U of M faculty continue to lead in STEM education

October 07, 2019

A new NSF-funded research collaboration will focus on identifying issues relating to equity and diversity in undergraduate STEM classrooms.

A collaborative research network funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) is just getting underway this fall with 14 institutions participating. The network allows educational researchers to escape institutional silos and collectively explore how undergraduate STEM classrooms can support students from all backgrounds. 

The effort is led by four faculty across multiple institutions. Sehoya Cotner, a faculty member in Biology Teaching and Learning (BTL) is one of the leads. Other co-leads include Cissy Ballen at Auburn University, Sheritta Fagbodun at Tuskegee University and Carrie Hall at University of New Hampshire. Ballen completed a postdoc in Cotner’s lab and the pair are poised to help facilitate connections for members of the network. Recently the two co-authored a study in BioScience focusing on gender-biased class participation which involved working closely with six institutions across the globe. 

The network includes community colleges, minority-serving institutions and research one institutions. By year four, Cotner hopes to grow the network to a hundred faculty across fifty US institutions all with a common goal -- to advance equity in STEM classrooms. The grant doesn’t provide funding for the participants to conduct research, but instead allows  leaders to coordinate research efforts and organize meetings for the researchers. 

In the education research world, researchers generally publish data from a specific course from a single institution. “Because of this, it is a little dicey to extrapolate findings broadly,” says Cotner. “By coordinating these efforts across numerous institutions, we can get a better snapshot of the challenges that students face. Then we can work to combat them.”

—Claire Wilson