Project Title:  Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning (SEMINAL)
Funding agency/duration/amount: National Science Foundation, September 2016 – August 2021. $3,000,000.

PIs: Howard Gobstein (Association of Public and Land-grant Universities), Chris Rasmussen (San Diego State University), Wendy Smith (University of Nebraska Lincoln), Rob Tubbs (University of Colorado Boulder). Co-PIs: Janet Bowers and Michael O’Sullivan (San Diego State University), David Grant and David Webb (University of Colorado Boulder), Allan Donsig and Nathan Wakefield (University of Nebraska Lincoln)


Overwhelming evidence from education research has shown that active learning instructional techniques generate significantly greater student learning than traditional approaches in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses. To date, though, few college and university faculty employ active learning approaches in their introductory STEM classes. This disconnect between established more highly effective practices and actual classroom teaching is particularly troublesome in mathematics because student success in all STEM disciplines relies on a strong mathematics foundation. This project will investigate environments in over a dozen institutions that have either successfully improved student learning in the Precalculus-to-Calculus 2 (P2C2) sequence by employing active learning in mathematics (ALM) or are in the process of doing so. The results of this work will lead to important strategies for adapting, implementing, supporting, and assessing ALM in P2C2 courses. Faculty members at the University of Colorado at Boulder, San Diego State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will collaborate with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) to research and advance how to influence and sustain educational change in mathematics departments--ultimately, at national scale.

A fundamental goal of the project is to develop a better understanding of how to support institutional change for implementing ALM in undergraduate learning environments. The underlying research question is: What conditions, strategies, interventions and actions at the institutional, departmental and classroom levels contribute to the initiation, implementation, and institutional sustainability of ALM in the undergraduate P2C2 sequence across varied institutions? Project team members will work as part of APLU's ALM Research Action Cluster to advance understanding of the factors that influence and enhance institutional change as manifested through implementation of models of ALM in the P2C2 sequence. Research will follow a design research methodology linking qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis to capture the iterative and cyclical processes of institutional change. The project will be carried out in two phases, with Phase 1 consisting of case studies at six institutions that have already been successful at implementing ALM to improve student success and Phase 2 consisting of longitudinal case studies of nine diverse institutions that set out to infuse and institutionalize ALM in the P2C2 sequence. Phase 1 will offer the field a retrospective account of ALM models of change that worked, and Phase 2 will develop theory and insights into the processes by which change focused on ALM can unfold over time, along with the affordances and constraints related to institutional change. The project will disseminate its results and findings across APLU's large network of member institutions and beyond to promote adoption of ALM approaches and change strategies that work.

News:  SEMINAL was highlighted in a letter to President Obama sent by the AAU and APLU in commemoration of Active Learning Day (October 25) in 2016.