$1m National Science Foundation Grant will support diversity in STEM Education

September 23, 2020

Student| Announcements

By Sarah Fister Gale

To support future scholars in STEM, UChicago’s Committee on Quantitative Methods in Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences has jointly received a three-year $1 million NSF award to host a Summer Institute in Advanced Quantitative and Computational Methods for STEM Education Research.

The program, which is a collaborative effort between UChicago and Michigan State University, will recruit a diverse cohort of 22 NSF Fellows of STEM Education Research who will be trained in cutting-edge methods that have broad applicability and will help generate high-quality research.

“Academic programs in STEM education often do not have the capacity to offer up-to-date concepts and a wide array of courses on modern research designs, measurement, statistical modeling, causal inference, and computational techniques,” explains Guanglei Hong, Professor of Comparative Human Development, Chair of the Committee on Quantitative Methods in Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, and a member of the Committee on Education.

She notes that programs that do teach advanced skills rarely focus on STEM education research, nor are they organized to advance research projects and produce publications. “This reality has imposed a limit on the extent to which STEM education researchers are able to pursue ambitious research agendas and tackle complex phenomena with sufficient rigor,” she says.

To remedy this gap, this institute will introduce Fellows to rigorous and novel applications of advanced quantitative methods to STEM education research, which program leaders have deemed essential to advancing this field of research. With methodological questions embedded within case studies of authentic problems, the training will focus on how to use advanced research methods to understand sources of unequal access to STEM learning opportunities, and to evaluate strategies that will advance equity and inclusion.

“Given the breadth of research topics of significance in the field of STEM education research, and the rapid advances in relevant quantitative and computational methods, we see an urgent need to train young researchers,” says Yanyan Sheng, Senior Lecturer of the Committee on Quantitative Methods in Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, who will serve as Executive Director of the Fellowship.

A diverse community of scholars

Early- and mid-career scholars, especially faculty new to STEM education research and underrepresented minority faculty and faculty at minority-serving and two-year institutions, are encouraged to apply to the program.

 “Our goal is to build a diverse community of scholars who will become leaders in STEM education research. This goal is to be accomplished through recruitment, financial support, intellectual focus on diversity and equity, and community building,” Hong says.

She notes that an 11-member advisory board comprised of a diverse group of leading scholars and leaders of minority-serving institutions and funding agencies will provide guidance on recruiting, selecting, and mentoring the Fellows.

Program leaders hope that a diverse representation will help reduce bias in STEM education research and will ultimately benefit all educators and students. Bringing diversity into this research arena will help enhance empirical investigations on the educational experiences of students who are often disadvantaged by the current system, especially in STEM settings.

Sheng notes that STEM education is implemented in a complex environment, and that such complexity has to do with the structure and culture of schools as organizations, interactions among teachers within and between schools, diverse growth patterns among students, and dynamic instructional decisions made in response to perceived student needs.

Fellows will be expected to contribute a multitude of perspectives and deep theoretical understanding of the structures and processes of STEM education, as well as to develop the capability of innovatively applying the most suitable research designs, measurement, and analytic strategies to answer critical research questions.

The team has envisioned that the institute will enable Fellows to launch ambitious research with great rigor and will generate a cascading effect with implications for promoting equal opportunities and high quality in STEM education. “Promoting the success of these junior and mid-career researchers will allow them to effectively serve as role models for the next generation of students from similar backgrounds,” Sheng adds.

How to apply

The team will launch a national recruitment effort for candidates pursuing STEM education research. Applicants with strong potential of becoming impactful through their research, teaching, and other professional activities are encouraged to apply. Applicants should consider research agendas that encompass a wide range of substantive or methodological issues in STEM education research. Early-career applicants doing postdoctoral research, as well as those holding teaching positions in colleges and universities, are also encouraged.

Applicants will be expected to include a statement about their research interests and training needs, a summary of past research experiences, ongoing projects, future research plans, and a plan for research dissemination and impact generation, in addition to a CV, and representative publications and/or working papers. The selection process will be largely based on each applicant’s prior training and research records, including ongoing projects.

“While we welcome applicants whose collective research interests encompass a wide spectrum of issues in STEM education, we will give priority to applicants whose research is centered on enhancing diversity and inclusion in the STEM fields through educational innovations,” Sheng concludes.

For more information about the grant and application process, visit the Committee’s website.