Advancing K20 STEM education by transforming the way we teach, discover, and share knowledge

The mission of the Center for STEM Learning (CSL) is to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at the University of Colorado Boulder, and to serve as a state, national, and international resource for such efforts.


Our vision for achieving this mission is:

  • To maintain an infrastructure of institutional support in order to transform STEM education, support education research within and across STEM fields and departments, and promote K20 faculty recruitment, preparation, and professional development.
  • To facilitate change in STEM education by integrating an interdisciplinary community of scholars, promoting, sustaining, and evaluating existing reform efforts, sponsoring new programs, advocating for diversity and access, influencing relevant policy, fundraising, and communicating with the public.


The CSL, housed in the Graduate School, integrates more than 75 programs and projects in STEM education, representing tens of millions of dollars in grants at CU-Boulder. Many of these programs are nationally recognized and replicated.

  • PhET, which was selected as a Tech Award Laureate in 2011, provides fun, interactive, research-based simulations of physical phenomena for free. The project enables students to make connections between real-life phenomena and the underlying science, deepening their understanding and appreciation of the physical world. PhET features 120 simulations in 65 different languages, which are downloaded roughly 50 million times a year.
  • The CSL supports sister-efforts across the nation, advising and providing models for more than three-dozen colleges and universities seeking to transform STEM education and/or create centers for STEM education.


Additional CSL activities include:

  • Collaborating with national organizations including: the AAU STEM Education Initiative, the APLU Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative, the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, and the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research.
  • Hosting community-building events, such as the DBER seminar series, annual symposia, mini-symposia, workshops, and programmatic events through the year.
  • Seeding new programs and projects: the Chancellor's Awards for Excellence in STEM Education program provides funding to faculty (up to $10,000) and graduate students (25%) research assistant appointments). iSTEM (the precursor to CSL) has supported more than 35 faculty and graduate students with awards, which have lead to the transformation of more than a dozen educational environments, supported 20 graduate students in STEM education research (with 12 PhD's so far, and at least four new lines of PhD research in departments on campus), and provided seed funding for more than 15 faculty to engage in STEM education research and transformation. These awardees have subsequently brought in eight NSF awards (over $3.5M) on research related to/drawing from their Chancellor Awards.
  • Through Co-director, Valerie Otero, CSL is also associated with the Colorado Learning Assistant program. The Learning Assistant (LA) Program was launched in 2003 to increase STEM research faculty members' awareness and involvement in evidence-based reforms and in STEM teacher recruitment and preparation. The LA model has greatly improved STEM conceptual learning outcomes and has involved over 60 STEM faculty members, targeting the transformation of introductory courses in 12 CU-Boulder departments and three colleges and schools. Over 1200 LAs have been hired since 2003, impacting over 100,000 students each year. The program has almost tripled the number of talented STEM majors going into teaching careers. The LA program has catalyzed CU-Boulder's weekly STEM Discipline-Based Educational Research (DBER) group, and has spawned a nation-wide adoption of the LA model.


Members of the CSL Executive Board include:


Read more about the importance of STEM education at CU-Boulder