Stephanie Chasteen

Project Name: Transforming Education, Stimulating Teaching and Learning Excellence (TRESTLE)

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Grant Title: (Collaborative Research)  Deep Roots:  Wide-spread implementation of community-driven evidence-based pedagogy

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TRESTLE is a multi-university project aimed at implementing and studying a model of STEM education reform, with the ultimate goal of achieving widespread adoption of empirically-validated instructional methods, and thus improving learning and educational outcomes for both STEM students and non-STEM students. TRESTLE includes faculty professional development opportunities as well as grant opportunities. 

The TRESTLE model is derived from research on institutional change and quality improvement, and builds on an extensive successful initiative (the Science Education Initiative, SEI) at the University of Colorado ( and the University of British Columbia (  The core approach supports "embedded expertise" within departments, with a focus on course transformation, to catalyze changes in teaching practices and culture. STEM education experts (specially-prepared postdoctoral scholars or faculty leaders) will collaborate with department faculty to guide and support the implementation of research-based educational practices in STEM courses, driven by faculty and departmental interests and needs. Our extension of the SEI model supports change with a smaller infusion of resources by developing communities of scholars within and across departments, and across institutions to share strategies and lessons-learned across multiple levels. Seven research universities (University of Colorado Boulder, Indiana University, Queens University, University of Texas San Antonio, University of California Davis, University of British Columbia), led by the University of Kansas, will implement and evaluate variations of this model on their own campuses.

The University of Colorado model builds on the successful interventions already initiated through the Science Education Initiative and the American Association of Universities STEM Education Initiative to further build and spread capacity among faculty and departments, and to provide engagement opportunities for faculty and departments new to evidence-based teaching practices.  The primary activities of the grant are to support a TRESTLE Scholars program (in which faculty engage in 1-2 semesters of practice and implementation of active learning strategies),  course transformation awards (to catalyze additional course transformation on campus and sustain existing changes), mini-grants (to support smaller scale educational work), and an educational advisors program (where faculty can seek one-on-one advising in a variety of STEM education and education research areas).



Joel Corbo, Noah Finkelstein, Daniel Reinholz,

Project Name: Departmental Action Teams (DAT)

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Grant Title: Departmental Action Teams: Sustaining Improvements in Undergraduate STEM Education Through Faculty Engagement

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The Departmental Action Team project is a multi-institution effort to implement and study DATs on the CU and Colorado State University campuses.  A DAT is an externally-facilitated working group of 6 to 8 faculty, students and staff from a single department with the goals of (1) creating sustainable change around a broad-scale issue related to undergraduate education in the department and (2) helping DAT participants become more effective change agents. To meet these goals, the DAT is supported by external facilitators from our project team who have expertise in education theory and practice, facilitation, and organizational change. Additionally, a core feature of DATs is that participants choose their DAT’s focus; in the past, these have included both curricular concerns (e.g., disciplinary skills assessment; curricular alignment) and cultural concerns (e.g., equity and inclusion; sense of belonging in the major). Because the DAT project follows an action research paradigm, it has a dual focus both on institutionalizing the DAT model on the CU and CSU campuses and on conducting research to articulate the core features of the DAT model, understand change in academic departments, and develop tools to measure aspects of department culture relevant to the DAT model and its principles.


Noah Finkelstein

Project Name: Creating and Studying a National Network of centers of STEM Education 

Funding: NSF-Funded in collaboration with APLU and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

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The University of Colorado Boulder is one of the lead public campuses partnering with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to create a national network of about 200 campus STEM education centers. The network will provide programming and resources for established and new STEM centers including conferences, learning communities, an online engagement platform, toolkits of resources for centers and directory of centers for the community and external stakeholders. CU leads in the development and study of this network.


