NSF grant supports study of deliberation

Wysocki, Drury will expand previous NSF-supported research


This project will expose undergraduate STEM students to deliberative pedagogy, an approach that teaches respectful conversations by “speaking with” rather than “talking to” diverse stakeholders. Deliberative pedagogy will be applied in undergraduate chemistry courses through facilitated discussion exercises that challenge students to find and evaluate approaches to real-world issues.

“This award is an opportunity to learn more about how critical conversations can lead to innovative, collaborative decision-making,” said Drury, the grant’s Co-Principal Investigator. “The activities in this grant challenge students to consider their roles in socio-scientific issues, reflect on the stakes for and needs of diverse publics, and engage possibilities for working together to improve our shared future.”

The study will determine whether deliberative pedagogy enhances scientific learning, encourages a deliberative mindset, and deepens students’ sense of civic engagement. In addition, by testing the use of deliberative pedagogy in chemistry courses at two four-year colleges and a community college and assessing the impact of facilitator training, the project will investigate whether similar student outcomes can be achieved across diverse institutions and student demographics. The goal is to engage a diverse group of students in multiple educational settings to better prepare graduates to enter the STEM workforce and to become engaged citizens.

To determine the key factors for successful deliberative pedagogy implementation in a chemistry curriculum, the project will develop and test multiple methods of assessment though academic units for first-year chemistry, biochemistry, and biology students, as well as third-year students in a biochemistry course. In both the first- and third-year courses, student outcomes related to learning and civic engagement will be assessed, and following any needed changes, the units will be implemented at another four-year college and community college to measure translatability. The deliberative pedagogy units created during the project will be made publicly available for use by other instructors and institutions.

This grant will provide opportunities for Wabash undergraduate students to take part in academic year and summer research internships, as well as Wabash Democracy and Public Discourse students to contribute to research for the funded project. Each summer two undergraduate research internships will be made available for students to analyze the data from the study alongside the faculty involved.  Finally, in the second and third year of the project, chemistry majors will also have research and leadership opportunities through peer facilitation of deliberations. The grant also provides funding for student internships at other campuses, as well.

“Collaborations between science and communications are absolutely essential for the advancement of scientific and public knowledge,” said Conners. “This interdisciplinary effort across multiple colleges enacts the values of a liberal arts education and reminds us about how much researchers can learn from each other when we collaborate.”

The NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense.” The NSF is vital because it supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future. With an annual budget of $8.3 billion, the NSF is the funding source for approximately 25 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.


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