The University of Texas at Arlington will use a $789,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop and assess engineering lessons for students with disabilities in elementary schools.
Bree Jimenez, associate professor of special education in the College of Education, was awarded the highly competitive grant for a new research project titled “Engineering for Students with Extensive Support Needs.”
“As researchers and former teachers, we have seen over and over again what students with extensive support needs can achieve when provided a quality education,” Jimenez says. “This grant will provide the funding necessary to equip teachers with tools to implement evidence-based teaching methods and STEM curriculum into their classrooms.”
The three-year project will focus on evaluating elementary teachers’ development of engineering practices and how teachers support students’ development, particularly students with disabilities and extensive support needs. The funding will also provide professional development, stipends and curricula for the teachers.
“There is nothing more meaningful than to support all students in developing engineering and problem-solving skills,” Jimenez says. “My hope is that all students are provided the opportunity to become problem solvers and thinkers who question the world around them.”
The grant’s unique focus will help the research team provide teachers with strategies to promote engineering and STEM lessons to students who experience intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities and/or autism.
Cory Forbes, department chair of curriculum and instruction and inaugural director of UTA’s STEM Education Research Collaboratorium and Resource Center, says this new NSF grant represents the kind of research he wants to see taking place at UTA.
“This is the first example of what this center is designed to do over the long term,” says Forbes, a Fenton Wayne Robnett Endowed Professor of Science Education. “At UTA, we want to bring in innovative new STEM education projects and push them forward within our community and beyond. This is an important project and a tremendous accomplishment for Dr. Jimenez.”
Jimenez, the principal investigator, will work in collaboration with Forbes, co-principal investigator Ginevra Courtade of the University of Louisville and researcher Christine Cunningham of Penn State University.
“This research will have national and international implications for both STEM education and special education, and it has the potential to help education professionals redefine the way we think about a student’s learning potential,” says Teresa Doughty, dean for the College of Education.