Transforming STEM Higher Education: Call for Proposals

Deadline for proposal submission: Monday, March 27, 2017

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) invite proposals for concurrent sessions and poster presentations at the 2017 conference Transforming STEM Higher Education. Please note that all session presenters are responsible for conference registration fees, travel, and hotel expenses. Presentations will take place from Thursday, November 2, at 3:30 p.m. through Saturday, November 4 at 12:00 p.m. Presenters should plan to be available at the time their session appears in the conference program. AAC&U strongly encourages proposals that showcase evidence-based practices related to any of the themes below, and that are poised for immediate adoption and adaptation in a wide range of institution types, including community colleges and minority serving institutions. 

Conference Themes
LEAP Featured Sessions
Session Formats
Developing and Submitting a Proposal
Proposal Review Criteria
Additional Information

Conference Themes

The specific conference themes include the following:

  • Theme I: Undergraduate STEM Teaching and Learning: Contexts, Content, and Relevancy 
  • Theme II: Supporting, Rewarding, and Building Capacity of STEM Faculty
  • Theme III: Inclusive Excellence/Broadening Participation in STEM Higher Education
  • Theme IV: Assessment and Evidence for High-Quality Undergraduate STEM Learning
  • Theme V: Understanding Effective Strategies for Transforming Institutional Cultures for Undergraduate STEM Reform

Theme I: Undergraduate STEM Teaching and Learning: Contexts, Content, and Relevancy 
Presentations and sessions covering this theme will feature disciplinary, integrative, and community-based approaches for enhancing undergraduate STEM learning. They might address ways in which STEM faculty are sharing resources, ideas, and discoveries across disciplinary domains (within and beyond campus) to address complex problems; designing projects that tap into higher-order thinking skills; and engaging students in multidisciplinary and integrative learning experiences. Proposals should represent research and/or practices from any discipline that focus on achieving core STEM learning outcomes and/or development of research skills that connect students’ learning to issues that matter to them and to society. They should include and apply valid methods and measures of student understanding, content mastery, and synthesis. Emphasis on change at the departmental and institutional levels is highly encouraged. Proposals addressing the synergies between non-STEM and STEM learning outcomes are encouraged, including those achieved in digital environments.

Theme II: Supporting, Rewarding, and Building Capacity of STEM Faculty
Sessions covering this theme will focus on specific faculty development initiatives—including those focused on building the capacity of STEM faculty to advocate beyond the academy for undergraduate STEM reform—that are easily transferable to diverse faculty groups and/or diverse institutions of higher education. Proposals that emphasize leadership development and innovative reward systems for STEM faculty are particularly encouraged, including those proposing rewards for adopting inclusive teaching methods and using these methods online or in hybrid or blended venues. A focus on the career advancement of underrepresented STEM faculty is also appropriate for this theme. Priority conveys to proposals that describe the impact of interventions on the professional and/or leadership development of faculty from any STEM discipline (including the social sciences) using measures of scholarly productivity, career advancement, and institutional change. 

Theme III: Inclusive Excellence/Broadening Participation in STEM Higher Education
Sessions in this theme will highlight theory-driven models that advance the recruitment, retention, and persistence of students from groups historically underrepresented in the STEM disciplines. A focus on the career advancement of underrepresented STEM faculty is also appropriate for this theme. Proposals that describe new understandings of student learning and effective mentoring and advising practices are encouraged. Proposals representing research and/or practices from any STEM discipline (including the social sciences) to improve the design, implementation, study, and assessment of underrepresented STEM student and faculty success and career advancement, respectively, as well as related institutional change efforts are highly encouraged.

Theme IV: Assessment and Evidence for High-Quality Undergraduate STEM Learning
Sessions in this theme will provide models for assessing and advancing student achievement of essential STEM outcomes, skills, and dispositions, including approaches to using rubrics and closing assessment feedback loops. How are high-impact practices for STEM and integrative teaching and learning being assessed, and how are those findings being used to rethink and redesign effective learning experiences? Proposals that demonstrate effective and evidence-based practices for using technology to advance STEM learning, describe assessment methods/models/rubrics, and engage participants in applying those tools to their own work are encouraged.

Theme V: Understanding Effective Strategies for Transforming Institutional Cultures for Undergraduate STEM Reform 
Sessions in this theme will address the understanding of different campus cultures (including those reflecting changing racial and ethnic demographics and greater participation among nontraditional students) and the implications of these cultures for department- and campus-wide institutional change efforts designed to achieve undergraduate STEM education transformation. Sessions will explore how organizational change and social science theories advance understanding of institutional and/or departmental barriers to implementation of more effective STEM pedagogies and practices. Emphasis will be placed on the translation of theories into practice, methods related to analysis of institutional data, and the inclusion of narratives and other qualitative data as part of evidence-based approaches to institutional transformation. Priority extends to strategies and reforms that have engaged a full range of campus stakeholders over several years.

LEAP Featured Sessions

Conference sessions designated as “LEAP Featured Sessions” are intended to highlight the innovative work of colleges and universities that are members of AAC&U’s LEAP Campus Action Network. Featured Sessions make explicit links between campus-based educational reform and the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, Principles of Excellence, and High-Impact Practices developed as part of AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative.

