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College of Science and Mathematics

National Science Foundation Grant

central valley

The grant recipients

$2.5M 3-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded October 2019 to:

  • California State University, Fresno

  • California State University, Bakersfield

  • California State University, Stanislaus

The problem to be tackled

  • The San Joaquin Valley needs more STEM college graduates, Hispanics in particular (in Fresno County, 3l% of Whites have a Bachelor's degree or higher; 9% of Hispanics do so) 

  • The Cal State University campuses in the San Joaquin Valley see high failure rates for lower-division Chemistry and Mathematics courses, impeding student success and progress.  There are shocking gaps in achievement by First Generation Status and Minority Status (For example, at Fresno State, Fall 2019:  General Chemistry 1A total fail rate is 31%; 39% for URM versus 21% for Whites; Calculus total fail rate is 31%; 38% for URM versus 21% for Whites).

  • One possible method to address the failure rate is to modify curriculum and teaching practices, to incorporate more High Impact Practices (HIPs), which are demonstrated to enhance student learning, motivation, and success.  

  • Example HIP include  

  • hands-on research experiences

  • problem-based curriculum 

  • cooperative student learning

  • topics connected to real-world issues 

  • The San Joaquin Valley suffers significant air pollution, affecting Hispanics in particular (low-income, low-education, non-white residents suffer the impacts dramatically more severely)

  • The topic of air pollution ties nicely with both Chemistry (basic chemical reactions) and Mathematics (integration).  Focusing on such an issue, and calling forth all students, but particularly Hispanic and other minority students, to understand and address this issue, we predict will create a sense of urgency and press for social justice, and deeper motivation to master and move beyond basic STEM concepts to acquire sufficient knowledge to become competent STEM workers in the local community.

The grant goals

  • Assess current practices in lower-division, high-failure Mathematics and Chemistry courses across the three campuses  

  • Offer an innovative Ideas Lab July 2020, to generate fresh high impact practices (HIP) for these courses

  • Support both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty with implementing those new practices and other HIP practices

  • Reduce failure rates in lower-division Chemistry and Mathematics courses and reduce achievement gaps between majority-minority groups across all three campuses

What is an Ideas Lab?

An “Ideas Lab” is an intensive interactive workshop designed to produce radically innovative research proposals. Participants from diverse backgrounds and disciplines come together in a creative, free-thinking environment, away from their daily routines and distractions, and immerse themselves in a collaborative process to develop fresh approaches to an important challenge.  The participants work together to deepen their shared understanding of the challenge, to define the problems within the challenge, and to generate novel ideas for research proposals. The outcome of the workshop is multi-disciplinary research that’s risky and cutting edge, and that would be unlikely to get funded through a standard procedure of research funding.

Description of this grant’s Ideas Lab

  • Synchronous activities across approximately 30 participants, working with  mentors and provocateurs, MWF Week 1, W Week 2, W week 3, and W week 4 (12 hours total)

  • Asynchronous team activities Weeks 2, 3, and 4 (8 hours total)

  • $2K stipend for complete participation 

  • Creative idea generation, deep collaboration, fresh thinking

  • Glitter statement here

Final product of this grant’s Ideas Lab

  • Creation of a new educational intervention, to be implemented Fall 2020 (therefore, by definition, most likely virtual), which fits the definition of a HIP

  • Selection of one learning outcome to be addressed

  • Description of procedures for achieving that outcome, including budget, if appropriate

  • Details regarding how outcome achievement will be assessed 

  • Description of communication with team about challenges / successes with intervention throughout the semester

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