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Deadline: January 13, 2015

National Science Foundation: Improving Undergraduate STEM Education

A well-prepared, innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is crucial to the nation’s health and economy. Priorities include educating students to be leaders and innovators in emerging and rapidly changing STEM fields as well as educating a scientifically literate populace. Both of these priorities depend on the nature and quality of the undergraduate education experience. In addressing these STEM challenges and priorities, the National Science Foundation invests in evidence-based and evidence-generating approaches to understanding STEM learning; to designing, testing, and studying instruction and curricular change; to wide dissemination and implementation of best practices; and to broadening participation of individuals and institutions in STEM fields. The goals of these investments include: increasing the number and diversity of STEM students, preparing students well to participate in science for tomorrow, and improving students’ STEM learning outcomes.

The Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program invites proposals that address immediate challenges and opportunities that are facing undergraduate STEM education, as well as those that anticipate new structures (e.g. organizational changes, new methods for certification or credentialing, course re-conception, cyberlearning, etc.) and new functions of the undergraduate learning and teaching enterprise. The IUSE program recognizes and respects the variety of discipline-specific challenges and opportunities facing STEM faculty as they strive to incorporate results from educational research into classroom practice and work with education research colleagues and social science learning scholars to advance our understanding of effective teaching and learning.

Toward these ends the program features two tracks:

  1. Engaged Student Learning: This track focuses on design, development, and research studies that involve the creation, exploration, or implementation of tools, resources, and models that show particular promise to increase engagement of undergraduate students in their STEM learning and lead to measurable and lasting learning gains.
  2. Institutional and Community Transformation: This track supports projects that use innovative approaches to substantially increase the propagation of highly effective methods of STEM teaching and learning in institutions of higher education. Projects may use technology and distance education methods (or hybrid designs) when supported by evidence of potential effectiveness and are expected to leverage advances in STEM knowledge to motivate student interest. Projects may seek to transform high enrollment, lower division courses or may implement their efforts in multiple courses within a department or a college or in a particular disciplinary area. Faculty learning through continued professional development is also an important consideration for this track.

Two tiers of projects exist within each track: (i) Exploration and (ii) Design and Development.

In addition, IUSE also offers support for a variety of focused innovative projects that seek to identify future opportunities and challenges facing the undergraduate STEM education enterprise. Included among such projects are workshops and special projects that explore revolutionary ideas to improve undergraduate STEM education, proposals to increase the diversity of the institutions and faculty participating in the IUSE enterprise, and those involving collaborations of education researchers and discipline scientists to ensure that undergraduate STEM education reflects cutting-edge STEM and educational research and to encourage the development of a healthy community of STEM education researchers and practitioners. Other examples of IUSE broad range of support include: research and development of innovative learning resources; design research to understand the impact of such resources; strategies to implement effective instruction in a department or multiple departments, within or across institutions; faculty development projects; design and testing of instruments for measuring student outcomes; and proposals for untested and unconventional activities that could have a high impact on learning and contribute to transforming undergraduate STEM education.

Of particular importance in achieving national objectives is broadening the implementation of effective instructional practices and innovations at two and four year institutions, creating seamless transitions between them, and supporting the retention of STEM students by addressing the high failure rates in gatekeeper courses, especially mathematics. As mathematics becomes an increasingly indispensable component of scientific investigation across all disciplines, the embodiment of effective teaching and learning of mathematical and computational skills into all STEM curricula is critical. A major challenge continues to be increasing the persistence of STEM students from all demographic groups in the first two years of college.

Other goals include developing increased use of inquiry-based laboratories and research-based courses and further work on the design, development, and widespread implementation of effective STEM learning and teaching knowledge and practices, as well as foundational research on STEM teaching and STEM learning. The program supports research, development, and implementation efforts that bring recent advances in STEM disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge into undergraduate education and research that lays the groundwork for institutional improvement and change. It encourages projects that develop faculty expertise, prepare K-12 teachers, and provide all undergraduate students with STEM competencies.


  • Engaged Student Learning: Exploration – up to $250,000 – approximately 100 awards
  • Engaged Student Learning: Design and Development, Level I – up to $600,000; approximately 15 awards
  • Engaged Student Learning: Design and Development, Level II – from $601,000 up to $2,000,000; approximately 20 awards
  • Institutional and Community Transformation: Exploration – up to $250,000 – approximately 40 awards
  • Institutional and Community Transformation: Design and Development – up to $3,000,000 – approximately 10 awards

Eligibility: Individuals and organizations in the following categories may submit proposals:

  • Universities and Colleges – Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) located and accredited in the U.S., acting on behalf of their faculty members.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations – Independent museums, observatories, research laboratories, professional societies, and similar organizations in the U.S. that are directly associated with educational or research activities.
  • For-profit organizations – U.S. commercial organizations, especially small businesses with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education.
  • State and Local Governments – State educational offices or organizations, and local school districts may submit proposals intended to broaden the impact, accelerate the pace, and increase the effectiveness of improvements in science, mathematics, and engineering education in both K-12 and post-secondary levels.

Link: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=nsf14588

Note: This RFP is for Engaged Student Learning: Design and Development, I & II and Institutional and Community Transformation: Design and Development. Exploration grants were due in October, 2014.

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