NSF awards $50 million in grants to improve STEM education

Awards focus on students and teachers in 24 US states and the US Virgin Islands

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Credit: Christina S. Murrey, College of Education, University of Texas at Austin


With the 2018-2019 school year underway, K-12 students have new opportunities for learning. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers also have new prospects to sharpen their skills and innovate in their classrooms.

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) program aims to help students and teachers accomplish all of the above. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, DRK-12 issued 59 new awards to institutions in 24 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands totaling more than $50 million. NSF program managers anticipate the awards will result in classroom products and outcomes that have been field-tested and informed by research to strengthen teaching, learning and assessment.

The DRK-12 program funds applied research and development activities that support teachers and students in enhancing their understanding and use of STEM content, practices and skills in the classroom. Included in FY 2018 are two Faculty Early Career Development Program awards given to support early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. In addition, the program issued one award to study the impact of hurricanes and school responses on students.

“We are delighted to support these education research and development efforts across the nation,” said Evan Heit, division director for Research on Learning in NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate. “Advancing the DRK-12 program’s work in all areas of STEM learning and teaching, in pre-K through grade12 settings, is a vital component of our goal to seek excellence in STEM education.”

Below is a sample of DRK-12 projects NSF funded in FY 2018.

Enhancing Teacher and Student Understanding of Engineering in K-5 Bilingual Programs, Idalis Villanueva, Utah State University

This mixed-method exploratory study will examine how bilingual teachers working in elementary schools in Massachusetts and Puerto Rico understand the role and skills of engineers in society.

RAPID: Investigating the Impact of Hurricanes and School Responses on Students in Texas and North Carolina, Cassandra Davis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This Rapid Response Research project aims to collect data across diverse school districts with varied degrees of impacts from Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 and Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. It will provide understanding of current strategies employed by schools for disaster recovery and their effectiveness.

CAREER: Mechanisms Underlying the Relation between Mathematical Language and Mathematical Knowledge, David Purpura, Purdue University

This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) project will examine the process by which math language instruction improves learning of mathematics skills in order to design and translate the most effective interventions into practical classroom instruction.

For the complete list of projects and their summaries, see NSF’s award search database.

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