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PCAST Releases Report on Undergraduate STEM Education and Obama Administration Announces New Initiatives

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Friday, February 24, 2012

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – February 22, 2012

On February 7, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released the report, "Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).” This report on undergraduate education is a follow-up to an earlier PCAST report on K-12 STEM education that was released in September 2010, and both are centered on the goal of creating a STEM-capable workforce. The new report focuses on the first two years of undergraduate learning, which PCAST considers a crucial step in the STEM pipeline.

The recommendations are:

  • Catalyze the adoption of empirically-validated teaching techniques through the alignment of incentives for faculty, the expansion of disciplinary models that prepare new faculty in research-based STEM teaching, and the creation of a new grant program for institutional transformation. The report also recommends that the National Academies create metrics to evaluate STEM undergraduate teaching and learning.
  • Create new research courses for first and second year students to involve students in research early and move away from "cookbook” experiments. Scale-up model research and design courses and change federal rules to allow the expansion of opportunities for students in faculty research laboratories.
  • Engage mathematicians and scientists in a national postsecondary mathematics education experiment to improve math education and ensure that early math courses are connected to science learning needs.
  • Encourage stakeholder partnerships to diversify pathways to STEM careers, including connecting high school students to summer STEM learning opportunities, strengthening pathways from two to four year institutions, and catalyzing the creation of public-private partnerships to advance STEM learning that establishes industry-relevant skills.
  • Create a Presidential council to provide leadership on undergraduate STEM education. This council would involve various stakeholders from academia, business, foundations, and scientific societies to inspire changes to undergraduate education and make recommendations on specific federal activities.

In response to the PCAST report, the President announced new initiatives in the fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request to support the recommendations:

  • Widening Implementation and Demonstration of Evidence-based Reforms (WIDER): $20 million would be provided (a 150 percent increase over FY 2012) to increase the use of evidence-based undergraduate STEM education practices through institutional reforms.
  • Expeditions in Education (E2): NSF would establish a new program E2 to connect EHR with NSF research directorates and offices to "integrate, leverage, and expand STEM education research and development” with NSF research activities. E2 would be supported at $49 million in FY 2013 with a focus on undergraduate education, sustainability, and cyberlearning.
  • K-16 Math Education: NSF will work with the Department of Education to develop an "evidence-based initiative to improve K-16 mathematics and knowledge building.” In FY 2013, the Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Education and NSF’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) will each contribute $30 million, with EHR’s support through the Discovery Research K-12 and Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM (TUES) programs. Funding for other TUES activities would also be increased.
  • STEM Teacher Training: $80 million would be provided through the Department of Education for a new competitive program as part of the Effective Teachers and Leaders program. The new funding would support STEM teacher preparation programs, such as those modeled on the University of Texas UTEACH program that allows undergraduate students to earn a STEM bachelors degree and a teaching certificate at the same time.

The full PCAST report can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-engage-to-excel-v11.pdf.

Additional information, including a shorter fact sheet and a webcast of the report release can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/pcast.

Information on the White House commitments announced in response to the report are available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-related_initiatives_fact_sheet.pdf.

Tags:  education  PCAST 

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