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Emory receives AAU grant to improve undergraduate STEM education

Tracy McGill, senior lecturer in chemistry, is part of a team of Emory faculty in STEM disciplines who are leading the rollout of the university’s Graduate Teaching Fellowship Program.

Emory University is one of 12 universities nationwide selected to receive a grant from the Association of American Universities (AAU) to further existing efforts to improve undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. 

Emory will use the AAU’s “mini-grant” to support the creation and development of its Graduate Teaching Fellowship Program (GTFP), a new initiative that aims to equip graduate teaching assistants with the skills and tactics they need to be most effective in the undergraduate classroom. The GTFP project is a collaboration between the Laney Graduate School and Emory College of Arts and Sciences. 

“This AAU grant will support our ongoing efforts to reimagine and enhance undergraduate STEM education at Emory in a way that more deeply emphasizes the creativity and discovery inherent in the sciences,” says Michael Elliott, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

Emory’s departments of biology and chemistry recently completed a massive redesign of their introductory undergraduate coursework to facilitate student learning. Lecture courses in the sciences now incorporate more active-learning activities, and introductory laboratory courses incorporate authentic, hands-on research- and evidence-based projects.

“The AAU grant will further advance our efforts to enrich STEM teaching and learning by equipping doctoral students with the skills needed to be most effective for  contemporary learning environments, linked to approaches that are problem and project based,” says Lisa A. Tedesco, dean of Laney Graduate School and vice provost for academic affairs.

The GTFP will target graduate students from all STEM disciplines interested in advancing their teaching skills. The 10-month program will equip graduate fellows with an understanding of evidence-based teaching practices, authentic assessment techniques, and basic strategies for curriculum development.

Leading the GTFP initiative are Emory College faculty Megan Cole (biology), Tracy McGill (chemistry) Levi Morran (biology) and Cora McBeth (chemistry, assistant dean for sciences).

The GTFP will begin seeking applicants this spring, and the first cohort will participate in a two-day workshop on evidence-based teaching practices and educational research in August 2019. 

In addition to serving as teaching assistants, the fellows will enroll in a graduate seminar focused on active learning practices, inclusive teaching and curricular design strategies in fall 2019. Finally, fellows will work collaboratively with faculty in their disciplines to develop and implement a teaching innovation project in spring 2020.

Emory’s grant is part of the AAU’s Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, a major project begun in 2011 to encourage STEM departments at AAU universities to use teaching practices proven to be effective in engaging students in STEM education and in helping students learn.

The mini-grants are made possible by a five-year, $1 million grant from the Northrop Grumman Foundation, which supports diverse and sustainable national programs to enhance the STEM education experience for students and provide STEM teachers with the training and tools they need to be successful in the classroom.

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