Rebooting STEM Education With Active Learning

Across the nation, less than 4 out of 10 students who enroll in college intending to major in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) will actually complete a STEM degree, with many citing poor instruction as the driving force behind their decision to leave these subject areas.

Too many students leave these majors before graduation, often in the first or second year of college. AAU is helping universities use engaging approaches to transform teaching practices, which we expect will lead to greater STEM graduation rates, and, ultimately, a skilled workforce capable of meeting the needs of a competitive American economy.

Rich McKeon, Education Program Director

In an effort to reverse this troubling trend and reinforce persistence in STEM programs, the Association of American Universities (AAU) launched a five-year Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, devising a framework to help universities improve the quality of both teaching and learning, particularly in introductory courses. AAU, a large membership organization comprised of 60 of the nation’s leading research universities, selected eight member schools to test the framework’s ability to help universities retain STEM students and better prepare them for careers in these critical areas. Serving as pilot project sites since 2013, the STEM departments at these eight universities are adopting evidence-based methods of interactive, hands-on learning to replace traditional lecture-and-test instruction.

Providing a platform for broad-based reform, AAU’s vast network encourages member universities to engage with others that have made similar commitments to improve STEM teaching practices on their campuses.

Among initial project sites, the initiative is already gaining momentum. Learn more about the success at the University of Arizona where introductory chemistry faculty have restructured classroom time to focus less on lecture and more on group-based discussions and problem-solving activities.