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Title: Eco-STEM: Transforming STEM Education using an Assetbased Ecosystem Model
A 2019 report from the National Academies on Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) concluded that MSIs need to change their culture to successfully serve students with marginalized racial and/or ethnic identities. The report recommends institutional responsiveness to meet students “where they are,” metaphorically, creating supportive campus environments and providing tailored academic and social support structures. In recent years, the faculty, staff, and administrators at California State University, Los Angeles have made significant efforts to enhance student success through multiple initiatives including a summer bridge program, first-year in engineering program, etc. However, it has become clear that more profound changes are needed to create a culture that meets students “where they are.” In 2020, we were awarded NSF support for Eco-STEM, an initiative designed to change a system that demands "college-ready" students into one that is "student-ready." Aimed at shifting the deficit mindset prevailing in engineering education, the Eco-STEM project embraces an asset-based ecosystem model that thinks of education as cultivation, and ideas as seeds we are planting, rather than a system of standards and quality checks. This significant paradigm and culture transformation is accomplished through: 1) The Eco-STEM Faculty Fellows’ Community of Practice (CoP), which employs critically reflective dialogue[ ][ ] to enhance the learning environment using asset-based learner-centered instructional approaches; 2) A Leadership CoP with department chairs and program directors that guides cultural change at the department/program level; 3) A Facilitators’ CoP that prepares facilitators to lead, sustain, update, and expand the Faculty and Leadership CoPs; 4) Reform of the teaching evaluation system to sustain the cultural changes. This paper presents the progress and preliminary findings of the Eco-STEM project. During the first project year, the project team formulated the curriculum for the Faculty CoP with a focus on inclusive pedagogy, community cultural wealth, and community building, developed a classroom peer observation tool to provide formative data for teaching reflection, and designed research inquiry tools. The latter investigates the following research questions: 1) To what extent do the Eco-STEM CoPs effectively shift the mental models of participants from a factory-like model to an ecosystem model of education? 2) To what extent does this shift support an emphasis on the assets of our students, faculty, and staff members and, in turn, allow for enhanced motivation, excellence and success? 3) To what extent do new faculty assessment tools designed to provide feedback that reflects ecosystem-centric principles and values allow for individuals within the system to thrive? In Fall 2021, the first cohort of Eco-STEM Faculty Fellows were recruited, and rich conversations and in-depth reflections in our CoP meetings indicated Fellows’ positive responses to both the CoP curriculum and facilitation practices. This paper offers a work-in-progress introduction to the Eco-STEM project, including the Faculty CoP, the classroom peer observation tool, and the proposed research instruments. We hope this work will cultivate broader conversations within the engineering education research community about cultural change in engineering education and methods towards its implementation.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2013630
NSF-PAR ID:
10354557
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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