Collaborative research: Practices and research on student pathways in education for community college and transfer students to STEM Overview

For students at a two-year college, making the jump to a four-year institution can be daunting. The transition often entails leaving tight-knit communities, smaller classes and daily interactions with instructors for full lecture halls, farther-removed teachers and a larger, more affluent student body. Figuring out financial aid, planning course loads and navigating an ingrained social hierarchy add to the pressure. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is leading a 22-institution research collaboration aimed at smoothing this transition by building strong partnerships between two- and four-year colleges. With a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the team will conduct research aimed at filling a critical gap in the national understanding of what it takes to help transfer students succeed.

The Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education leads the research hub, one of the first four research hubs funded through a new NSF program that builds on the agency’s longstanding Scholarships in STEM program, or S-STEM, which funds scholarships and institutional support systems for low-income STEM students. Through the research hubs, NSF aims to identify what’s working — and what’s not — at S-STEM sites using mixed-methods research. The researchers will form topic-based professional learning communities at each S-STEM site, uniting faculty and other professionals to discuss issues in a given area, such as student advising, financial aid or teaching specific introductory STEM courses in ways that foster students’ sense of belonging. The team also will conduct visits to approximately 25 S-STEM sites over the grant period, interviewing program leaders to identify the practices that bolster student success.

In partnership with: Clemson University, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Michigan State University, and University of Texas at Arlington, plus 17 other two- and four-year colleges.




Steps for Starting a Professional Learning Community (PLC): A Literature Review, John T. Sutton