STEM Active Learning Vignette Series: Weaving More Effective Teaching and Learning Practices in Mathematics and Beyond

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Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has committed more than $1.5 billion dollars to nonprofits and other mission-aligned organizations in the United States and around the world. Although no longer a focus for the Trust, from 2008-2016 the Trust’s postsecondary education grantmaking focused on increasing the number of college graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields — particularly female students and students of color.

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The Trust’s postsecondary grantmaking portfolio supported networks of higher education institutions committed to improving instructional practices, primarily for gateway STEM courses, and creating incentives to adopt model policies, practices, and systems that can help improve student retention and completion. Each network adopted one or more “active learning strategies,” evidence-based teaching and learning approaches that can improve students’ performance in STEM. While the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s investment has concluded, most of the networks continue to move forward with implementing these strategies.

As the STEM Active Learning Networks evaluation and learning partner, Equal Measure is tracking the impact of the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s postsecondary grantmaking on faculty, departmental, and institutional change across networks. Since 2014, Equal Measure has used qualitative research methods to examine the results of network efforts as well as conditions that support progress at the educator, department, and institution levels. In 2017, Equal Measure visited five campuses representing four of the initial seven networks to delve into site-level implementation. The first in a series, this vignette showcases the efforts of Pasadena Community College to develop and implement more effective pedagogies for mathematics and related STEM courses.

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