Colleges Need to Find New Ways to Engage Students in STEM Fields

As the CEO of a tech start-up and a former professor, here’s what keeps me awake at night: half of college students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math end up dropping those courses and switching to another major. That is disturbing, not only because I am personally passionate about STEM innovators’ potential to improve lives, but also because it is no secret that we are in dire need of a STEM-proficient work force. If we continue at this rate of attrition, in the next decade, America will need approximately a million more STEM professionals than the field will produce. While we’re pumping much-needed investments into ensuring more K-12 students have access to worthwhile math and computer science education, these investments will mean very little if students abandon STEM once they get to college.


The Power of Transparency in Your Teaching

The most recent issue of Peer Review (Winter/Spring 2016; published by AACU) highlights the powerful impact ‘transparency’ can have on learning for all students. One aspect of transparency is making obvious the intellectual practices involved in completing and evaluating a learning task. But making these processes visible for students is more easily said than done; we are experts in our fields for the very reasons that our thinking and evaluating are automatic and subconscious. It’s hard to describe exactly what we do intellectually when we synthesize or integrate, critique, or create. Similarly, it’s difficult to articulate the differences between an assignment we score as an A and one to which we give a B. Thus, a challenge in achieving transparency is developing a deep awareness of our own processes. Only then can we explicitly teach those thinking processes. In my own case, thinking about thinking (aka metacognition) was a new pedagogical consideration and it took time to learn this new set of skills in the context of teaching biology. So I was tickled pink one day last September when, at my new institution, I was able to problem-solve on my feet. I was teaching a new-to-me set of skills (writing outside of science) in a new-to-me format (discussion) to a population of students with whom I had no prior experience and in a class I’d never taught before.


New Engaging Mathematics Teaching Manual Explores the Calculus of Milkweed and Monarchs

Engaging Mathematics has published manuals that help teachers incorporate civic issues such as sustainability, climate change, and water pollution into statistics, algebra, modeling, and other mathematics courses. Dr. Rikki Wagstrom, an Engaging Mathematics Institutional Partner and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Metropolitan State University, published a teaching manual containing two modules for use in either a standard Calculus I-II sequence or a one-semester applied calculus survey course.

PULSE Fellows have published their first paper, “The PULSE Vision & Change Rubrics, Version 1.0: A Valid and Equitable Tool to Measure Transformation of Life Sciences Departments at All Institution Types”

The PULSE Vision & Change Rubrics, version 1.0, assess life sciences departments’ progress toward implementation of the principles of the Vision and Change report. This paper reports on the development of the rubrics, their validation, and their reliability in measuring departmental change aligned with the Vision and Change recommendations. The rubrics assess 66 different criteria across five areas: Curriculum Alignment, Assessment, Faculty Practice/Faculty Support, Infrastructure, and Climate for Change. The results from this work demonstrate the rubrics can be used to evaluate departmental transformation equitably across institution types and represent baseline data about the adoption of the Vision and Change recommendations by life sciences programs across the United States.


Read the full paper here.

Help Get the Word Out About LS110 – Career Exploration in the Life Sciences

UCLA has so many talented students who start out with intentions to major in the sciences, but for different reasons do not end up staying in the sciences. One way that UCLA is working to address this issue is through a course called LS110 – Career Exploration in the Life Sciences, a 2-credit upper division course where students learn about the many options available to them if they graduate with a degree in science.


Please help us get the word out! We have created a video with student testimonials about the course and FAQs are available as well.  Here are some ways you can help:

  • Option 1: Show this video in your class and encourage students to check out the course
  • Option 2: Post the link below in CCLE for your students to view, or email it to them and encourage them to check out the course
  • Option 3: Watch the video yourself so you can make an announcement about the LS110 course and share the direct link to the website with students who want to learn more during class

This video and additional information are available at:

If you have any questions, or would like to invite the instructor to come to your class this quarter or next to talk about the course, please email Rachel Kennison at

Bringing Theory to Practice Workshops – Winter Quarter


Winter Quarter is Just Around the Corner – Start Planning Your Courses Now


Mon. Dec 5th, 12-2pm: Syllabus Design Workshop: Tips & Strategies for Planning Your Course for Winter Quarter

Location: Hershey Hall 164


Tues. Dec 6th, 1-3pm: Introduction to iClicker Polling Software for Improving Student Engagement: Get set-up with the iClicker software and learn some tips and strategies for effective implementation and question design.

Location: 4100 Terasaki Life Sciences Building


Wed. Dec 7th, 12-2pm: How to Design Compelling Multiple Choice Questions for Polling (iClickers) and Assessment. Learn strategies for constructing effective multiple choice questions.

Location: Hershey Hall 164
*This workshop may also be helpful to attend if you attend the Dec. 6th workshop on introducing iClicker software to develop clicker questions.


Please click here to RSVP to one or more of these BTtoP workshops