Noah Finkelstein, Melissa Dancy, Daniel Reinholz, Stanley Deetz and Joel Corbo

Project Name: The STEM Institutional Transformation Action Research (SITAR) Project

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Grant Title: Professionalizing educational practice through measurement and assessment: materials, infrastructure, and cultural support

Link to funders: Brief Description: The STEM Institutional Transformation Action Research (SITAR) Project, housed in the Center for STEM Learning, aims to improve undergraduate STEM education by professionalizing educational practice through measurement, assessment, and cultural change. We focus on department-wide change to achieve more coherent, long lasting reforms. Our project uses a three-layer approach: (1) We work with groups of faculty through Departmental Action Teams (DATs) to create sustainable mechanisms to address educational issues in an ongoing fashion (bottom up); (2) We apply targeted approaches to individual departments to stimulate cultural change (middle out); and (3) We work with the administration and faculty senate to promote and incentivize the use of evidence-based teaching practices (top down). We support these three layers with infrastructure provided by the AAU and our collaborations with our Office of Informational Technology (OIT) to develop and import technology for better utilizing already existing institutional student data.



Katie Hinko and Noah Finkelstein

Project Name: Partnerships for Informal Science Education in the Community (PISEC)

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Grant Title: Pathways: Measuring the Impact of Participation in Informal STEM Programming on University Students

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Informal STEM programs are widespread among university STEM departments in the United States. While university informal STEM programs geared toward K-12 children or community members often report outcomes in terms of these groups, our work focuses on the university educators (UEs) who participate in these informal programs, providing insight into this less-studied group.

We primarily study university physics students who participate in the University of Colorado Boulder Partnerships for Informal Science Education in the Community (PISEC) programs. PISEC is supported by the CU Boulder Department of Physics and the JILA Physics Frontier Center and has two main programming components: weekly, afterschool physics clubs for underrepresented populations in grades K-8 and one-time, physics demonstration performances for levels K-16 and beyond. Both of these programs rely on physics undergraduate and graduate UEs to interact with children, teachers and community members as both scientists and educators. We are designing assessments and implementing pilot studies of the UEs by building on initial findings from our program that indicate the potential for improvement in the communication and pedagogical skills of UEs, as well as positive shifts in their affect and self-efficacy as scientific communicators and teachers. Findings from this project will inform university support for and design of informal STEM programming, as well as have broad implications for all types of informal STEM environments.


Anne-Barrie Hunter

Project Name: Talking about Leaving Revisited

Grant Title: Talking About Leaving Revisited: Exploring the Contribution of Teaching to Undergraduate Persistence in the Sciences

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The departure of undergraduate students from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors has remained a persistent problem since researchers and policymakers first took note 3 decades ago. Moreover, women and students of color majoring in STEM fields are more likely to switch to non-STEM majors, and continue to be underrepresented among those who persist to attainment in these fields. There is not only an apparent shortage of STEM majors to fill crucial jobs, but also a lack of critical diversity to spur scientific and technological innovation and expand opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups.  

The 1997 book Talking about Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences identified numerous factors that affect STEM persistence. Although there have been widespread efforts over the past 15 years to address these factors, we don’t really know if these efforts have had any impact on students’ experiences and whether these experiences, in turn, have influenced student persistence in STEM fields.  This study explores current factors affecting students' decisions to stay in or leave their STEM majors. Comprehensive findings from this study are presented in Talking about Leaving Revisited: Persistence, Relocation and Loss in Undergraduate STEM Education, which will be published by Springer in December 2019.

Read more about our study.


Brad McLain

Project Name: NSF/Twin Cities – Latina SciGirls

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Grant Title: Latina SciGirls: Promoting Middle School-Age Hispanic Girls' Postitive STEM Identity Development

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Latina SciGirls is developing a Spanish-language series of half-hour television episodes showing groups of girls and their Latina STEM mentors investigating culturally relevant science and engineering problems of interest to Hispanic communities across the U.S. Television mentors and girls will be filmed in Hispanic communities in the southwest and southeastern U.S. and represent various cultural backgrounds and ethnicities including Mexican, Central and South American, Puerto Rican and Caribbean. The project is also creating a series of family and girl-friendly online video profiles of Latina STEM professionals showing the daily life of a female scientist or engineer, and will provide opportunities to connect girls and their families with in-person Latina role models via community outreach in diverse Hispanic communities across the country.

XSci is leading the research effort to investigate: (1) Hispanic girls’ experiences in Latina SciGirls in terms of their ability to forge deeper and more personally relevant STEM connections and commitments (positive science identities) and; (2) Program-associated social dynamics occurring within their peer groups and families that may or may not support their engagement in STEM.


