Tougaloo College, a small HBCU in Mississippi, through the HBCU-UP progam, will implement activities aimed at the following objectives: 1) to improve retention in gate-keeping courses in biology, chemistry and mathematics; 2) to strengthen STEM curricula through incorporation of new pedagogic approaches aimed at promoting a greater depth of knowledge of STEM; 3) to promote more faculty and student research in the sciences with the aim at increasing student enrollment in graduate and professional schools in STEM; and

Supplemental Instruction (SI), based on the classic SI model, will be implemented in gatekeeper courses as a retention strategy. This activity builds on work done during the Tougaloo?s first five year HBCU-UP project. Other retention activities will include attention to co-curricular STEM activities, including support of STEM clubs on campus, and the development of a new one-credit freshman course for STEM majors.

New pedagogy based on NSF funded Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) will be implemented in various courses, beginning with chemistry. In addition to the focus on gatekeeper courses, the curriculum development will include the use of web-based laboratories and development of new upper level courses to prepare students use of current scientific tools. Some courses proposed will incorporate informatics (including data mining tools), nano chemistry and biology, and in-silico biology and drug discovery.

Activities aimed at recruitment, as well as ensuring better preparation of incoming students, are the summer pre-matriculation program that will impact 40 high school students per year, and coordinating with surrounding secondary schools to offer Physics. Tougaloo College is among US top 20 producers of female, undergraduate physics majors. The proposal points to an acute shortage of persons qualified to teach physics in the surrounding schools. In order to address this, the Tougaloo physics department will direct the offering of physics for high school students, which will be taught on weekends and evenings.

Faculty and student research will be supported both on campus through the availability of faculty research grants, and off campus through collaborations with other institutions and laboratories.

Project Report

This project is a model for identifying, supporting and encouraging African-American students to be successful in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields at Tougaloo College, a small historically Black liberal arts college in Jackson, Mississippi, with about 900 students. Nearly all of our students are from Mississippi, which has one of the weakest K-12 educational systems in the United States. This project utilized a number of strategies working in tandem to identify, prepare, and mentor students. Its aim is to increase the success of African-Americans in STEM fields, not only to complete bachelor's degrees but graduate degrees as well. This is a national problem since the success of African-Americans in the sciences is a critical issue, where students with ability but poor background need innovative approaches for success. The Summer Science Program identified interested students and provided intensive academic activities and career orientation which prepared them for college STEM courses. The data show that these students are more successful than others in completing a STEM degree. Enhanced teaching methods in chemistry and mathematics increased the number of students who were successful in freshman level science and math courses ("gatekeeper" courses). Both program utilized student centered approaches, allowing students to have a role in constructing their own knowledge. Tutoring was also an important part of the project. Highly regarded by the students, it turned out to be most effective when required by the instructor or when points were given for attendance at tutorials. Tutor training was essential to the success of this program. Student subject clubs like the Beta Beta Beta biology honor club, faculty mentoring, and advising also led to enhanced student performance. Many students had the opportunity to work with faculty members in research projects, not just as lab technicians, but as presenters at local and national student conferences. This encouraged student interest and self-confidence in STEM disciplines. The data show that student success in STEM disciplines is improving in the "gatekeeping" courses which have been traditional barriers to student success in STEM. We increased our overall success rate in these classes by 15%. More than that, the diverse experiences, especially the subject clubs and research mentoring, have made the disciplines more real to the students, and are responsible for the nearly 60% of our 132 STEM graduates since 2009 who enter graduate or professional school in STEM fields. Lessons Learned: This project has taught us that any strategy, no matter how well planned and authenticated, needs to be fitted to the student environment. The chemistry POGIL learning, designed for group learning, had to be modified to accommodate students' unwillingness to collaborate for fear of seeming ignorant. Tutoring, a time honored tool for learning, was only taken seriously by today's students if required or for credit. We are pleased with the personal growth students have shown after becoming involved with faculty members in research.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
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Claudia M. Rankins
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Tougaloo College
United States
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