Grant Details

Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE): EHR

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    Funder Type

    Federal Government

    IT Classification

    B - Readily funds technology as part of an award


    National Science Foundation (NSF)


    A well-prepared, innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is crucial to the Nation's health and economy. Indeed, recent policy actions and reports have drawn attention to the opportunities and challenges inherent in increasing the number of highly qualified STEM graduates, including STEM teachers. Priorities include educating students to be leaders and innovators in emerging and rapidly changing STEM fields as well as educating a scientifically literate populace. Both of these priorities depend on the nature and quality of the undergraduate education experience. In addressing these STEM challenges and priorities, the National Science Foundation invests in evidence-based and evidence-generating approaches to understanding STEM learning; to designing, testing, and studying instruction and curricular change; to wide dissemination and implementation of best practices; and to broadening participation of individuals and institutions in STEM fields. The goals of these investments include: increasing the number and diversity of STEM students, preparing students well to participate in science for tomorrow, and improving students' STEM learning outcomes.

    IUSE: EHR supports a broad range of projects, including: research and development of innovative learning resources; design research to understand the impact of such resources; strategies to implement effective instruction in a department or multiple departments, within or across institutions; faculty development projects; design and testing of instruments for measuring student outcomes; and proposals for untested and unconventional activities that could have a high impact on learning and contribute to transforming undergraduate STEM education. Transferability and propagation are critical aspects for IUSE: EHR-supported efforts and should be addressed throughout a project's lifetime by ensuring attention to designing for use in a large variety of institutions. 

    Proposals are particularly encouraged that address immediate challenges and opportunities facing undergraduate STEM education, as well as those that anticipate new structures (e.g. organizational changes, new methods for certification or credentialing, course re-conception, Cyberlearning, etc.) and new functions of the undergraduate learning and teaching enterprise. The IUSE: EHR program recognizes and respects the variety of discipline-specific challenges and opportunities facing STEM faculty as they strive to incorporate results from educational research into classroom practice and work with education research colleagues and social science learning scholars to advance knowledge and adoption of evidence-based teaching and learning practices. Results and findings of IUSE: EHR projects, in turn, contribute to NSF's and EHR's larger themes that focus attention on STEM workforce development, STEM literacy across the population, and increasing participation and persistence in STEM, especially by members of underrepresented groups. 

    Toward these ends the program features two tracks: (1) Engaged Student Learning and (2) Institutional and Community Transformation. Two tiers of projects exist within each track: (i) Exploration and Design and (ii) Development and Implementation.

    Engaged Student Learning
    This track focuses on design, development, and research studies that involve the creation, exploration, or implementation of tools, resources, and models that show particular promise to increase engagement of undergraduate students in their STEM learning and lead to measurable and lasting learning gains. Projects are encouraged to form collaborations among STEM disciplinary researchers, education researchers, and cognitive scientists so that their projects can best leverage what is known about how people learn and/or contribute to the growth of that body of knowledge. The undergraduate audience for IUSE projects includes students at two and four-year schools, both declared and undeclared STEM majors, students whose courses of study require solid skills and knowledge of STEM principles, and students seeking to fulfill a general education requirement in STEM. 

    Recognizing disciplinary differences and priorities, NSF's investment in research and development in undergraduate STEM education encompasses a range of approaches. These approaches include: assessment/metrics of learning and practice; education research; faculty learning through professional development; learning environments; and the use and impact of co-curricular activities that increase student motivation and persistence, both in their STEM learning and undergraduate disciplinary research. Both individually and integrated in a range of combinations, these approaches can lead to outcomes including: developing the STEM and STEM related workforce; advancing science; broadening participation in STEM; educating a STEM-literate populace; improving K-12 STEM education through undergraduate pre-service STEM teacher preparation courses and curricula; encouraging life-long learning; and building capacity in higher education.

