HALE professor takes lead role in AAU project to improve STEM education

October 23, 2012

A Michigan State University faculty member is taking a lead role in a national initiative designed to improve the quality of undergraduate teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM fields.

James Fairweather, a professor of higher, adult and lifelong education, will serve as co-principal investigator of the Association of American Universities’ project, which is working to implement new, more interactive methods of instruction in these fields, particularly in freshman and sophomore courses.

Fairweather is professor and director of the Center for Higher and Adult Education at MSU. He is widely acknowledged as a leading scholar in the study of faculty work and reforming undergraduate STEM education.

The initiative received a major boost this month with the announcement of a $4.7 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The three-year grant will help build AAU’s internal capacity to lead the effort, as well as provide resources directly to AAU universities to facilitate transformation in teaching and learning.

AAU is developing a framework for effective STEM teaching and learning, and will select a set of up to eight initial demonstration sites to implement and test the framework over the next three years.

“For AAU institutions – the top research universities in the United States and Canada – the dilemma centers on how to promote research and scholarship while at the same time better preparing undergraduate students in STEM,” Fairweather said. “I look forward to working with AAU and its member institutions to find ways to improve undergraduate teaching and learning in STEM with the goal of spreading successful innovations to a broad array of colleges and universities.”

AAU President Hunter Rawlings said that the Helmsley Charitable Trust grant is critical to the progress of the initiative.

“We appreciate that the Helmsley Charitable Trust views AAU’s initiative as a powerful means of addressing our country’s shortage of college graduates with degrees in STEM fields and with basic STEM literacy,” he said. “While that shortage has a number of contributing factors, it is clear that improving teaching methods is crucial to our efforts to fix it.”

For more information on the initiative, visit http://www.aau.edu/policy/article.aspx?id=12588.

The Association of American Universities is an association of 59 U.S. and two Canadian research institutions organized to develop and implement effective national and institutional policies supporting research and scholarship, graduate and professional education, undergraduate education, and public service in research universities.

 The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting effective nonprofits in a variety of selected areas. Since 2008, when the Trust began its active grant making, it has committed over $700 million to a wide range of charitable organizations.  For more information on the Trust and its programs, please visit www.helmsleytrust.org.