Research News

WCER team receives grant to evaluate STEM jobs, education curricula

March 03, 2015
by Cliff White

A team led by Matthew T. Hora of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) has received additional National Science Foundation funding to continue examining the intersection between curriculum and instruction in higher education, and workforce needs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related industries.

Matt Hora
Hora is the principal investigator on, “Exploring the Alignment among Employer Expectations for STEM Skills and the Design of Education Curricula and Interventions.” He and his research team, which includes Ross Benbow and Amanda Oleson, are affiliated with WCER’s Center for Education and Work.  WCER is housed within UW-Madison’s School of Education.

In 2012, they received $526,000 to launch a study that involved interviewing more than 150 educators in two- and four-year institutions, and employers in biotechnology and advanced manufacturing companies throughout Wisconsin. The new supplemental grant, worth $104,000, pushes that research further to explore how students currently enrolled in STEM-related programs and newly hired graduates feel the skills taught in their programs match those required in their jobs.

In their previous research, Hora, Oleson and Benbow discovered that employers making hiring decisions are not only interested in a job applicant’s technical qualifications on paper, but also his or her aptitudes in what some call the 4Cs -- critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. In their fieldwork, the researchers also documented instances in which postsecondary and corporate training course curricula and instructional practices integrated technical expertise with the 4Cs.

The new grant allows the researchers to determine the degree to which postsecondary coursework and corporate training programs are providing a breadth of skills and aptitudes to their students and employees. It also will identify new educational initiatives and education-workforce partnerships to develop a comprehensive set of skills alongside technical expertise.