    Institutional and Community Transformation 
    This track supports projects that use innovative approaches to increase substantially the widespread use of highly effective, evidence-based STEM teaching and learning, curricular, and co-curricular practices in institutions of higher education or across/within disciplinary communities. These projects may be proposed by an institution or set of institutions; alternatively, the community proposals may be submitted through professional communities, including discipline-based professional societies and networks or organizations that represent institutions of higher education. Projects are expected to be both knowledge-based and knowledge-generating. Competitive proposals pertaining to institutional and community transformation will include a description of the theory of change that is guiding the work proposed and will test hypotheses about transforming undergraduate teaching and learning in STEM by examining the impact of deliberate processes of change. Useful theories of change typically include a description of the problem or a plan to develop information about the problem to be addressed; the goals to be achieved by the proposed project; the processes, interventions, or strategies that will enable the proposing institution or community to meet these goals; a rationale for why these processes are likely to enable the achievement of the stated goals; and indication of how the proposer will assess whether the goals have been met. It is expected that, in presenting a theory of change, proposals will be informed by research literature and theoretical perspectives concerning change that are relevant to the goals and context presented in the proposal. 

    While proposed projects will vary in approach and theories of change, promising proposals will also recognize that STEM higher education is a complex system, and that achieving change goals involves analyzing and addressing the relevance and impact of critical organizational factors (e.g., faculty reward systems, opportunities for professional growth, and institutional policies and processes) that could impede or facilitate progress toward the stated goals. For example, support from key administrative leaders, ranging from presidents and provost, to deans and department chairs, is often a particularly important factor in affecting the development, impact, and sustainability of change efforts at the institutional level. 

    Applicants may apply for IUSE: EHR grants to begin institutional or community transformation planning efforts, to support implementation efforts for effective teaching and learning practices, or to conduct research on how to increase the importance placed on evidence-based practices within institutional processes (such as in strategic planning or faculty reward systems). Projects may focus on whole institutions or on large departments or colleges within an institution, or on networks or groups of institutions. For example, projects may seek to transform high-enrollment, lower-division courses, or may implement efforts in multiple courses within a department or a college or in a particular disciplinary area. Projects may use technology and distance education methods (or hybrid designs) when supported by evidence of potential effectiveness. Faculty learning through professional development or leadership development for pedagogical and curricular innovation could also be important considerations for this track. Community Transformation projects should be similarly organized as appropriate for the discipline(s) involved. 

    A competitive proposal will include an evaluation plan that provides formative feedback to guide the development of the project and summative assessment of the effectiveness of the project in achieving its goals as well as expected and unexpected outcomes. The development of instruments and metrics to assess institutional or community shifts toward evidence-based practices is encouraged, and plans for dissemination of these tools to the appropriate community should be included.

    Proposals for conferences addressing critical challenges in undergraduate STEM education may be submitted at any time following consultation with a program officer. The NSF also encourages proposals that will increase the diversity of the institutions and faculty participating in the IUSE: EHR enterprise and those involving collaborations of education researchers and discipline scientists to ensure that undergraduate STEM education reflects cutting-edge STEM and educational research.

    History of Funding

    For information regarding previous recipients of this award, please see:

    Additional Information

    The research and development of innovative tools, resources, and models for undergraduate STEM education that IUSE: EHR supports are expected to be both knowledge-based and knowledge-generating. They may be smaller Exploration and Design or larger Development and Implementation projects. 

