Areas of Focus
Personal and Public Health
Health is a major civic and trans-disciplinary challenge, embracing selected broad-scale, community-based threats and challenges to health, as well as specific diseases and conditions. Specific areas of current interest include: HIV/AIDS, obesity, asthma, nutrition, hunger, and food security, and emerging diseases.
Our special inheritance as Americans obligates us to promote democratic ideals and improve democratic practice. Several matters of current importance offer excellent opportunities for learning mathematics, statistics, and the application of science through technologies. This study also stimulates students to be conscientious, engaged citizens. Areas of current interest include: voting/election technology/accuracy; access/distribution to/of services; taxation, the Decennial Census, and the “Key National Indicators Initiative.”
Matters affecting the environment constitute key challenges for those making public and civic policy. Knowledge developed in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the so-called STEM disciplines) is an essential ingredient in democratic deliberations regarding the environment, just as issues affecting the environment hold special promise as vehicles for improving learning in the STEM disciplines. Areas of current interest include: biodiversity; land use policy and practice; food security; transportation; and water and air quality.
Globalization is a phenomenon that has affected both the civic challenges the United States, as a nation, confronts (on economic and related fronts, especially), but also in areas requiring scientific and mathematical expertise. The creation of a global scientific establishment - and the retention of the United States’ preeminence in science and technology - pose additional challenges and opportunities. NCSCE regards globalization as vehicle (a subject) for learning science and an occasion for establishing international collaborations that stimulate the engagement of U.S. students, campuses, communities, and citizens with issues and problems that are not confined within national borders. Areas of current interest include: connecting, or linking, scholars, students, and citizens in different countries regarding shared research interests in areas of pressing public need; integrating the experiences, work, and teaching of educators in the U.S. and other countries; strengthening science education through a focus on trans-national issues and problems; and expanding current programs involving higher education institutions in Armenia, Canada, Georgia, Honduras, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.
NCSCE’s SENCER program has, at its core, a theory about how learning in science and mathematics can be enhanced, especially for those who have not succeeded at learning within currently common instructional practices. At the heart of this is a focus on “the science of learning” as applied to the learning of science. Areas of current interest include: applying research findings in the neurosciences to the improvement of educational practice; developing and disseminating promising pedagogies for classroom applications; exploring strategies to increase student interest in becoming science and mathematics instructors in primary and secondary education; promoting undergraduate research collaboratives focused on real problems and contributing to knowledge; organizing CURE-Chem, a consortium of institutions working together to conduct research focused on the presence of pharmaceuticals in the water supply; and aligning post-secondary education studies to educational policy and practices in the schools (especially Sci-Tech High Schools).
Does the approach of connecting learning in the sciences to critical issues facing our society improve learning? Does it stimulate informed, conscientious and effective civic engagement? What makes it work or fail? What works? Why? These are the kinds of questions scholars and people responsible for funding educational initiatives need to have answered. To get evidence of effectiveness requires the development of - and a commitment to implementing - specific and sensitive assessment tools. Moreover, there is an absolute need to use assessment to learn how to reduce the unnecessarily high “casualty rates” among those engaged in the serious study of science and mathematics. Areas of current interest include: assuring the efficient and effective expenditure of educational dollars; supporting workforce preparation (focused on the knowledge/skills are needed for 21st century challenges?); adapting learning to an increasingly global workplace; investigating and documenting improvements in teaching and learning; developing increasingly sophisticated assessment techniques to measure learning gains in class in the closest intervals possible, on the one hand, and subsequently measuring “knowledge transfer” in a variety of course settings; and supporting the development of a multi-campus Consortium for the Assessment of Student Achievement dedicated to using assessment to improve learning.
Evaluation Report for SENCER (pdf)
Tim Weston, Elaine Seymour, and Heather Thiry concluded a three-year study on the effectiveness of SENCER, using the SENCER-SALG (Student Assessment of Learning Gains) online survey. Please click here to read the full report.