In this capacity building project, the investigator proposes to investigate the impact of design thinking training combined with established pedagogical strategies in increasing student recruitment, persistence, and retention in STEM at a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and a predominantly urban undergraduate institution. In this context, design thinking focuses on the iterative process by which solutions are derived, taking multiple perspectives from various disciplines, and encouraging collaboration, prototyping, and feedback-driven problem solving. The investigator will conduct the research project and build capacity in STEM education research by implementing a professional development plan through formal courses, mentoring, and an advisory board that will focus on mixed-methods design and methods, theoretical frameworks, STEM education pedagogy, assessment of integrated STEM competencies, and grantsmanship in STEM education research. The project will establish a novel and sustainable STEM education research program to investigate factors that contribute to student success in STEM at the institution.

The working hypothesis for the research project is that incorporating design thinking (DT) training in an introductory course will increase rates of persistence and retention in STEM. The investigator will use an evaluation design and persistence framework to (a) examine the impact of DT training on undergraduate student persistence and retention in STEM and (b) examine the impact of combining DT training with course-based undergraduate research experiences on undergraduate student persistence and retention in STEM. The testbed for the bulk of the research will be the first-year seminar program where entering freshmen are required to take a university general education seminar course. Classes are comprised of STEM and non-STEM majors, allowing the investigator to test the potential for STEM recruitment. The course curriculum will merge instructions in foundations of neuroscience with demonstrations and activities that train students to use a variety of tools to measure electrical activity from the nervous system. Students will them work in groups on pre-defined projects to study novel aspects of neuroscience. Pre- and post-surveys will be conducted to collect data that will compare outcomes that are theoretically correlated with long-term success. The project will produce evidence of effective educational practices that promote student success in STEM and contribute to greater diversity in STEM education and the workforce.

This project is supported by the ECR Building Capacity in STEM Education Research competition of the EHR Core Research (ECR) program. ECR funds fundamental STEM education research projects that focus on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM fields, and STEM professional workforce development.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Graduate Education (DGE)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Earnestine Psalmonds
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California State University-Dominguez Hills Foundation
United States
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