Florida International University
Florida International University is a Hispanic-serving, urban, public, research institution in Miami, Florida. FIU was recently ranked first nationally in awarding STEM degrees to Underrepresented Minorities (Santiago, Taylor, & Calderon-Galdeano, 2015) and is the largest grantor of baccalaureate degrees to Hispanics and to Underrepresented Minorities in general (Cooper, 2015). This distinction stems from the large, multi-cultural, student body: 61% of our 55,000 undergraduates are Hispanic, 15% are Black, and 56 % are women (Fall 2015 data).
Currently, FIU has 7,500 undergraduate students majoring in STEM fields, is the largest producer of STEM degrees for Hispanics and one of the top producers of STEM degrees for all minorities. Additionally, 35% of the teachers in Miami-Dade County Public Schools have a degree from FIU.
As South Florida’s public, research university, FIU sees an opportunity and obligation to engage the community around important issues like STEM Education. To this end, FIU established the STEM Transformation Institute (http://stem.fiu.edu/) in 2014.
The STEM Transformation Institute serves as a hub within the university for projects around STEM education and allows the university to engage with partners from local school districts as well as industry efficiently. The creation of the STEM Transformation Institute was motivated by FIU’s efforts to help meet the nation’s need for more and better prepared STEM professionals, including teachers, and by our commitment to serve the diverse South Florida community.
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FIU’s STEM Transformation Institute
The STEM Transformation Institute is FIU’s response to national calls for 100,000 new STEM teachers and an additional 1,000,000 STEM professionals over the next 10 years. The vision for the Institute is to serve as a living laboratory that disseminates practices, policies, and STEM professionals across the nation. The STEM Transformation Institute’s scope is to foster a new educational landscape over the K-20 educational spectrum in its endeavor to create a culture of evidence-based educational practices.
The STEM Transformation Institute is a multidisciplinary collaboration across the Colleges of Arts, Sciences & Education, and Engineering & Computing for the research and development of effective educational practices that lead to substantial increases in the number of well-prepared STEM professionals, including teachers, graduating FIU. Undertaking this challenge requires us to partner with local K12 systems and colleges, businesses and industry, foundations, and national education leaders in order to create an educational landscape that supports all students, coming through multiple pathways, and leading to a productive workforce. The STEM Institute capitalizes on the unique skills our diverse student population brings to their learning and ultimately the workforce.
While FIU has maintained a long-standing commitment to excellence in the STEM disciplines, the STEM Institute brings all of the university’s efforts together into a collective mission to transform STEM education from preschool through graduate school. Transformative Institute approaches include implementing collaborative learning models and innovative pathways to increase the number, diversity and excellence of STEM graduates and teachers.
The STEM Transformation Institute advances educational change by facilitating the adoption of evidence-based educational practices throughout the STEM disciplines. Education research, within the STEM Transformation Institute supports dissemination of promising practices in an increasingly diverse nation. The Institute further translates research into practice by operating several key drivers of institutional change. These efforts include FIU’s undergraduate Mastery Math, Learning Assistant (LA), Faculty Scholar, FIUteach, and Active-Learning Classroom programs.
FIU’s Academic Health Center 5 (AHC-5) is the first of several classrooms designed to house active learning at a financially sustainable scale. These classrooms are the result of an ongoing Active-Learning Classroom Project, housed within the STEM Institute, designed to establish university infrastructure that influences pedagogical practice. Currently, six STEM courses are taught in AHC-5 with more than 350 students in its first semester of operation. All six of these classes required faculty to commit to active learning. These classrooms represent one way the STEM Transformation Institute is committed to expanding the reach of our active learning goals while supporting the National Science Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and National Math and Science Initiative projects that are housed within the institute as well as fulfilling the challenges proposed in the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report.
The Faculty Scholars program directly supports faculty adoption of evidence-based instructional methodologies, providing time and resources to transition to their preferred active learning paradigm, leading to improved student learning outcomes and increased personal fulfillment. Instructional change facilitated by these and complementary projects have led to an average 20% increase in the number of students passing critical science and mathematics courses.
The STEM Transformation Institute addresses STEM Education, as it fosters instructional change towards, and research on, evidence-based practices in support of FIU’s diverse student population. The instructional change directly impacts College Completion, as increased student success is a primary objective in all course transformations. The institute also directly impacts Hispanic/Latino Teacher Recruitment through the FIUteach project and College Access indirectly through in-service and pre-service teacher development.
Key STEM Programs
Mastery Math - Program Success and Impact
The high-tech, high-touch Mastery Math Model was created specifically to improve the performance and retention of FTIC Hispanic students. The Mastery Math Program began in full during Fall 2012, with the construction of a new Mastery Math lab with 204 computers. The Mastery Model for effective course design and instruction that includes 1) a master-course structure centered around active learning and 2) a collaborative, high touch teaching approach utilizing evidence-based educational practices. Students attend one or two lectures per week in a regular classroom setting. In class, faculty pull together the major concepts that the students are working on outside of class. Students use personal response devices, such as iClickers, to answer individual and small group questions providing real-time feedback for themselves and their instructors. Students then practice the concepts presented in class at the Mastery Math computer lab where they have access to expert help from Learning Assistants (LAs) and their instructors. The Mastery Math Program has increased student success in College Algebra from average passing rates as low as 28% to consistent semester average pass rates of 63-65% (Rose & Wells, In Preparation). The program positively impacts 3000 students annually and growing. Between Fall 2012 through Spring 2015, over 7000 students visited the lab over 240,000 times for ~370,000 hours of time on math tasks.
Learning Assistant Program Success and Impact
The Learning Assistant program was pioneered at FIU through the FIU PhysTEC project. The Learning Assistant program includes physics, biology, chemistry, engineering, computer science, earth science, and mathematics and is integrated into FIU’s science and mathematics teacher preparation programs. Currently, FIU has the largest Learning Assistant program in the nation.
The undergraduate Learning Assistant (LA) program provides undergraduates with the opportunity to experience the reward of teaching, develop skills to engage in the challenges of effective instruction, and deepen their content knowledge. At the same time, they serve a critical role as dedicated and skilled facilitators in the classroom, thus easing the transition to active learning. FIU’s LA program, has grown with the support of a Provost Initiative beginning in Spring 2015 to 239 LAs serving in 155 course sections and 57 faculty members across STEM departments, impacting over 10,075 enrollments in Fall 2015.
Figure 2. FIU College Algebra Passing Rates
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