The Texas College Division of Natural and Computational Science has distinguished over the last several years through its performance on a number of federal and state grants. This Division has exceeded its past accomplishments through its performance on Hands On, a Department of Education Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) Special Project Grant. Texas College was awarded the Hands On grant during the fall 2012 semester for a three year period.
The scope and focus of the Texas College Hands On initiative consisted of the development of new and current students’ towards STEM careers. Since the initiation of the grant, considerable progress has been made towards the goal of institutionalizing approaches and practices that will continually result in higher STEM enrollments, higher STEM achievement levels by Texas College students, increases in STEM majors, and increases in the number of STEM majors who attend graduate and/or professional school. The Hands On grant had three objectives which included the following:
- Objective #1: Create statistically significant improvements in STEM education in the first two years of enrollment at Texas College as measured by the differences in enrollment and achievement in STEM subjects for a matched sample of students who were and were not taught using Hands On Curricula to make STEM subject matter more interesting and relevant.
- Objective #2: Renovate and re-stock Texas College’s STEM Laboratories in order to support the widespread integration of expanded research component into the introductory STEM curricula thereby enhancing Texas College’s general scientific research capability as measured by inventory lists and photos of labs. Statistically increases will occur in the number of introductory STEM students involved in faculty research.
- Objective #3: Integrate Virtual labs as a supplement to our traditional STEM labs and as a part of the development of new curricula activities that can more broadly integrate scientific theory and real-world application than is the case with physical labs as measured by revised syllabi and revised lab manuals.
Over the course of the grant, tremendous progress has been made in accomplishing these objectives. During year 1 of this grant, Texas College's MSEIP team focused upon increasing enrollment in STEM subject matter among the student body. There was also a Summer Institute implemented to support STEM interest in incoming freshman. Additionally, new STEM supplies were purchased to support anticipated enrollment and to elevate the quality of instruction for current enrollees. Further, our STEM infrastructure was improved by using in-class technology supports which resulted in classroom instruction being more active and engaging. As a result of year 1 efforts, Texas College's strategies resulted in Fall to Spring enrollment increases that divulged from our usual pattern of Fall to Spring decreases in STEM enrollment. Likewise, overall GPAs increased in most STEM subjects.
Furthermore, the grant increased the academic performance of students in STEM classes with students earning a grade of 70 or higher. For example, Chemistry courses taught by the Hands-On Project Director had a pass rate of 89% in 2013/2014 and 88% in 2014/2015. A math professor who taught modern Geometry and Foundation of Mathematics, Linear Algebra and two sections of College Algebra had a pass rate of 79% in 2013/2014 and an astonishing pass rate of 100% in 2014/2015. In addition, pre-post testing revealed that across all STEM classes taught, the pre/posttest change in student learning had increased.
Also it is important to note that the grant impacted the number of students declaring a STEM major. For instance, the number of students who declared a STEM major grew from zero in the Fall of 2012 (based upon Office of the Registrar’s data) to 69 in the Fall of 2013. By Fall 2014, 79 students had claimed either Biology, Computer Science, or Mathematics as a major. In the Fall of 2015, this number had increased to 100.
Moreover, since the award of the grant, a gradual increase has occurred in the number of STEM graduates at Texas College. Specifically, in 2012-2013, 8 of 102 Bachelor-level graduates (7.8%) were STEM majors. In the following school years, 2013-2014, 9 of 80 Bachelor-level graduates or 11.25% were STEM majors and 2015-2016, 14 of 96 Bachelor-level graduates or 14.5% were STEM majors. Thus not only did this grant allow Texas College to increase the number of students who enrolled as STEM majors, the number of STEM graduates also increased. For example, in May, 2012 before the grant was awarded, Texas College had 4 STEM graduates. Over the period of the grant, 31 students graduated with a STEM major. This represented a 675% increase.
Not only did the Hands On grant have an impact on enrollment and student achievement, it also had an impact on faculty development, curriculum development and improvements to the college’s infrastructure. Improvements of faculty development consisted of the following:
In addition, the Hands On grant has played a vital role in advancing curriculum activities for STEM related courses. The following information documents the institution's experience with the grant as reported during the reporting period:
There were also several upgrades to the infrastructure of the Texas College’s labs. The upgrades included:
The grant is not only significant because it has strengthened Texas College’s faculty, it is also important for its contribution to STEM related programs and services. Through the grant, Texas College has created a STEM Development Program which serves 170 students. This program requires students to conduct STEM related research projects and provides students with a stipend upon completion of the project. Students have the option to choose from two research writing topics 1) Environmental Concerns; and 2) Development of Inventions. According to the data, 125 students or 74% have successfully completed the research writing project.
Another benefit from the grant is it enabled faculty to launch a Biodiesel Lab Project. Students were exposed to the STEM lecture series and created a STEM club. Further, students gained experience in the following:
In conclusion, this grant has assisted in strengthening STEM and bringing additional resources to the College. As an open admissions college that extends the opportunity for a college education to all, programs are needed that move beyond the intellectual elitism that often accompanies undergraduate STEM intervention. Texas College has built and continues to strengthen an infrastructure that trains at-risk students that STEM achievement and employment is a possibility in their lives. Thus, the Hands On grant has assisted Texas College in challenging existing paradigms regarding who can successfully enter into STEM fields.