CSME Accomplishments

The CSME collaborates with many on- and off-campus partners to execute its mission. Accomplishments from our most recent annual report are described below.

2016-2017 Accomplishments & Milestones

Enhancing the quality and equity of K-12 math and science instruction in Utah
MSSST was established in 1972 by the College of Science to help practicing teachers develop a deeper and broader science background. From 1972-2009, the program had 97 applicants and 52 graduates. When the CSME took over the program in 2009, it adopted a cohort model. Each MSSST cohort has a 2.5-year plan of study, focuses on a different content area, and engages teachers in authentic summer research experiences. Past cohort topics have included Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Science. Under the cohort model, MSSST has graduated 114 teachers with a 98% retention/graduation rate. A recent analysis demonstrated that both teacher content knowledge and student performance (in MSSST-teacher classrooms) increases significantly on Praxis exams and SAGE tests. In the past year, classes began in June 2016 for a new Physics cohort with 19 participating teachers. Coursework will include math, physics, chemistry, and earth science; teachers will receive endorsements in both Physics and Physical Science and are expected to graduate in 2018. The previous cohort – Earth Science – wrapped up in December 2016, when 16 teachers graduated with an MS degree in Earth Science with an emphasis in Teaching.
  • 35 teachers finished the final two courses in the first Elementary STEM Endorsement program, and a second program cohort will be launched for 35-40 teachers in Fall 2017. A Teacher Leader Cohort is also in development. 
Through a collaborative partnership with the Urban Institute for Teacher Education, the CSME launched the Elementary STEM Endorsement (ESE) in Fall 2015; ESE offers a six-course sequence over 20 months to provide practicing K-6 teachers with pedagogical content knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math. The CSME has obtained pilot funding to support leadership development for 10 elementary teachers chosen from the first graduating ESE cohort. These teachers will form the Teacher Leader Cohort (TLC) and will participate in a year (2017-2018) of ongoing guided Professional Learning Community meetings that will build teacher capacity to implement the content and skills learned in the ESE program.

This annual workshop provides an opportunity for teachers (7-12 grade) to learn about the connections between traditional Navajo knowledge and western science while they explore new ways of teaching Earth science, biology/environmental science, and math concepts to diverse students. Teachers spend 4 days in the Colorado Plateau visiting sites of both geological and cultural interest; one day is spent exploring geology along the San Juan River. Goals of the workshop include improving teachers’ understanding of earth processes, native knowledge, place-based pedagogical techniques, and inquiry-based methods. The 2016 workshop included 19 teachers from Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. Approximately half of the participating teachers were working in schools that serve native children. Since each teacher works with approximately 130 students/yr, this professional development experience is estimated to benefit 2,500 students in 2016 and countless additional students in future years. 

  • A week-long professional development workshop (SEEd Swap) was developed and held in Summer 2017 for 75  6-8th grade teachers who would like support in adopting Utah’s new Science with Engineering Education (SEEd) standards.
The SEEd standards ‘swap’ content and demand significantly more pedagogical skill on the part of the teacher to implement. CSME hosted a week-long professional development workshop – the “SEEd Swap” – for teachers in Summer 2017, where participants observed modeled sample lessons and expert lectures emphasizing the new content for each grade. The response to the workshop was overwhelming; 110 teachers applied for 75 slots. Teachers from Title 1 schools received priority enrollment.
  • Through the Teacher Research Fellows program, 10 secondary school teachers participated in authentic research experiences with faculty from the University of Utah and Weber State University. 
The Teacher Research Fellows (TRF) program is an effort to scale the successful MSSST Research Experience to other universities and colleges in order to build capacity around the state for engaging teachers in authentic science practices. TRF engages secondary teachers in a 4-week long authentic research experience with faculty from the University of Utah and Weber State University. In Summer 2016, 10 teachers participated in research activities; a followup workshop in October 2016 helped teachers translate their research experiences into effective classroom teaching. 
  • CSME joined a collaboration of several institutions supporting research experiences for teachers and undergraduates (CARET). 
CARET (the Collaborative Around Research Experiences for Teachers) will perform a meta-review of Teacher Research Experience literature, develop common assessment metrics across programs, and pool evaluation data for national-scale studies that contribute to the body of knowledge around research experiences for undergraduates and teachers. CSME is a part of the core CARET leadership group and has helped organize two in-person workshops and many online working sessions. Resources are being created to summarize successful models, so that other STEM Centers can adopt and implement best practices for linking research experiences into teacher preparation programs.
  • In collaboration with numerous campus partners, CSME facilitated a visit from the creators of the Africa Meets Africa math curriculum; over 600 K-12 students and teachers directly benefited. 
Africa Meets Africa is a curriculum developed in South Africa to help students from rural, tribal areas connect to mathematics through art; the curriculum promotes culturally-relevant educational practices. The visit included 3 public lectures, a graduate course presentation, an all-day educator workshop, and a two-month-long art exhibit. Over 600 K-12 students explored the exhibit and participated in mathematical art-making activities. CSME provided lesson plans and take-away materials for teachers and their classrooms. Partners included the ASIA Center, Center for Latin American Studies, Middle East Center, and Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
  • The CSME helped generate resources for a Science and Math Education Research cluster and played a leading role in the hiring of three recent (2016 and 2017) faculty members in the College of Education.