    Exploration and Design projects are small-scale efforts that fall within either the Engaged Student Learning or Institutional and Community Transformation tracks. These projects may seek to establish the basis for Development and Implementation of new interventions or strategies, develop strategies for the adoption, adaptation, and implementation of effective practices, or adapt and implement strategies shown to be effective at other institutions. They may also pose new interventions or strategies, and explore challenges to their adoption, with the goal of informing policy, practice, and future design or development of components in the STEM higher education enterprise. Exploration and Design projects should describe the proposers current teaching approaches within the context of what is known about effective educational practices and how the implementation and evaluation of those practices has informed the proposed project. Results of Exploration and Design projects are expected to be significant enough to contribute to the body of knowledge about STEM teaching and learning and/or effective means to broader implementation. 
    • In the Engaged Student Learning track, proposals should clearly describe the steps they will take to design, develop, and implement promising teaching approaches, tools, resources, or models. 
    • In the Institutional and Community Transformation track, Exploration and Design projects should include a description of the participant team, the target audience, the institution(s) or community to be transformed and the actions to be taken to move toward broader implementation. 
    Development and Implementation projects are larger-scale efforts that also may fall within either the Engaged Student Learning or Institutional and Community Transformationtracks. These projects may focus on new or promising interventions or strategies to achieve well-specified STEM learning objectives, including making refinements on the basis of small-scale testing. 
    • Within the Engaged Student Learning track there are two levels of Development and Implementation projects: Level I and Level II. 
      • Development and Implementation Level I projects will focus on achieving propagation beyond a single institution or work to promote change across multiple STEM disciplines within an institution. Level I projects should carry the development to a state in which the evaluation of the project produces evidence to determine whether or not the projects efforts are effective. 
      • Development and Implementation Level II projects are intended to support large-scale efforts. This level also supports long-term research on efforts to effect change, in order to learn what has been achieved. 
    • Within the Institutional and Community Transformation track there is only one level of Development and Implementation project. Such a project is expected to support ambitious efforts to achieve the widespread deployment of effective instructional, curricular, and co-curricular practices in support of student engagement, learning, and retention. 
    Note: Within the either the Engaged Student Learning or the Institutional and Community Transformation tracks, the NSF welcomes studies that explore how effective teaching strategies and curricula enhance learning and attitudes, how widespread practices have diffused through the community, and how faculty and programs implement changes in their curriculum. Research results should provide a foundation for creating learning materials, teaching strategies, faculty development approaches, and evaluation methodologies that have the potential for a direct impact on STEM educational practices


    Abiodun Ilumoka

    Abiodun Ilumoka
    4201 Wilson Boulevard
    Arlington, VA 22230
    (703) 292-2703

    Myles G. Boylan

    Myles G. Boylan
    4201 Wilson Boulevard
    Arlington, VA 22230
    (703) 292-4617

    Ellen Carpenter

    Ellen Carpenter
    4201 Wilson Boulevard
    Arlington, VA 22230
    (703) 292-5104

  • Eligibility Details

    Eligibility is unrestricted.

    Deadline Details

    Full proposals for the Development and Implementation Tier for Engaged Student Learning & Institution and Community Transformation program are to be submitted by December 12, 2017 and December 11, 2018. The Submission window for the Exploration and Design Tier for Engaged Student Learning & Institution and Community Transformation program is between October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2019.

    All applications must be submitted by 5:00 p.m., local time of applicant organization. Similar timelines are anticipated annually.

    Award Details

    The program estimates that approximately $73,000,000 will be available for new and continuing awards per fiscal year. Grants may be awarded in a variety of sizes and durations, with approximately 35% of available funds allocated for Exploration and Design projects and 65% of available funds allocated for Development and Implementation projects. An estimated 140 will be made from these funds. Cost sharing is not required.
    • Engaged Student Learning: Exploration and Design - up to $300,000 per award.
    • Engaged Student Learning: Development and Implementation, Level I - up to $600,000 per award.
    • Engaged Student Learning: Development and Implementation, Level II - from $601,000 up to $2,000,000 per award.
    • Institutional and Community Transformation: Exploration and Design - up to $300,000 per award.
    • Institutional and Community Transformation: Development and Implementation - up to $3,000,000 per award

    Related Webcasts Use the links below to view the recorded playback of these webcasts

    • Funding Classroom Technology to Empower Students and Teachers - Sponsored by Panasonic - Playback Available
    • Maximizing Technology-friendly Workforce Development Grants - Sponsored by Panasonic - Playback Available
    • Funding Data-driven Workforce Development Projects - Sponsored by NetApp - Playback Available


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