Creativity in Mathematics and Science

Promoting Creativity in General Education Courses

Project Role: External Evaluator

Description: The Creativity in Mathematics and Science (CMS) Project seeks to develop, implement, assess, revise, and transfer an innovative model of STEM undergraduate education that highlights creativity in STEM at Montclair State University (MSU), New Jersey. This project includes (i) course modules on creative thinking in STEM for science and non-science majors, (ii) a 2-year engaged student research experience for selected CMS Scholars; (iii) research on the impact of the CMS project on student achievement and changes to students’ perceptions about STEM learning; and (iv) transfer of successful elements to Bergen Community College—MSU’s largest feeder school—and local high schools. The specific aim is to design learning materials and instructional innovations related to creativity in the sciences. The CMS project will address the documented need for STEM students to understand the process of scientific inquiry and will address the role of creativity in scientific endeavors. The three-year cycle of development, implementation, evaluation, reflection, and refinement will promote institutionalization of the instructional practices, and dissemination of project results, and adoption at other institutions.

Intellectual Merit: The intellectual merits of this project are related to its potential to transform undergraduate STEM education. The project will be deeply grounded in research on learning theories, interdisciplinary pedagogies, hands-on learning, and undergraduate STEM education. The PIs have significant experiences related to this project; they have helped develop a creativity course for non-science majors, conducted art-science projects, published research on creativity in the sciences, and spearheaded community outreach programs–including with regional schools and libraries. The project and its outcomes will contribute to the research on teaching and learning in STEM fields by introducing new learning materials and teaching techniques, disseminating results of learning under this innovation, and suggesting adaptations of it to contribute to a new reform effort in undergraduate STEM education.

Broader Impacts: The broader impacts will affect STEM education at the proposed institution as well as contribute to the rethinking of STEM education at other institutions. Through exposure to the CMS course modules in their introductory courses, students will learn to see the creativity in STEM and, through this awareness, become better STEM students, scientists and citizens. The development, implementation, assessment, refinement cycle will allow for identification of successful elements of the project which will allow for sustainability at MSU and adoption at other institutions. Ultimately, the assessment on student learning under this innovation will contribute to research on undergraduate STEM education and inform other efforts to infuse STEM curricula with process-oriented courses–specifically, those that encourage creativity. The partnership with Bergen Community College–MSU’s largest source of transfer students–will ensure the adoption of modules there, which will in turn serve as a pilot for the transfer of these instructional strategies to other institutions of higher education.

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1611876 awarded to Montclair State University. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the principal investigators and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.