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Science, Technology and Mathematics Education Cluster

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Primary objective: The primary objective is to establish a research “cluster area” in STM education within the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (SNSM) through hires that target research faculty with expertise in bioscience, chemistry, geosciences, mathematics, and/or physics education complementing existing strengths in the School.

The SNSM of the University of South Florida (USF) proposes to establish a scholarly focus area in Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) Education.  Researchers and scholars in this cluster will develop exemplary materials, practices, and evaluation/assessment strategies for science, technology and mathematics education, predominantly at the college level, but with impacts on K-12 teacher education and in-service training, and on science and mathematics instruction.  Researchers in this cluster will also partner with colleagues in the USF College of Education and College of Engineering on institution-scale efforts to reform and improve science and mathematics education at USF, and with school districts and community colleges to implement
 improvements regionally, and nationally. 

Why now? Federal initiatives, including the America Competes Act, recognize the critical importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education to the future economic well-being of our nation.  These Federal initiatives have led to generous long-term grant funding for efforts to improve and diversify STEM education through the National Science Foundation, and a range of like opportunities at NASA, NRC, EPA, USDOE and other Federal funding agencies.  SNSM can develop a critical mass of researchers in this area, and position itself for the largest of these funding opportunities.  As well, this cluster permits our departments to leverage the scholarly talents of our line instructors, who heretofore have not participated fully in the research mission of USF. Moreover, the USF General Education requirements now recognize the need for enhancing both scientific literacy (SL) and quantitative literacy (QL) amongst the nation's degree-holding citizens.  An effective way of achieving both is by coordinated across-the-curriculum initiatives, and an effective way of achieving across-the-curriculum success is with a multi-disciplinary community of the type that the new SNSM cluster can create.  USF would break new ground nationally by integrating SL and QL. 

Why is this cluster important?  AAU membership entails excellence in education as well as research.  Research strength in STM education will lead to discoveries that will benefit the quality of USF educational programs directly, and highlight USF on the national stage.  The development of cooperative graduate programs with the USF College of Education focused on STM education at the college level places USF at the forefront of a new academic trend in the sciences.  The competitiveness of SSM to attract national research centers such as MURI’s and MRSEC’s is enhanced because these require significant outreach and education components.

Why USF?  USF is one the largest universities in the US, it has an urban location, a large and respected College of Education and it hosts the nationally recognized Coalition for Science Literacy and a major quantitative literacy initiative (e.g., Numeracy, the new online journal of the National Numeracy Network []).  Given that USF already has considerable scholarly strength in STEM education USF is uniquely positioned to build critical mass and national prominence. Establishing an STM Education research cluster in SNSM will facilitate leveraging across departmental and college boundaries and afford substantial scholarly activity, graduate SCH and federal funding payoffs.

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