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Institute's Program to Raise STEM Scores in Indiana High Schools Wins Grant

Written by William Schmitt on Monday, 28 September 2015

The Indiana Commission for Higher education has awarded a $267,000 grant to support the teacher development work of the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program for Indiana (AP-TIP IN), a STEM-disciplines learning initiative administered by the University of Notre Dame.

AP-TIP IN, directed by Karen Morris in Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, will use the additional funding to sustain its innovative professional development for Indiana educators. Conferences and other collaborations with public high school teachers will help their students earn college credits in science, math, and English courses at participating schools statewide.

Training programs spanning the full year engage educators to improve the test results of an increasingly diverse pool of students encouraged to take courses leading to select College Board Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Three years of test-score results from this model of training and incentives have shown significant gains in the college credits earned.

In the latest school year data, more than 2,500 students in AP-TIP IN schools achieved a score of 3, 4, or 5 on nearly 3,500 College Board AP® math, science, and English tests, thereby becoming eligible for college credits for those courses. Over three years of the program, more than 12,000 students took nearly 18,750 AP tests in these subjects; about 4,900 of those students earned 7,600 credit-eligible scores.

Notre Dame’s implementation of the AP-TIP IN program—currently in 30 Indiana public high schools— follows a model now used in several states and established by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). This non-profit group of STEM-based corporations, along with other private and public funding sources, aims to help students and teachers build a future American workforce ready for technological competitiveness and economic strength.

Contact: Bill Schmitt, Institute for Educational Initiatives,  / 574.631.3893

Originally published by Bill Schmitt at iei.nd.edu on September 28, 2015.

Captivating Kids About Engineering Drives New STEM Scholarship, Earns NSF Grant

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 18 September 2015

How can engineering exprience for families with young children spark interest and understanding in engineering for traditionally underrepresented youth? A research study aimed at exploring that question has received a two-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Led in part by Institute for Educational Initiatives Fellow Gina Navoa Svarovsky, the “Head Start on Engineering” project will investigate strategies to cultivate engineering interest among families with young children at informal locations such as museums and the home.

gina navoa svarovsky

“Studies have shown that, particularly for women and people of color in engineering, parents play a tremendous role in occupational choice,” Svarovsky said. “Understanding how early experiences involving both parents and children can contribute to developing interest in engineering—and in STEM fields more broadly—can potentially help us reduce the persistent underrepresentation of these groups in STEM careers.”

Svarovsky, who holds a joint appointment as faculty in the Institute’s Notre Dame Center for STEM Education and the College of Engineering, will advise on the structure and content of the engineering activities intended for families and contribute to the overall research design and data analysis during the project. This work builds upon her earlier research—exploring mother-daughter and father-daughter interactions during engineering activities within a museum setting—to identify productive strategies for promoting engineering talk and action.

The Head Start on Engineering Project is a collaboration between the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Mt. Hood Head Start program in Portland, OR, and the Institute for Learning Innovation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of lifelong learning for all communities. The study will test an innovative, theoretical model of early childhood interest development in line with an effort to design multiple pathways of broader access to, and engagement in, learning about the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.# #  #

Originally published by Bill Schmitt at iei.nd.edu on September 18, 2015.

NSF Grant Helps Institute's Fellows Pay Attention to Wandering Minds in STEM Classes

Written by William Schmitt on Wednesday, 09 September 2015

A research collaboration including two fellows of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives will seek to combat student inattentiveness in STEM learning. The project captured the attention of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which recently announced it will support the work of fellows Sidney D’Mello and Matthew Kloser along with Psychology professor James Brockmole with a three-year grant totaling $550,000.

D’Mello, a cognitive sciences scholar in the University’s Department of Psychology, Brockmole, an expert in visual attention, and Kloser, an expert on the pedagogy of science who directs the Notre Dame Center for STEMEducation in the Institute, are part of a research effort to fight the problem called mind wandering (MW).


Studies have determined that the problem is rampant among high school students in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines, risking a waste of time and talent.

D’Mello, as principal investigator (PI) under the NSF grant, will team with Kloser (faculty advisor)—as well as Notre Dame psychologist James Brockmole (co-PI) and off-campus colleagues—to design, build, and test an intelligent learning system that automatically detects and responds to a student’s attentional state in real time.

“Combating mind-wandering in this way can increase attentiveness, comprehension, and learning gains,” said D’Mello in describing the project, which is called “Attention-Aware Cyberlearning to Detect and Combat Inattentiveness during Learning.”

“It’s been estimated that students zone out about 30-40 percent of the time when they’re reading instructional materials or viewing online lectures,” D’Mello said.


The grant will support a unique, interdisciplinary blend of basic and applied research in attention, learning, affect, eye-training, mental-state estimation, and computational modeling, according to D’Mello and Kloser.

A cyberlearning technology already used by some biology teachers—including a graduate of the Institutes’ Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) teacher formation initiative—relies on a student-computer dialogue. The researchers aim to build upon that interaction to design “an attention-aware learning technology that detects and combats wandering minds,” Kloser said.

The Institute fellows and their colleagues are focused not only on the national interest represented by NSF funding and the enrichment of STEM learning for the 21st century, but on local community interests, as well. Their research will be conducted in the 9th grade biology classrooms of a school district, called Penn-Harris-Madison, located close to Notre Dame’s campus.

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More information: Bill Schmitt, Institute for Educational Initiatives,  / 574-631-3893


Originally published by Bill Schmitt at iei.nd.edu on September 09, 2015.

Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows Announces 2015 Cohort

Written by Matthew Kloser on Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows has selected its 2015 cohort. Consisting of thirty-six middle school math, science, and technology teachers, the 2015 cohort represents ten schools from eight states. Chosen from an extremely competitive applicant pool, the STEM Teaching Fellows will engage in three years of professional development, content-specific coaching, and the development of a STEM Impact Plan for their schools.


2015 STEM Teaching Fellows hail from the following schools:

  • Frontier Middle School, Vancouver, WA
  • Loretto Academy, El Paso, TX
  • St. Luke Catholic School, Palm Springs, FL
  • St. Edward the Confessor Catholic School, Dana Point, CA
  • St. Peter Catholic School, San Francisco, CA
  • Serra Catholic School, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
  • St. Anthony Catholic School, Hawthorne, NJ
  • Gridley Middle School, Tucson, AZ
  • St. Barnabas Catholic School, Indianapolis, IN
  • Diocese of LaCrosse Catholic Schools, LaCrosse, WI

Congratulations to the 2015 Cohort of the Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows!

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