These new scholars have research goals focused on K-12 math and science education. CSME has worked closely with the new faculty members over the past year on a variety of initiatives, including collaborative grant proposals, one of which has been recommended for funding (NSF IUSE).

Promoting academic success and career readiness of undergraduates in math and science at the University of Utah
  • 18 undergraduates enrolled in CSME’s “Science Communication and Mentoring for the Next Generation” (STEM Mentors) course and worked directly with 13 K-12 teachers and 800 K-12 students. 

STEM Mentors was initially developed and offered by CSME for the first time in 2016. STEM Mentors teaches upper division science students how to communicate science to a variety of audiences including K-12 students, other scientists, policy makers, and the general public. Students participated in a weekly “lab” in a K-12 classroom where they helped to teach science and inspire an interest in STEM among grade school students. The semester concluded with a technical research poster session. A total of 18 undergraduates and 13 K-12 teachers in 7 schools participated in the program in 2017; approximately 800 K-12 students benefited from direct interaction with a STEM Mentor undergraduate.

The Internship Program, developed in 2016 in collaboration with the College of Science, is offered each semester and strives to help students develop new skills, explore career paths, and connect with potential employers. The program is cohort-based and includes an initial orientation and final symposium. Over the past year, a total of 22 students began internships via the program, and 20 of those students completed their internships (8 in Summer 2016, 7 in Fall 2016, and 5 in Spring 2017). The program continues to grow; the number of student participants in Summer 2017 (14) is projected to be nearly double the number of participants from the prior Summer. Of the 28 employers who have recruited interns via the program in the past year, 17 have hired one or more students. CSME is working with stakeholders to recruit a broader range of opportunities and attract additional students to the program.

  • The REFUGES Bridge Program partnered with LEAP to offer an enhanced experience for 15 incoming U of U freshmen from underrepresented backgrounds in Summer 2017. 

REFUGES Bridge is designed for incoming University of Utah freshmen who are from underrepresented backgrounds and are interested in majoring in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) field. Participants are provided with a supportive peer group and a unique summer opportunity to get a head start on their college coursework. Since its launch in 2013, the REFUGES Bridge program has proven to be an important mechanism to recruit underserved students to the U and support their success in STEM disciplines. During the past year, REFUGES placed 2 students in U of U labs (Summer 2016) to gain hands-on research experience. Due to a lack of funding, the full program was not run in Summer 2016, but a redesigned Summer 2017 program was developed to include important programmatic changes. In partnership with the LEAP program, the 2017 Bridge students enrolled in two for-credit courses the summer before freshman year that counted towards some of their General Education requirements – Math 1050 (College Algebra) and LEAP 1100 (Pre-STEM). The courses were taught in a cohort model by hand-picked instructors. Students were also supported by a paid peer mentor trained by the LEAP program, and their summer experience fed into an academic-year LEAP cohort experience that extends through the Spring semester of their first year at the U. A total of 15 students were accepted into the 2017 program.

  • CSME facilitated collaboration among three different REU programs on campus, including the coordination of professional development activities and program evaluation.

During Summer 2016, CSME worked with Chemistry, Physics & Astronomy, and MRSEC to coordinate professional development and social activities for students. CSME also developed and analyzed a student-attitude survey for each program.

  • A new course designation (“SCI”) was created by CSME for inter-cross-disciplinary courses that fulfill a vision of collaboration both within the College of Science, as well as with other departments on campus. 

