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To increase student success in STEM disciplines, particularly that of Underrepresented Minorities (URMs), highly selective research universities must think in a much more deep and multifaceted manner about STEM education: we must develop a data-driven model for understanding how faculty perceive and experience teaching, how students perceive and experience learning, and what kinds of educational experiences in science gateway courses can be created for the best `high-impact' engagement of all students, including URMs. To achieve these goals, Duke will launch the COMPASS (Collaborating on Mentoring, Persistence, Assessment, and Student Success) Project, an integrated suite of complementary efforts designed to align and realign engagement readiness of STEM educators and students. Our project will focus on students and faculty, spanning multiple departments and creating a community of STEM learners and research practitioners.

We will deepen and broaden the learning support infrastructure for STEM students through an expansion of our SAGE (Science Advancement though Group Engagement) Program, a theoretically-grounded, data-driven learner support program in the Academic Resource Center focusing on student self-assessment, feedback, and academic tutoring. SAGE Learning Specialists have created a Learning Improvement Model that addresses characteristics across the undergraduate population. They use formative assessment surveys to assess students' subject knowledge, learning strategies and critical thinking skills, motivation, resilience and coping strategies, and control over their environment. Based on these assessments, students are taught to analyze academic and social tasks and problems, set goals, plan, reflect on progress, and adapt to course demands and the college environment. We will also expand SAGE study groups for science gateway courses. These study groups, led by SAGE TAs, inform how students develop conceptual understanding and disciplinary critical thinking skills. This layering of academic programming has been shown to be effective: in a pilot project, the retention rate of participants more than doubled.

To increase student access and participation, we will provide increased targeted, academic advising through the creation of a STEM Director of Academic Engagement (DAE) who will monitor and mentor the target population from matriculation through graduation. In addition, the STEM DAE will prepare students for mentored research by teaching Entering Research, and the DAE will work with campus partners and programs to match individual students with research opportunities.

To promote a more reflective, self-aware faculty that will be better able to implement high-impact, evidence-based classroom teaching, we will launch a STEM Teaching and Learning Collaboratory (TLC), an evidence-based, faculty development program designed to build a community of practice of faculty, TAs, and Learning Specialists, all committed to innovative gateway science and mathematics courses. Finally we will align the readiness and engagement of faculty and student through a process of robust and iterative assessment. The TLC will interpret data gathered from student outcome assessment, allowing for reflection of findings which will determine the effectiveness of currently implemented 'best practices.' It will help us better understand the underlying mechanisms of student success in relation to the specific teaching interventions, make informed data-driven decisions on alternations, additions, and/or amendments to those practices, and develop questions and refined expectations about student learning to drive the ongoing assessment of student learning and teaching innovation. Taken together, these plans will provide Duke with the best opportunity to promote a systematic approach to evidenced-based learning throughout our STEM gateway courses and disciplines, and will provide a model for other highly selective research universities to follow.

For More Information

Stephen Nowicki, Ph.D.
Duke University
Department of Biology
116 Allen Building, Box 90024
Durham, NC 27706-8001


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