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A collaboration between the California State University, Fullerton College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics and College of Engineering & Computer Science.
In Project ASCEND STEM, CSUF identifies challenges with persistence, timely completion of STEM degrees, and the availability of key information about teaching and learning in STEM departments. Interventions designed to address these concerns seek to improve learning power for students entering STEM majors, raise to greater than 90% the proportion of students entering their second year with 24 or more units, improve data-driven decision-making and easing access to student-success data for predictive modeling, advisement and tracking, and increase the percentage of science and math faculty practicing scientific teaching. The process begins during STEM-specific two-day summer orientation experiences, when incoming students engage in preparation and acculturation activities that include authentic research experiences. Their learning power will be assessed using the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory and any apparent issues will be addressed during two, first-year courses that combine discipline content with critical reading, analytical thinking, strategic learning development, and peer mentoring. These courses initiate a STEM-oriented thematic general education pathway to be designed and scheduled to fit STEM students’ interest and availability. The many high-impact practices to be introduced into this GE pathway also complement the redesign of STEM-important bottleneck courses that is underway as part of other funded projects. Information on learning power, academic performance and persistence is to be incorporated into a predictive model of successful student behavior that predicates a role for intrusive advisement. Throughout the project, peer mentors, program coordinators, and advisers coach the students to keep them on track to graduation. The need to increase the percentage of science and math faculty who use scientific teaching models will be addressed in professional development workshops offered to faculty teaching in the project. An external team will perform formative and summative evaluation that tracks the quality and intensity of project activities, monitors progress toward program goals, and authenticates program outcomes through various research designs.