Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), faculty from the University of Nebraska at Omaha will join faculty from across the country to enhance the ways universities teach math concepts.
The $299,999 grant will go to help fund an ongoing project led by Patrick Rault, Ph.D, associate professor of mathematics, which builds on the growing body of research about the positive impacts of Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) techniques in math classrooms across the country. Specifically, the project will investigate the potential impact of regional communities of IBL practitioners to support faculty in adopting, sustaining and promoting the use of IBL in undergraduate mathematics education.
"Inquiry-Based Learning gets us away from focusing purely on memorization of facts to cram for the next test, which will be forgotten the next week," Rault says. "If you are actively engaged in uncovering information, instead of listening to a traditional lecture, you learn more, you retain more and you earn better grades."
In fact, in 2014, researchers found that as many as 55 percent more students fail lecture-based courses in STEM than classes with IBL. If that percentage change occurred across all universities in the country, as many as 840,000 additional students would pass their courses on their way to earning a STEM degree.
The grant is funded through the NSF's Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program. Rault's project has previously been supported by Harry Lucas, Jr., and the Educational Advancement Foundation.
Rault is joined on the project by UNO's Kelly Gomez Johnson, Ed.D., assistant professor of teacher education; and Paula Jakopovic, Ph.D., instructor of teacher education. The three UNO faculty are also joined by faculty from Maryland, Massachusetts and Michigan.
"This is an effort that can only occur through synergy among diverse groups of stakeholders—from faculty to policy makers," Rault says. "We want UNO to become a hub location where people can come and learn from others who are already practicing this in the classroom, but also provide a structure where we are supporting communities of Inquiry-Based Learning practitioners regionally and throughout the country."
Rault hopes funding from the grant will be able to be spread widely among the participating universities for purposes such as travel to workshops, mentoring of colleagues new to IBL, team creation of lesson plans and other opportunities so that more knowledge can be collected and shared among educators. He also hopes that the IBL Communities initiative can serve as a model for enacting future university educational reforms across the country.
Those in the Nebraska area who are interested can join the Inquiry-Based Learning Iowa-Nebraska Community at their upcoming workshop hosted by Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Oct. 25-26.
Other IBL communities can also be found at www.iblcommunities.org.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.