More than 100 faculty from 36 AAU-member universities convened at Washington University October 13–14, 2015 to discuss their efforts in improving undergraduate STEM education. The two-day event, co-sponsored by the American Association of Universities and The Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education (CIRCLE), provided the chance for focused dialogue on transforming courses and curricula to more active-learning pedagogies.
In the opening remarks, Provost Holden Thorp noted that “we have a lot of work to do in science education,” and offered thoughtful comments on the need for active-learning approaches in STEM education. Active learning has been shown to improve students’ fluency in core concepts and skills and also to help students connect course material with real-world problems. These improvements in student learning and engagement can help to retain more students, including women and other underrepresented groups, in the STEM disciplines.
Noting that he wouldn’t have imagined a STEM conference like this 10 years ago, Thorp celebrated the event, saying “We are building a movement that is going to succeed and will make science education more equitable.”
The conference presentations and roundtable discussions were structured around the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative framework—Pedagogy, Scaffolding, and Culture Change. Presenters included Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carl Wieman, who discussed his work in implementing tools and approaches for developing cultures of teaching excellence in STEM departments.