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Georgia Southern awarded National Science Foundation grant; will lead collaboration with state universities to improve STEM education

Georgia Southern University was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant totaling more than $50,000 to lead a collaborative project that will address science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education concerns at Georgia’s comprehensive universities. The project will be presented at a symposium in spring 2019.

While enrollment trends for STEM majors in Georgia colleges have increased, many institutions continue to struggle to retain and graduate students from these programs.

The spring 2019 symposium will bring together stakeholders from collaborating institutions, Kennesaw State University, University of West Georgia and Valdosta State University, to discuss a plan to implement changes and to improve undergraduate STEM education across the state.

“Our four institutions are comparable in our ability to provide resources and supplemental instruction,” said Kania Greer, Ed.D., principal investigator for the Georgia Southern grant and coordinator of the College of Education’s (COE) Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education. “Together we want to build our capacity to improve undergraduate education and learn from each other on strategies that work best for student success.”

The symposium will focus on three areas for improved undergraduate STEM education. Attendees will examine the transition to postsecondary education and student engagement in gateway courses to determine issues for the course topics or institutional practices that hinder students’ continuance into upper-division STEM coursework.

Balancing faculty teaching and researching, and the importance of undergraduate research as a vital component to student success and practical application of STEM education, will also be discussed.

“Research provides clear applications of basic scientific principles students often struggle with in the classroom and reinforces knowledge presented in the classroom,” said Greer.

Administrators and representatives from STEM disciplines, as well as education and teacher preparation, will attend the symposium to establish collaboration and best practices, initiate change and study the impact of change on recruitment, retention and graduation rates.

“We are looking to build on the University System of Georgia’s (USG) STEM Initiative,” said Greer. “And we want to take learning and self-evaluation deeper while considering elements of change such as undergraduate research, faculty development, the role of K-12 participation, peer learning and tutoring and learning communities.”

Launched in 2007, the USG STEM Initiative is a project designed to improve student access and success in the STEM fields and enhance existing instructional capabilities of STEM faculty in Georgia’s postsecondary institutions. During the conference, the USG will provide guidance on the initiative.

Greer added that experts from the COE can offer a pedagogical perspective on best teaching methodologies and curriculum development including differentiated learning for diverse student populations.

“The COE has the unique ability to provide content instruction and help bridge the gap between teaching and learning and STEM content,” she said.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 27,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.

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