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Opening Doors: A WIDER Examination of STEM Teaching and Learning, Culture and Support at Otterbein University

Otterbein University received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Widening the Implementation and Demonstration of Evidence Based Reforms (WIDER) Grant in 2013 (DUE 1347243).  The purpose of the WIDER program is to transform institutions of higher education into supportive environments for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty members to substantially increase their use of evidence-based teaching and learning practices in high enrollment, lower division courses in order to achieve improved student learning, increased numbers of students choosing STEM majors, particularly from demographic groups underrepresented in STEM, and improved retention in the first two years of undergraduate study and to graduation of all STEM majors.  Otterbein University is uniquely poised to contribute to the national conversation related to these issues since primarily undergraduate institutions have not yet received significant institution-wide examination with respect to the use and effectiveness of evidence-based practices on STEM student learning and retention.

Although Otterbein University has had a rich history of commitment to the sciences and mathematics, and individual faculty members have made strides in the use of evidence-based practices in curricular and co-curricular programming for STEM students, Otterbein has not yet strategically and holistically examined how science and math courses for STEM majors are being taught, and what factors are combining to affect student success and retention in these majors.  Thus, through an interdisciplinary initiative led by STEM practitioners and educational experts, the project seeks to understand the state of faculty practice and student culture on student learning and persistence and the contextual factors that influence them.  A rigorous, mixed-method design is being utilized that employs a combination of validated assessment methods, classroom observations, focus groups, and data mining to understand the state of 1) faculty practice, 2) student culture, and 3) student learning at Otterbein University.  This information will be used to drive strategic, comprehensive reforms to the STEM programs at Otterbein in order to improve student learning and retention in STEM fields.

For more information, contact Dr. Joan Esson at jesson@otterbein.edu or 614-823-1716.

/ WIDER Grant

Primary Investigators

Joan M. Esson, PhD
Associate Professor of Chemistry
p/ 614.823.1716
e/ jesson@otterbein.edu

Kathryn Plank, PhD
Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning
p/ 614.823.1034

Anna Young, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biology and Earth Science
p/ 614.823.1324

Paul Wendel
Assistant Professor of Education
p/ 614.823.1840