Big Plans for Big Classes

McGill University joins the AAU-STEM Education Network with a project to redesign large freshman classes
Published: 14 February 2017

McGill University was one of 12 recipients of a mini-grant awarded today by the American Association of Universities (AAU) to support reform in undergraduate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. 

McGill was the only Canadian institution to receive an award and, in addition to being one of only two Canadian members of the AAU Network, will now join the AAU’s STEM Education Network along with such peer American universities as Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, and Cornell University.

The McGill award demonstrates the institution’s innovative and inclusive approach to undergraduate STEM education. Aimed at improving teaching and learning at the freshman level – a crucial entry point for all future STEM studies – the proposal engages graduate and undergraduate STEM students, along with administration and faculty, into the curriculum reform process. Graduate Teaching Development Fellows will catalyze the process by actively engaging with students enrolled in the class, collecting and integrating their feedback into the development of new teaching strategies and materials. Course professors and university administration will be actively involved, overseeing, advising, and guiding the project throughout the two-year time-line. 

This project is a collaborative effort between the Faculties of Science and Engineering, Teaching and Learning Services (TLS), and the Office of Student Life and Learning, with further support from the Tomlinson Project in University-Level Science Education (T-PULSE). The initial two-year pilot project enabled by the AAU-STEM mini-grant will target four large freshman courses in the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics, serving both Science and Engineering students. Once established, the intent is to expand the project to additional courses at the freshman level and above.

“We are thrilled to have the support of the AAU-STEM Network in initiating this exciting, collaborative, education project,” said Tamara Western, Associate Dean (Academic) for the Faculty of Science. “This aligns with our commitment to foster student engagement and innovative teaching strategies, and adds a new component to our freshman learning community that also includes the popular FRezCa (First Year Residence Cafeteria Study Group) program and Engineering’s eLATE initiative.”


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