The CSME is developing new courses under this designation that include: 1) SCI 2010 (The Nature of Scientific Inquiry); SCI 2020 (Science, Technology, and Society); and 3) SCI 5050 (Science of Learning). SCI 2010 will hold a SF general education designation and will introduce students to the scientific endeavor through integrated science experiences. It will be offered to 30 students in 2017 and additional students in subsequent years. General education approval is in progress for SCI 2020, which will introduce students to the various ways science and society interact. SCI 5050 will provide students with basic tools and skills to be effective as classroom teaching assistants and help them integrate educational theory, pedagogy, content, and practice.

  • CSME developed a new science-focused BlockU program, the “da Vinci” block, that will introduce students to the practices and processes of science while exploring the intersection of science, philosophy, art, and society. 

The first da Vinci block is scheduled for Fall 2017 and will impact 30 students/year.

  • In collaboration with the Global Change and Sustainability Center, the U-S2TEM Scholars program entered its fourth year.

U-S2TEM is designed to support undergraduate students who are interested in addressing issues related to sustainability through a variety of scientific lenses. Scholars receive scholarships up to $10,000 per year for 4 years. The program is in its fourth year at the U with two cohorts totaling 23 students. Students meet in a biweekly seminar where they learn about opportunities to engage on and off campus, participate in community outreach events, and learn about campus facilities, resources, faculty research and support.  Almost all of the scholars are participating in faculty-mentored undergraduate research.

  • The CSME Exchange met monthly and provided a forum for math and science faculty/instructors to explore best practices in undergraduate instruction.

The CSME Exchange is a brown-bag discussion group that provides an informal faculty/instructor discussion opportunity. The Exchange meets once/month; 10 exchanges were held in 2016-2017 with 15-20 attendees at each meeting. The number of U of U personnel who have attended at least 1 Exchange has doubled over the prior year from 30 to more than 75 people. A Canvas page was created in 2016-2017 to encourage participants to exchange ideas and resources.

  • The Hugo Rossi Lecture Series (HRLS) collaborated with the College of Education and College of Science to bring 4 speakers to campus. 

HRLS bridges the two colleges by attracting speakers whose scholarly pursuits include K-16 math/science education research. A new co-hosting model was launched in 2016-2017 where faculty members from the College of Science and College of Education were asked to nominate speakers and co-host HRLS presentations in place of regularly scheduled departmental seminars. A total of 4 speakers presented, and the events were well-attended with 35-50 attendees at each (approximately a 50% increase in attendance over the prior year). 

Increasing access for K-12 students to high-quality math and science experiences at the University of Utah
  • The REFUGES afterschool program for under-represented and refugee students (grades 7-12) ran from September 2016-May 2017 and served 252 students.
Program components included academic support (tutoring, mentoring), math and science enrichment activities (computer coding and virtual reality workshops), health and wellness workshops, and college and career readiness (including assistance with college and financial aid applications). The program ran at the University of Utah and at Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE), with Saturday activities (including an ACT preparatory course) offered to 10-12th graders from both locations at the Refugee Education & Training Center. A total of 252 students participated  (116 at UofU and 136 at SLCSE); over 90% were minorities. The Sudanese, Bhutanese, Rwandese, and Nepalese refugee communities were well-represented. A 2017 summer program was offered at the U of U (June 2 – August 4) for 40 students. Of the 56 graduating seniors in the 2016-2017 program, 29 were accepted at the University of Utah, and several others pursued post-secondary education at other Utah institutions. All of the students who attended the Afterschool Program at the U of U site were admitted to the U of U. The students at the U of U and SLCSE sites were successful at obtaining financial aid and were collectively offered over $270,000 in scholarships.

Students were from 6 different school districts, in addition to charter schools, private/parochial schools, and homeschools. There were 6 top projects that progressed to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in May 2017; 3 of the ISEF projects received top awards (2nd, 3rd, and 4th place within their subject categories). SLVSEF engages on- and off-campus science stakeholders as mentors and judges; 205 volunteers judged within the various categories (up from 161 in the previous year) and approximately 50% were affiliated with the University of Utah. The Fair grew in 2017 with a notable increase in the number of senior division projects (from 80 to 98), as well as an increase in the number of overall project registrations (from 554 to 575). SLVSEF successfully raised $17,500 from community and industry partners this year. Additionally, SLVSEF became an official U of U program with an upcoming name change (USEF – University of Utah Science and Engineering Fair).

Supporting Activities
  • CSME led and/or collaborated on the development of several grant proposals, bringing in over $2 million.
  • Staff attended and/or presented at 16 different conferences nationwide.