The mission of CeMaST is to empower, conduct, and support STEM education and scholarship across the K – 16 continuum. CeMaST's Goals are aligned with Illinois State University's strategic plan, Educate, Connect, Elevate.
ISU is the intellectual home to numerous academics who consistently advance the frontier of knowledge in their disciplines. In addition to burgeoning knowledge’s utility in transforming the perspectives and problem-framing within the discipline, an important way to gauge the utility of newly created knowledge is to consider the extent to which it contributes to solving society’s most dire problems, including climate change, poverty, inequity and discrimination, food and water availability, spread of preventable disease, large-scale conflict, government and corporate transparency and accountability, and educational quality. CeMaST ’s objective is to support ISU community members as they seek opportunities to use their STEM expertise to solve societal problems. Accomplishing this goal would usually come in the form of aiding in the creation of grant proposals and facilitating networking opportunities that enable strong “broader impacts” of grant-funded projects, but this goal could be accomplished through other means.
Instructional strategies that support students’ active construction of STEM knowledge, despite their long-standing support in scholarly literature, are not used in most STEM classrooms, particularly at the postsecondary level in which lecture and procedure-driven laboratory exercises continue to be the norm. Not only do such practices fail to foster optimal learning, but research also shows that they further alienate women and minority students, both of whom are underrepresented in STEM fields. CeMaST ’s objective is to support the transition toward evidence-based teaching practices in STEM classrooms at all levels, but particularly at ISU and especially those practices that help to alleviate underrepresentation. Accomplishing this goal can involve several activities:
Supporting and providing professional development to STEM faculty, particularly junior faculty who are just beginning to develop their instructional practices and beliefs, that enables skill development in evidence-based instructional methods;
Supporting grant-writing efforts and seeking grant funding that would enable the implementation of evidence-based instructional methods in STEM classrooms;
Supporting grant-writing efforts and seeking grant funding that would enable persistence in ISU STEM majors among students who belong to underrepresented groups;
Facilitating data collection that enables data-driven evaluation of STEM educational programs, such as the STEM majors at ISU; and
Mentorship of STEM faculty who want to improve their instructional efficacy.
Despite the national push for STEM, many communities have not been engaged in this push, as a continuation of their historic marginalization. It continues to be the case that the most effective STEM instruction is usually observed in mostly European American , suburban, mostly middle class or upper middle class communities. Similarly, informal STEM learning opportunities are relatively scarce in rural, low-income, and mostly minority communities. Furthermore, the STEM canon typically represents perspectives of European American , male scientists who belong to older generations while ignoring or marginalizing the STEM discoveries and interests of women, people of color, and young people. CeMaST ’s objective is to mak e high-quality, evidence-based STEM learning opportunities that reflect a diversity of STEM perspectives available in Illinois’s underserved communities, particularly in McLean County and central Illinois. Accomplishing this goal can involve several activities:
Seeking and supporting grant funding to establish such opportunities;
Disseminating STEM discoveries through avenues that reach young - adult and diverse audiences (e.g., Twitter, podcasting);
Collaborating with local organizations, such as the Unity Community Center and the YWCA, to provide such opportunities;
Facilitating networking between organizations that can complement each other’s work and distribute efforts to accomplish shared goals;
Providing in-kind resources, when available, to facilitate such opportunities; and
Leveraging ISU researchers’ need for “broader impacts” (i.e., Goal 1) to provide such opportunities.
For more information about CeMaST, please contact us. We would be happy to talk with you more about our mission, goals, services, and projects.