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NSF STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) Center Grant

Published on January 11, 2011 by   ·   No Comments

Award Information

Anticipated Type of Award: Continuing Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 3 The expectation is that 3 STEP Centers will be funded, one an EHR-BIO STEP Center, one an EHR-ENG STEP Center, and one an EHR-GEO STEP Center. However, the number and size of awards will depend on the quality of the proposals received and the availability of funds.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $6,000,000 in FY 2011 for new awards subject to availability of funds.

Eligibility Information

Organization Limit:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:
Proposals are invited from academic institutions in the United States and its territories, and from consortia thereof. Academic institutions, as defined by the GPG, are universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. The academic institutions must offer either associate degrees or baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics (STEM). Projects are expected to include multiple academic institutions and may involve business and industrial partners, professional societies, or other stakeholders. A single institution must submit the proposal and other partners may be involved as sub-awardees. (Separately submitted collaborative proposals as defined in the GPG are not allowed.)


The STEP Centers competition allows a group of faculty representing a cross section of institutions of higher education to identify a national challenge or opportunity in undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to propose a comprehensive and coordinated set of activities that will be carried out to address that challenge or opportunity within a national context. Each STEP Center will be awarded jointly by the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) and one of the following: the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO), the Directorate for Engineering (ENG), or the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO).

Program activities for all STEP Centers should be designed to have a national impact on increasing the number of students, including STEM majors or non-STEM majors or both, enrolling in undergraduate courses in STEM, and to improve student learning and retention in those courses, by developing, evaluating, and disseminating one or more of the following:

Educational materials for undergraduate courses, laboratories, curricula, or other aspects of the undergraduate experience;
Teaching methods for undergraduate courses; and/or
Professional development to improve the capacity of faculty and teaching assistants to provide effective instruction in undergraduate courses.
As examples, a STEP Center might propose a comprehensive effort that uses some combination of the following approaches:

Creating model curricula and laboratory programs;
Developing and demonstrating research-based instructional methods and technologies;
Developing methods to train graduate students and/or faculty to be more effective teachers of undergraduates;
Conducting programs to disseminate curricula, instructional methods, or training methods to faculty across the nation; or

Other approaches to achieving the goals of the proposed Center.
The intent of a STEP Center should be to make a significant and national impact on the challenge or opportunity being addressed with the expectation that major portions of the impact will be sustained after NSF funding ends. The design of the project should reflect an awareness of the diversity of institutions and curricula that constitute the STEM undergraduate education community in the United States, and the project should include mechanisms for impacting a significant proportion of this community. Projects are expected to encourage broadening the participation of underrepresented students in STEM. All STEP Center proposals should be grounded in the relevant background literature and should show an awareness of relevant prior work in the area.

The STEP Center initiative offers an opportunity for exploring unique efforts in undergraduate STEM education. Thus, projects that are appropriate for existing programs at the National Science Foundation should not be submitted to the STEP Centers competition.

Outcomes for all STEP Centers

The outcomes expected of all STEP Centers include the following:

Significant progress toward addressing the national challenge or opportunity defined in the proposal;
A contribution or potential contribution to expanding the number of students who enroll in undergraduate courses in STEM and to the enhanced learning and retention of students in the courses;
A description of the activities that have been completed and are being sustained by a significant number of academic institutions or other relevant entities;
A description of continued efforts that are expected to occur across the nation as outgrowths of activities undertaken by the project;
A comprehensive evaluation, using the indicators and methods defined in the proposal, that informs the undergraduate STEM community and others about the effectiveness of the project; and
Effective dissemination of the results and products of the project to the academic institutions and other entities that comprise the STEM undergraduate education community.
Additional expectations and outcomes

In addition to the expectations and outcomes given above for all STEP Centers, more specific information pertains to each of the three categories of STEP Centers.

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