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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of Louisville Research Foundation Inc
  • Marci DeCaro
  • (502) 852-8367
  • Raymond Chastain
  • Linda C Fuselier
  • Jeffrey Hieb
Award Date:07/02/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 599,987
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 599,987
  • FY 2020=$599,987
Start Date:07/01/2020
End Date:06/30/2023
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.076
Primary Program Source:040106 NSF Education & Human Resource
Award Title or Description:Exploratory Learning Activities: Evidence, Mechanisms, and Professional Development in Undergraduate STEM Courses
Federal Award ID Number:2012342
DUNS ID:057588857
Parent DUNS ID:057588857
Program Officer:
  • Ellen Carpenter
  • (703) 292-5104

Awardee Location

Street:Atria Support Center
Awardee Cong. District:03

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Louisville
Street:2301 S. Third St
Cong. District:03

Abstract at Time of Award

This project aims to serve the national interest by developing and testing the effectiveness of exploratory learning in undergraduate STEM courses. Exploratory learning reverses the typical order of instruction by having students explore a novel problem prior to formal instruction. This approach allows students to identify gaps in their knowledge that they may then actively work to fill. Exploring new problems and concepts oneself, before being taught by an instructor, has been shown to improve students’ conceptual understanding. Exploratory learning helps students accurately recognize the important features of a problem and their own knowledge gaps, preparing students to learn from formal lessons. Exploratory learning is similar to problem-based learning and similar approaches. However, it is simpler to implement than related strategies, requiring less faculty training and effort to integrate into existing courses. It has been widely used in K-12 education but is in its infancy in undergraduate education. Thus, the main goal of this Engaged Student Learning project is to develop and test the effectiveness of exploratory learning techniques in undergraduate STEM courses. As an active learning method that more fully engages all students, exploratory learning may have additional advantages for increasing equitable success in STEM classes and in the STEM workforce. This project will also examine how instructors who use exploratory learning in their classes engage in learning new scientifically informed teaching strategies. Results from this project may help to develop best practices for professional development, adoption, and implementation of exploratory learning strategies. This project will test the causal effectiveness of exploratory learning by comparing the use of a novel activity prior to instruction to traditional lecture-then-practice methods. Controlled classroom experiments will be used to test exploratory learning in undergraduate courses across four STEM disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering-mathematics), with over 3000 STEM majors and non-majors. STEM faculty, discipline-based education researchers, and cognitive scientists will work together in an interdisciplinary community of practice to develop exploration activities and assessments for each course. The learning mechanisms that support exploratory learning will be examined using surveys and iterative refinements across experiments. An integrative framework will be developed to identify how to design exploratory learning activities to best support conceptual understanding. Factors known to be associated with student achievement in active learning settings will be examined, such as social-belonging and science self-efficacy. This project will also use qualitative methods to study how instructors’ perspectives and identities as educators evolve as they use exploratory learning in their classrooms. Use of evidence-based teaching practices such as exploratory learning could become widely adopted at institutions when learning scientists and STEM instructors work together. The NSF IUSE: EHR Program supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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