University scores $529K for STEM teaching


Students on Western Michigan University’s main campus in Kalamazoo, near the Chemistry Building. Photo via

A regional university recently received a $529,000 present in the form of two federal science grants to help faculty with STEM teaching.

WMU announced its Science and Mathematics Program Improvement unit has received two grants totaling $529,000 from the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency with an annual budget of about $7 billion, according to its website.

The two grants will fund part of WMU’s participation in a collaborative research project called Automated Analysis of Constructed Responses III.

The project, led by Michigan State University, is designed to “assist science, technology, engineering and mathematics faculty in understanding and responding to student thinking and misconceptions regarding major concepts covered in their undergraduate coursework,” according to a WMU announcement.

The NSF-funded project is expected allow faculty to use an automated system, which would “analyze students' written answers to questions and then provide a report documenting where the class as a whole needs more assistance with difficult topics or concepts.”

“A huge percentage of students drop out of science majors after their first year,” said Mary Anne Sydlik, SAMPI director and head of WMU’s evaluation team. “STEM undergrads struggle, for a number of reasons, which in turn can lead to low grades and the impulse to transfer into non-STEM majors.”

WMU and MSU have partnered with the University of Southern Florida, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Maine and the State University of New York at Stony Brook to do the research. 

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