BLOOMINGTON - The National Science Foundation has awarded a three-year, $1.1 million grant to a group of researchers studying engagement in STEM activities in middle school science and math classes. The research group includes professors from Indiana University and Purdue University. 

IU says the researchers "will observe collaborative group engagement" during the classes and "develop a theory and measures to help identify when students are effectively engaged in science and math." They will also work to understand the processes and teaching activities that promote the engagement.

The goal of the study is to help teachers design better ways to engage their students and help them learn.

"I am particularly excited about this grant because it allows us to take a learning science approach to study engagement in context," said Cindy Hmelo-Silver, professor of learning sciences at IU and one of the research group members. "In contrast to a traditional focus on engagement as an individual process, we are considering engagement as a group-level phenomenon as it relates to learning disciplinary knowledge and practices in STEM domains."

The research group also includes Toni Kempler Rogat and Anne Traynor, assistant professors of educational psychology at Purdue and Briette Cheng, a senior educational researcher at the California-based nonprofit SRI International's Center for Technology in Learning.