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George Mason University Team Receives NSF Grant
September 28, 2018

The Volgenau School of Engineering, at George Mason University, recently announced that a team of researchers has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to introduce a more active-learning approach that would improve student understanding, increase retention and increase the numbers of women and minorities in STEM fields.

Jill Nelson, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering within the Volgenau School of Engineering, leads a group that recently received an NSF grant for more than $1.75 million for a collaborative research project designed to improve undergraduate STEM teaching for more than 13,000 students at Mason over the next five years. The majority of the grant will go to the hiring of additional graduate teaching assistants, who will help develop active-learning techniques that engage students.

The hope is that the multidisciplinary project, involving the departments of Biology, Mathematical Sciences and Physics and Astronomy from the College of Science and Mason Engineering’s Computer Science Department, will further inspire the STEM field’s most underrepresented groups while providing them with more tools for post-college success.

Nelson, who is being joined by co-principal investigators Jaime Lester, Jessica Rosenberg, Robert Sachs and Stephanie Foster, hopes to change the culture at Mason by developing supportive STEM communities in each of the participating departments with teams of faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students all working in unison.

According to information, as part of the project, titled “Collaborative Research: Building a Culture of Active Learning through Course-based Communities of Transformation,” each of the communities will receive training on active-learning techniques, while professors from each department, who are teaching introductory classes with high numbers of students, will also receive guidance on how to develop materials and assessments that emphasize active learning and student engagement. Some examples of active learning include group problem-solving, classroom debates and peer reviews of writing.

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