Professor Receives NSF Award to Increase Student Pursuit of STEM Careers

M. Yvonne Taylor
Oct. 24, 2016

Photo of Anthony Petrosino
Dr. Anthony Petrosino

Imagine a classroom of middle-school or high-school students engaged in a collaborative high-tech project, like untangling the complexities of traffic-flow simulation or mapping out the potential spread of Zika. College of Education Associate Professor Anthony Petrosino is helping educators learn to teach their students to develop and work on projects just like these.

This fall, he and University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth Professor Walter Stroup were awarded a $457,755 grant from the National Science Foundation for research that will help educators increase students’ motivation and capacity to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

The project, which focuses on collaborative, interactive, cloud-based instruction and learning, will demonstrate how network-supported, group-based learning grounded in the principles of Generative Design can improve learning outcomes for all learners, across racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“Generative Design is rooted in the students’ generation of ideas and it takes those ideas seriously,” says Petrosino. “Student motivation increases when students are able to create and follow their own lines of inquiry.”

The project will help pre-service teachers develop more fully participatory and socially-supported approaches to classroom learning, using authentic STEM practices in group-centered learning environments. The work is of particular importance to those who prepare pre-service teachers for the classroom, because most programs don’t use this type of approach in teacher preparation.

Sites such as the UTeach Natural Sciences program—a nationally recognized and expanding approach to STEM teacher preparation and certification—will serve as incubators and test beds for the project’s innovation and development efforts. Says Petrosino, “UTeach was founded not only as an exemplary STEM teacher preparation program but also as a program that seeks to remain on the cutting edge of the latest advancements in the learning sciences. To that end, it is the responsibility of UTeach professors to not only teach but to conduct research and seek external funding that advances our students’ knowledge and abilities while also trying to advance the field through research.”

The full NSF award is in collaboration with scholars from Northwestern and Vanderbilt universities. Find out more about the scope and reach of UT Natural Sciences.