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Introductory Courses and Curriculum Development: The University of Houston is a Tier One Research university with a naturally diverse student body of nearly 41,000 students. The UH is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), consisting of a student body which is 25% Hispanic, 11% African American, 19% Asian American, 32% Caucasian and 9% International. The undergraduate population is 49.5% female and 50.5% male. However, the UH suffers from a significant lack of persistence in the College of Natural Science and Mathematics (NSM). In this regard, the UH reflects national data trends for low persistence in STEM majors and concomitant challenges related to incoming freshmen preparation (NAE: Rising Above the Gathering Storm, 2005 and 2010; PCAST 2010 and 2012) While national data indicate that only 40% of freshmen in STEM majors persist to graduation in six years, that number is less for NSM, only 26.8%. NSM, which provides core courses in biology, math, chemistry and physics, has a six year persistence rate much less than that of UH as a whole, which is 46.4%. First year NSM persistence is 74.8%, and then drops after 2 years to 48.1% (compared to 66.6% for the University). For the 395 freshmen who enrolled in 2005 only 78 graduated in six years.

Lack of persistence in NSM probably has many contributing factors: lack of sufficient academic preparation in secondary school (especially in mathematics); classroom teaching pedagogy which no longer matches student learning; lack of STEM 'role models', especially for underrepresented groups (NAS, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation); and unsupportive social environments.
The overarching goal of this proposal is to implement institutional change which will increase persistence in NSM freshmen by 10% or better each year over the course of this grant period and to create continued institutional sustainability for these changes beyond the end of the grant. To increase the successful persistence of NSM students to graduation at the UH by at least 10% per year (PCAST 2012), the UH will work towards the following objectives, which are assembled within 2 primary programs and 2 broadly supporting initiatives, affecting nearly 4000 students in introductory Biology, Organic Chemistry, Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus: (1) Implementing Classroom Instructional Change (CIC), (2) Providing All Students the Tools to Excel (EXCEL), (3) 'Changing the Image', and (4) 'Creating a Community'.

--Adopt and implement teaching strategies and pedagogy in eight core courses which emphasizes student engagement (PCAST, 2012) and impact the largest number of students. Where applicable, introduce discovery based research courses which are aligned with best practices in Discipline Based Education Research (DBER) (NRC Study: Discipline Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering) (CIC)
--Improve the probability for success for entering freshmen and community college students through early identification, intervention and redesigned recitation sessions as well as implementing a summer bridge program for community college students (EXCEL)
--Enrich the college experience for our students by providing increased opportunities to interact one-on-one or in small groups with faculty, and within their own learning and social communities, such as student technical societies (NRC: Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation) (Creating a Community)
--Help students develop the study skills they need to be successful in college (EXCEL)
--Deliver positive role models through delivery of inspirational videos and subject matter experts (Changing the Image)

For More Information

Dan Wells, PhD
University of Houston
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
3507 Cullen Blvd, SR 214
Houston, TX 77204-2018


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