First-Year Innovation & Research Experience to Launch Discovery-Based Learning Pilot Program

February, 2019 - College Park, MD -- The University of Maryland's First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) was awarded a grant from the Association of American Universities (AAU) to fund a two-year effort to pilot and assess a newly developed collaborative discovery-based learning program. The $20K contribution intended to improve undergraduate STEM education is to be distributed over two years.

In partnership with UMD's Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (AIE) and Teaching & Learning Transformation Center (TLTC), FIRE's new initiative will focus on the increased adoption of inquiry and discovery in large-enrollment STEM courses. The program will make use of TLTC's experience recruiting and mentoring cohorts of faculty members engaged in course redesign efforts, AIE's capacities to infuse principles and practices that relate to innovation and entrepreneurship into courses across the curriculum and FIRE's experience in the redesign of large-scale STEM courses to include high levels of inquiry, discovery, and research.

"The capacity to engage the unknown and create new knowledge can be incredible motivators in a student's learning process," said Dr. Patrick Killion, FIRE Director of Discovery-Based Learning. "I am incredibly excited to leverage the investment The University of Maryland has made in The First-Year Innovation & Research Experience combined with support from AAU to impact the student experience in key courses across the curriculum."

Under the leadership of Dr. Killion, the AAU mini-grant will be first used to develop and execute two small-scale conferences for UMD faculty and staff in these areas of expertise. The first conference will serve to develop processes and instruments that will enable the course redesign process, and the second will focus on assessment of programmatic outcomes, areas for improvement and redesign.

The AAU's Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative from which this grant is offered was designed to encourage partner universities to use effective teaching practices to engage students in STEM and help them learn. A five-year $1 million gift allowed the Initiative to financially support the colleges in these efforts on their respective campuses. UMD's commitment to research in experiential and discovery-based learning makes it a natural fit to carry the mission forward and eventually leverage this commitment to impact the wider curriculum.

Aidan Strother is a member of FIRE Terrapin Genome Project. She states FIRE has not only taught me how to be a great researcher - it has allowed me to be that researcher. " ... [ read more ]

Kasey Goon is a member of FIRE Environmental Pathogens. She states "The connections I've made with other FIRE members are just as valuable as the incredible amount of knowledge I've gained from the program. " ... [ read more ]

Gabe Castro is a member of FIRE Sustainability Analytics. He states "FIRE has allowed me to form friendships with some of the most dedicated and intelligent students I’ve come across at College Park." ... [ read more ]

Michele Keumeni is a member of FIRE Antibiotic Resistance. She states "As an aspiring surgeon, this lab gave me an opportunity to conduct truly hands on laboratory research which was hard to find as an incoming freshman." ... [ read more ]