Project Name: SciGirls

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Grant Title: SciGirls Strategies: Gender Equitable Teaching Practices in Career and Technical Education Pathways for High School Girls

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This three-year professional development initiative is designed to help career and technical education (CTE) educators and guidance counselors recruit and retain more girls in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pathways, specifically in technology and engineering.

XSci is conducting the research component to investigate girls’ personal learning experiences engaging with the project strategies and deliverables and how those experiences contribute to their science (or STEM-related) identity development against cultural and gender-based stereotypes, and within the context of prevalent anti-science attitudes among American youth.


Project Name: MySTEMLink

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Funding support to sustain the site after launch will be derived from minimal participation fees from industry side partners and fees for different levels of evaluation services as desired for specific matched projects.

Based on organizational or program level profiles and opportunity articulation, STEMLink will make it easier, cheaper, and less time consuming for STEM industry organizations to find appropriate school partners and establish partnerships to support experiential STEM learning outreach activities to K12 students and teachers. STEMLink will include a back-end database that actively seeks appropriate partners based on user profile inputs and makes recommendations for potential matches. In addition, STEMLink will include reporting and assessment tools and assistance to track the progress and outcomes of matches made in the system. Evaluation is an often neglected but essential component for establishing ROI for companies, educational impact for schools, and discovering what works, why and for whom so that future efforts can benefit.


Project Name: Bayer International Science Teens Camp

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Gift Title: Science Teens

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This innovative program has been designed for a small, select group of U.S. and international students who will join together for hands-on, field-based experiences on human anatomy and physiology led by Dr. Brad McLain, XSci educators,and Anatomy in Clay creator Jon Zahourek. ANATOMY IN CLAY® models have been used in over 6,000 high schools, colleges, veterinary schools, and bodywork training programs. Camp attendees will stay on the campus at the University of Colorado, Denver, for one week and on-site in a national park in Leadville, Colo., for the second week.



Sarah Miller, Noah Finkelstein, Janet Yowell, Anne-Barrie Hunter

Project Name: Creating Academic Pathways in STEM (CAPS)

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Grant Title: Collaborative Research: Creating Academic Pathways in STEM (CAPS): A Model Ecosystem for Supporting Two-Year Transfer

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The Creating Academic Pathways in STEM (CAPS): A Model Ecosystem for Supporting 2-Year Transfer project is part of the National Science Foundation's INCLUDES initiative to improve the preparation, increase the participation, and ensure the contributions of individuals from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented and underserved in the STEM enterprise, including women, members of racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with low socio-economic status. The grand challenge of broadening participation in STEM is to transform the STEM enterprise at all levels in order to fully engage the nation’s talent for the ultimate improvement of the STEM enterprise.

The CAPS project—one of 40 launch pilot projects awarded NSF funding in late 2016—aims to create a systemwide, layered and integrated network for supportive pathways for 2-year students to transfer to CU Boulder to puruse STEM Bachelor's degrees. The overall aim of the project is to flatten the landscape of the higher education system in Colorado and create an effective, networked, holistic ecosystem, such that students who attend Colorado 2-year colleges are able to easily understand and navigate clearly specified pathways continuing and supporting their STEM education at any of Colorado's 4-year institutions.



Daniel Reinholz and Joel Corbo

Project Name: The Access Network

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Grant Title: Access Network: Supporting Retention and Representation in Physics Through an Alliance of Campus-Based Diversity Programs

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The Access Network consists of nine university-based programs co-working with graduate and undergraduate students across the country towards a vision of a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible STEM community. To realize this vision, Access and its member programs empower students as co-leaders, giving them voice and ownership over local and national efforts. Access sites focus on fostering supportive learning communities, engaging students in authentic science practices, and attending to students' development as STEM professionals.



Sean Shaheen, Janet Yowell

Project Name: NSF Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)

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Grant Title: NSF Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science Solicitation

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This grant support 2YC faculty to come to CU Boulder for eight weeks over the summer to engage in authentic research. CU graduate students and post-docs will work one-on-one with faculty to translate 2YC faculty members' research into modules to be implemented in their classrooms. This proposal was submitted in October to build upon the NSF INCLUDES initiative to lower the barriers to 2YC transfer to CU Boulder.