For more information on applying to have your conference session designated as a LEAP Featured Session, visit

Session Formats

Poster (90 minutes; posters size 4’ x 4’ displayed on standing cork poster boards)

Posters provide visual models of campus-specific approaches to undergraduate STEM reform. They might feature the latest research findings or promising methods for disciplinary, integrative, and community-based approaches to enhancing undergraduate STEM learning; pedagogy or high-impact practices; STEM faculty professional development; assessment and evaluation; and/or strategies for change. Priority extends to posters that include evidence of success and provide resources for participants.  

Facilitated Discussions (60 minutes; 1–4 facilitators; room set in roundtables; no audiovisual equipment)

Facilitated discussions provide time for colleagues to examine topics of similar interest through sharing of expertise and experiences. These sessions provide an opportunity for participants to work through issues, ideas, and challenges from multiple perspectives. Proposals for a discussion should briefly set the context for the conversation related to one of the conference themes. Contexts may reflect institutional type, position, or a particular area of practice; please clearly identify which of these will define your intended audience. Facilitators assist the group in examining new ways of thinking about the topic and strategies for moving forward given the complications of each individual’s professional reality and the expertise in the room. This session should allow for questions from all participants to stimulate and focus the conversation so that the issues discussed are meaningful to all involved.  

Workshops—Theory to Practice (75 minutes each; 2–4 facilitators; rooms set in roundtables; audiovisual equipment available upon request)

Workshops are designed to provide space for participants to examine and bridge theory with practice. Participants should examine a critical theory (or theories) grounded in scholarly evidence for developing STEM courses, curricula, pedagogies, practices, or strategies for change. Workshops should engage participants in considering alignment between the theories and the conference themes; these sessions are ideally suited for the development of models/practices that advance institutional transformation. Facilitators should provide scholarship and evidence related to the topic and should engage participants in reflection, discussion, and design work so that they return to campus with a few clear ideas for next steps. Sessions that model high-impact practices, such as collaboration and hands-on activities, will be given priority. Please note that the session should focus on analysis of theories, practices, and lessons learned that are adaptable to other institution types and should not be a show-and-tell.

Engaged Digital Learning (25 minutes; 1–2 presenters; room set in round tables; internet access and other supports available upon request)

Engaged Digital Learning sessions feature and examine an innovative use of technology and integrating a tool or approach into teaching, learning, scholarship, and information-management practices. Sessions might feature a multimodal design for programs, courses, and/or pedagogical practices that support learning in creative ways (for example, social media and new forms of technology-assisted community based learning) and foster new outcomes (for example, collaborative discovery across time and place) that might not otherwise occur. Sessions facilitators should describe the technology, including its applications and outcomes, and allow time for participants to question and discuss implications for their own work.

Innovation/Ideation Session (25 minutes; 1–2 presenters; room set in roundtables; audiovisual equipment available upon request)

These sessions will feature cutting-edge advances in STEM higher education reform that are still exploratory in nature. Presentations focused on promising approaches and gathering outcomes data are encouraged. Presenters should describe the institutional context and guiding theory(ies), and should offer an opportunity for extensive audience feedback and brainstorming. 

Developing and Submitting a Proposal

Proposals accepted through an online form must include the following:

  • Name, title, institution, discipline, and email address of each facilitator
  • Session theme to be addressed and format 
  • Session title (100-character limit including spaces)
  • Background and evidence of effectiveness of work being presented (250-word limit)
  • Anticipated participant learning outcomes (100-word limit)
  • Brief description of what your session will address (if accepted, this description will be used in final conference program; 150-word limit)
  • Plan for participant engagement (required only for facilitated discussion and workshop proposals; 150-word limit)

Proposal Review Criteria

AAC&U and PKAL strive to offer a balanced, informative, and thought-provoking conference that best fits within the framework of undergraduate STEM education reform. The conference proposal selection committee will include experienced, diverse academic STEM professionals. In evaluating each conference proposal, reviewers will consider both the technical aspects of the proposal and the ways in which the presentation/session will contribute to transforming undergraduate STEM education. The following elements will be considered in the review of conference proposals:

  • Appropriate inclusion of qualitative and/or quantitative evidence of project effectiveness;
  • Potential for the proposed session/presentation to contribute to and advance the knowledge base and understanding of undergraduate STEM education and reform;
  • Extent to which the session/presentation offers creative, novel, and transformative mechanisms for enhancing undergraduate STEM learning, particularly for historically underrepresented students;
  • Overall contribution of the session/presentation to inclusive excellence;
  • Ease by which conference session/presentation materials and outcomes can be adapted to a wide range of institution types; 
  • Potential for high impact and ease of adaptability among communities of practice.

Additional Information

The deadline for proposal submission is Monday, March 27, 2016.

Upon submission of a proposal, the primary session contact should receive an automatic message indicating that AAC&U has received the proposal. If the contact does not receive this message (and it is not in his/her spam filter), please email Jacqueline Martin at  

The primary session contact will receive notice via email of the decision regarding the proposal by late April. 

Expenses and Fees
All session presenters are responsible for conference registration fees, travel, and hotel expenses. Please ensure that all individuals listed in the proposal have this information and can be available at the appropriate time during the event. Presentation times range from Thursday, November 2, at 3:30 p.m. through Saturday, November 4, at 12:00 p.m.

AAC&U Sponsorship Program

Proposals that promote products or services available for purchase will not be considered through the regular proposal process, but will be referred to AAC&U’s Sponsorship Program. 

For more information about sponsorships, please contact the AAC&U Office of Development at