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Minority Science & Engineering Improvement Program

Department of Computer Information Systems / Computer Science

“Special Cooperative Project on Critical Thinking Through Technology”

           

The Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) project addresses the growing shortage of qualified and competent STEM majors by strengthening course curricula through the infusion of critical thinking through technology (CTTT). Virginia Union University, like the partnering institutions, serves large minority and underrepresented populations. The majority of students from VUU and the partnering institutions come from socially, economically, culturally and academically disadvantaged backgrounds, and qualify for the Pell Grant and other financial assistance. Minorities, as well known from current statistics, represent only a minute fraction of the sparse population of qualified scientists, engineers, doctors, etc. in our country. Thus, the STEM Programs at VUU and these institutions provide a national advantage to potential STEM majors through easy accessibility and other similar factors.

Many of the partnering institutions' incoming freshman, particularly those seeking entry to STEM programs, come inadequately prepared, and thus dropout of the science programs either because they are unable negotiate the entry-level courses or because they perceive themselves unable to do so. VUU started this process in 2011 and this problem has been addressed at Virginia Union University through workshops to promote the integration of entry-level science, technology, engineering and math courses with technology and CTTT conceptualization. The workshops proceeded under the assumption that the successful completion of entry-level courses was first dependent upon:

  1. showing the students that science and mathematics are learned effectively if learning takes place through a process of investigation;
  2. using discovery techniques in the learning process helps in learning sciences effectively;
  3. acquisition of scientific knowledge provides invaluable empowerment to the learner and that personal perseverance is needed for the student to continue to stick to learning sciences; and
  4. using the constructivist's philosophy of learning takes place when the learner constructs, reconstructs, and restructures his mental constructs.

Faculty participants in the workshops were able to develop resource manuals for their courses that utilized critical thinking teaching methodology to address these needs. The pre/post-test scores of students exposed to these remodeled courses were encouraging, illustrating the positive impact that infusion of critical thinking in course curricula has had upon student performance. Papers were also presented by the Project Director and Co-Project Director at national and international meetings to disseminate findings to the academic community.