Brown’s AAU STEM Project, Changing the Culture of Introductory Science, is made possible by the robust leadership from the President, the Provost, and the Dean of the College, combined with a faculty ethos of self-governance and a devotion to pedagogical innovation born of a curriculum that encourages a high degree of faculty-student engagement. The project is supported through the Science Center, the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Office of the Dean of the College, which together support the climate of innovation and reform that will bring the kind of lasting and meaningful change that the AAU seeks. Brown’s four-year grant supported the introduction of evidence-based, high-impact practices in first and second year courses. We addressed the issue of mathematical competency among STEM majors at Brown by attending to math “bottlenecks” that prevent students from understanding scientific concepts and lead to attrition from science. Collectively, we incorporated student-centered problem solving in introductory Chemistry, Physics, Applied Mathematics, and Engineering courses over the duration of the grant. Faculty lead these reform efforts, with support from the trained graduate students and staff at both the Sheridan Center and the Science Center. Overall, the innovative teaching supported by the AAU STEM Project disproportionately benefits female students, students from historically underrepresented groups (HUGs), and students who enter courses with low scores in mathematical competency. Further, female students and students from HUGs are more likely to declare a physical science concentration in their sophomore year if they enrolled in an AAU-supported offering of an introductory course compared to those who enroll in non-supported offerings of the same course. Moving forward, Brown University will build on the strong foundation generated from the four years of grant-funded STEM education reform to continue on a trajectory toward community-wide mathematical competency and making the physical sciences accessible to any student with a passion for STEM.
To view an article highlighting Brown's inclusion as a project site for the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative click here.