The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received a nearly $2 million federal grant to enhance and improve access to undergraduate science, technology, engineering and math education.
Funds from the National Science Foundation will be used to provide support for faculty and students in the Donaghey College of STEM with a specific focus on supporting students from historically underserved groups, the university said in a news release. Researchers will use the grant to grow the use of evidence-based teaching practices to increase student engagement and retention in undergraduate STEM education.
"To build and sustain a strong STEM workforce, we must educate students for next-generation careers," said Lawrence Whitman, dean of the Donaghey College of STEM. "To properly educate these students, we must transform our education. I am beyond pleased to see that this funding will continue the excellent work of our faculty."
UA Little Rock plans to use the funds to expand the Donaghey College's Mobile Institute on Scientific Teaching, which offers workshops focused on active learning. The grant will provide a $500 stipend for 75 STEM faculty members to participate over the next five years, beginning in the spring 2023 semester.
Teachers who complete the workshops can receive another $1,000 in stipends for joining peer support groups that meet regularly to help build their expertise. From those participants, an group of 10 will be formed annually to discuss and plan efforts to enact policy changes focusing on student success and closing the student equity gap. The grant provides up to $5,000 a year for five years to implement ideas that emerge from the group.
Additionally, the grant will fund one graduate student and one postdoctoral researcher for five years, as well as a series of speakers that will focus on implementing student-centered practices.
UA Little Rock said the funds will also help expand the school's Learning Assistant Program, which offers undergraduates training on learning techniques and how to help other students learn. The grant will provide a $975 stipend for 605 students to participate. By the end of the project, UA Little Rock plans to support approximately 250 learning assistants per year.
“We want to emphasize how the departments and programs are encouraging their own teachers,” Michael Moore, director of undergraduate research and mentoring, said in the release. “This is a multi-prong approach by the whole university on how to support a successful culture of teaching. It speaks to the credibility of the support we have across the university and from our partners.
"This is a win for UA Little Rock."