Applying Science of Learning across the Biological Science Curriculum (2015-2018)

Applying the Science of Learning across the Biological Science Curriculum to Increase Student Persistence and Academic Achievement in STEM

New Hampshire ranks among the top states in the percentage of adults with post-secondary degrees; despite this, New Hampshire ranks in the bottom third nationally in the percentage of bachelor degree graduates in these critical areas with only 19.3% of all bachelor degrees awarded in STEM disciplines. The leading concern is that the State is not graduating enough students in STEM to fill current, let alone future, workforce needs. This project will aim to preclude the shortfall of STEM graduates through a systematic application and infusion of proven science of learning principles within the STEM core curriculum.

Our two overarching goals in this effort are to produce a 10% or higher increase through the sophomore year of students persisting toward their degree in the biological sciences, and to improve the knowledge and skills of graduates in the biological sciences. Our program will focus during students’ first two academic years on the following foundational courses: biology, general chemistry, and mathematics.

Of several identified student challenges and barriers to overall student success, following are just a few that stand out: students vary greatly in the background knowledge and other skills vital to success in college in general and in the biological sciences curriculum in particular. In addition, students often question why, for example, as biology majors, they are required to achieve an in-depth understanding of chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Compounding this, we know that students vary widely in their approach to studying – often choosing strategies inconsistent with what we know about how people learn.

Through this grant, we will address each of these identified challenges through a program of appropriate and systematic application of science of learning principles. We will accomplish this through a series of action steps designed to coordinate academic core STEM interdisciplinary material through a series of mini-collaborations, assign students with peer-mentors specially trained in cognitively-based study strategies, redesign pedagogical approaches using cognitively-based principles, and launch an institute in which faculty will learn pedagogical methods, grounded in the learning sciences and focused on STEM disciplines, reflecting how students learn, how we teach, and how we assess what students have learned.

STEM Topics Described by UNH Faculty

 The Biology, Chemistry & Physics of the Kinesin Nanomachine
The Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics of the Nuclear Pore


The Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics of Photosynthesis
The Biology, Chemistry and Physics of ATP Synthase


Click below to view presentation and slide show

Fostering Higher-Order Learning in STEM Education PowerPoint slideshow


PowerPoint slide show (PDF)

Cover Slide of Applying Science of Pearning to STEM


To learn more about Applying the Science of Learning across the Biological Sciences Curriculum to Increase Student Persistence and Academic Achievement in STEM grant, please contact

Davis Educational Foundation
The application of Science of Learning principles is made possible by a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation (Yarmouth, Maine). The Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis's retirement as chairman of Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc.