expect that this approach will significantly increase the number of STEM faculty who teach using approaches known to best promote student learning.

To further support these initiatives, we will develop the Center for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning (CASTL). CASTL will bring together faculty, administrators, students and staff from across Drexel's campus to collaborate on projects focused on improving STEM education. CASTL will be charged with ensuring the sustainable implementation of educational strategies that promote STEM student retention. Using HHMI funds, CASTL will develop training videos to support the use of evidence-based teaching, present a yearly award recognizing evidence-based teaching in STEM classrooms, and establish a consortium of faculty interested in improving STEM education from the Greater Philadelphia area.

With support of an Executive Committee consisting of Drexel's Provost and Deans of the Engineering and Computing and Informatics colleges, Dr. Donna Murasko, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will serve as Program Director. Dr. Daniel King, Associate Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Jennifer Stanford, Assistant Professor of Biology, both with research programs in STEM education, will co-direct. The participation of the Provost and Deans from STEM colleges in the Executive Committee ensures sustainability of this project on Drexel's campus. Ongoing formative assessment will promote the development of effective strategies that will be disseminated to broaden the impacts of this funding.

For More Information

Jennifer Stanford, PhD
Drexel University
Department of Biology
3245 Chestnut St., PISB #425
Philadelphia, PA 19104-2875


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