Grant Awarded to CSUSB-led Team Aims to Bridge Achievement Gap in Chemistry

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– Three co-principal investigators from Cal State San Bernardino have been awarded a $1 million grant from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research that aims to bridge the achievement gap in chemistry.

The three-year innovation grant, “Rebalancing the Equity Gap in Chemistry Education with Culturally Sensitive Adaptive Learning,” will use online, personalized learning technologies to decrease the achievement gap in for approximately 8,000 students per year through a coordinated effort. It was one of only five grants selected by the governor’s office.

Securing the grant were CSUSB chemistry professors Larry Mink and Andreas Beyersdorf, and communication studies professor Mihaela Popescu, representing Academic Technologies and Innovation at CSUSB, alongside co-principal investigators from all three segments of California postsecondary education at the University of California, Davis, the California State University Chancellor’s Office, and Mendocino College. The grant award is now made more relevant by the need to rethink course delivery due to COVID-19 disruptions and closures.

With more than 100,000 students taking chemistry courses in California annually, the study is designed to directly improve outcomes for underrepresented student populations pursuing STEM education by using culturally-responsive, technology-enabled learning to address factors known to disproportionately impact historically marginalized groups in STEM.

Adaptive learning is a technology-driven teaching approach that is responsive to individual student’s needs, behaviors and performance. Culturally Sensitive Adaptive Learning uses culturally responsive content to bolster STEM identity.

Academic Technologies and Innovation piloted adaptive learning technology with the CSUSB Chemistry Department in 2018, which was demonstrated by Beyersdorf in this video.

The outcomes of this study will include development, testing and distribution of a free adaptive learning platform as part of the LibreText Open Educational Resources program, an online repository of free textbooks and course content that has saved students $30 million on textbook costs, broadening access to education nationally.

“The Selection Committee noted that your project proposes an innovative approach to increasing student success by creating an open-education-resource adaptive learning platform and by developing editable, culturally responsive learning and homework modules for Chemistry,” said Kate Gordon, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research,

Additional benefits from the grant to CSUSB will include adaptive learning implementation into campus general chemistry courses in order to specifically address the equity gaps, and dissemination of research in publications and conferences.

Making this new effort possible were the partnerships forged across universities and disciplines, credited and listed for their contributions:

University of California System

  • Delmar Larsen (UC Davis), professor of chemistry and executive director of the LibreTexts;
  • Ozcan Gulacar (UC Davis ), professor of teaching in chemistry;
  • Anthony Albano (UC Davis ), professor of education psychology in the School of Education; and
  • Marco Molinaro (UC Davis,) director, Center for Excellence in Education.

California State University System

  • Larry Mink (CSUSB), professor of chemistry;
  • Andreas Beyersdorf (CSUSB), assistant professor of chemistry;
  • Mihaela Popescu (CSUSB), professor of communication studies and faculty associate, Academic Technologies and Innovation;
  • Frank Gomez (Cal State Los Angeles and the CSU Chancellor’s Office), professor of chemistry and executive director of STEM-NET;
  • Jonathan Brooks (CSUSB), instructional designer, Academic Technologies and Innovation; and
  • Cathleen Lucas, (CSUSB), senior grant development officer, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

California Community College System

  • Michelle Pilati (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges), faculty coordinator, Open Educational Resources Initiative at the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges; and
  • Greg Allen (Mendocino College), assistant professor of chemistry.

About CSUSB’s Academic Technologies and Innovation
Lovingly referred to as “tech next to the mountain,” Academic Technologies and Innovation at Cal State San Bernardino is a research and development space where highly qualified and experienced specialists design inclusive, pedagogically sound, and technology-enhanced environments that empower faculty to achieve their instructional goals and students to achieve their highest levels of success.

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