NDSU serves as hub for STEM education research
A novel research area is gaining momentum among American scientists and mathematicians and NDSU is a driving force behind it.
It’s the study of how people teach and learn areas of science and mathematics.
Essentially scientists and mathematicians are using their training to apply research methodologies, commonly associated with cognitive science and education, to better understand the complex system of how students learn subjects like physics, biology, chemistry, biochemistry and mathematics.
Studies range from analyzing students’ ability to transfer calculus skills to the physics classroom, to more broadly looking at how students develop and articulate hypotheses to examining curriculum and assessment.
The area is called Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education research, also known as discipline-based education research.
NDSU is one of the first universities in the nation to offer a graduate program in STEM education. It embraced the emerging field in 2007 by adding three tenure-track positions and establishing an interdisciplinary doctoral program between the College of Science and Mathematics and the School of Education.
For both students and faculty, an attractive feature of NDSU’s program is the network of faculty. Mila Kryjevskaia, assistant professor of physics, says the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from other departments in an interdisciplinary group is rare. “Quite often only one faculty does this type of research in the entire department or maybe in the entire college,” she said. “We have a unique situation that we have many faculty in the College of Science and Mathematics who do discipline-based research in education.”
Other universities recognize the uniqueness of NDSU’s program. At a recent biology education research conference, some NDSU faculty were repeatedly asked, “What’s going on at NDSU that is putting you on the map in terms of the place to be?”
“It comes down to a lot of vision at the college level. This was a broad umbrella saying, ‘Yes, this is important,’ ” said Jennifer Momsen, assistant professor of biology. “Why not have North Dakota be at the forefront of it if we can?”