New NSF-Funded Project to Improve Student Experiences in STEM

New wolf statue on central campus.

RALEIGH, North Carolina – A new project at NC State College of Education is addressing the shortcomings of introductory STEM courses at universities to support the retention, success and engagement of STEM students. The project explores a curricular approach in engineering education that improves undergraduate students’ experiences, particularly for female students, underrepresented minorities, first-generation college students, and at-risk students.

Aaron C. Clark
Aaron C. Clark, professor of technology, engineering and design education

“There is a need for researchers to investigate technology-driven strategies for new instructional methods to improve student comprehension in engineering education, “ said Aaron C. Clark, a professor of technology, design and engineering education within the NC State College of Education. He is part of the research team that recently received a three-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to improve student experiences in STEM. The team also includes faculty from Illinois State University and is led by Jeremy Ernst, an associate professor of integrative STEM Education at Virginia Tech.

The research team will build on the instructional techniques incorporated in NC State’s engineering design graphics course to scale the course design in other introductory course sections at NC State and at Illinois State University. These instructional techniques use active performance learning (APL) modules, which have shown promising results in increasing the success of undergraduate engineering students in introductory courses.

For the study, the researchers will collect information about the program persistence, self-efficacy, academic success and engagement of the students enrolled in the introductory courses.

The project is entitled “Active Learning Modules to Support Problem-Based Learning: Effects on Engineering Retention and Academic Outcomes of At-Risk Students,” and is funded as part of NSF’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) initiatives.