UT Arlington has received a significant financial boost in its effort to prepare students to become university teachers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
The University’s Organizational Network for Teaching as Research Advancement and Collaboration (ON-TRAC) program has received a three-year, $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to help in its mission of building a national faculty in STEM committed to enhancing undergraduate STEM education.
ON-TRAC is a member of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), a network of 22 national research institutions committed to helping STEM graduate and postdoctoral students develop effective teaching strategies for diverse learners. ON-TRAC’s $150,000 grant came from a $5 million NSF grant to CIRTL, which the 22 member institutions share.
Kevin Schug, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and the Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry, is principal investigator (PI) for the ON-TRAC program. He said the grant will fund half of the University’s ON-TRAC costs for the next three years. The other half will come from the Colleges of Science, Engineering, Education and Health Professions, and the Offices of the Provost, Research, and Graduate Studies.
“This is a terrific resource for students who are thinking about going into STEM teaching,” Schug said. “We want to get faculty more involved and make students more aware of the program. It’s a very forward-thinking program and a great opportunity for our graduate students. Our University is invested in the program’s success, so we should all be looking for ways to benefit from the resources it offers.”
The program has three core ideals: 1) teaching as research - this concept involves the deliberate, systematic, and reflective use of research methods to develop and implement teaching practices that advance the learning experiences and outcomes of students and teachers; 2) learning through diversity - effective teaching requires commitment to creating equitable learning experiences and environments that promote the success of diverse learners; 3) learning community - development of a learning community is fostered by shared discovery and learning where participants learn collaboratively and come together to achieve learning goals, rather than relying on traditional “expert centered” lecture formats. These communities support and validate growth in teaching and learning.
ON-TRAC will help build better instructors for higher education, but the overriding goal extends beyond the college classroom. Ultimately, the center intends to improve science, technology, engineering and math education for students nationwide, increase diversity in those fields and the STEM literacy of the nation.
The ON-TRAC leadership team also includes co-PI Raymond “Joe” Jackson, associate dean in the Office of Graduate Studies; coordinator Lisa Berry,