STEM education researchers to assemble for Oct. 19 retreat

STEM Education Research Retreat
STEM Education Research Retreat

To advance the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math, UNL researchers are stepping forward with a retreat.

Taking place Oct. 19 at UNL’s Avery Hall, the STEM Education Research Retreat will assemble more than 50 faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduates. Participants will represent more than 20 departments that cover disciplines ranging from the agricultural, biological and physical sciences to biomedical, computer and mechanical engineering.

In addition to learning about UNL’s research infrastructure, participants will share information about their latest projects through roundtable discussions and a gallery walk featuring 25 research posters.

Marilyne Stains, assistant professor of chemistry and coordinator of the retreat, said the event should cultivate greater collaboration among the many UNL researchers dedicated to improving STEM education.

“Researchers across STEM education do not often have opportunities to confer with each other about mutual interests,” Stains said. “This is especially needed at UNL, where there has been a growth in the number of faculty conducting STEM education research.”

Yvonne Lai of the department of mathematics said, “By dedicating time for substantive conversation and (fostering) the setting for focused discussion, this retreat will make it more likely that Nebraska faculty generate cross-disciplinary, effective research programs that are funded to investigate big ideas.”

More than half of Nebraska’s fastest-growing careers over the next decade will reside within the STEM fields, Stains said. Despite this, the state’s K-12 system yields some of the widest STEM achievement gaps in the country, she said, especially for students who are not white males.

The challenge of retaining STEM majors beyond the first two years of college, Stains said, provides further incentive to improve STEM pedagogy and curricula.

“It is critical for the economic growth of the state to enhance the STEM education of Nebraska students from kindergarten through graduation from college,” said Wendy Smith of the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education.

To familiarize participants with resources that can assist this ambitious effort, the retreat’s planning committee has invited centers and offices from across the City and East campuses.

These include the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education; the Center for Instructional Innovation; the Nebraska Bureau for Education Research, Evaluation and Policy; the Bureau of Sociological Research; NU’s Public Policy Center; and the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium.

The number and diversity of registrants have already reinforced the committee’s decision to coordinate the retreat, Stains said.

“To me, this is an indication that the retreat is addressing a vacuum in our ability to communicate about STEM education research in Nebraska,” said Stains, who hopes to make the retreat an annual event.

Registration for the retreat has closed. For more information, visit