NISE Brochure

NISE Enters Its Fifth Year

The National Science Foundation's National Institute for Science Education (NISE) was funded in 1995 for five years as a cooperative agreement. NSF directed the Institute to "address the totality of the [science] education enterprise, to assess its effectiveness, and examine what new activities need to be established, what activities are no longer needed, and what new approaches will enhance science education."

NISE  ( is based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington, DC, through its partnership with the National Center for Improving Science Education. The NISE's vision is that all students leave the educational system with an ability to make informed decisions about the science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET)-related matters that they encounter in their daily lives. In this vision, all stakeholders in SMET education engage in active, contextual learning to acquire both a strong foundation in SMET and the ability to enhance that foundation as lifelong learners.

Now in its fifth year, the Institute pursues four lines of work and the interconnections among them. The first line of work is determining the best practices in professional development for teachers in SMET education K–12 and, through analysis of these best practices, accomplishing a reconceptualization of SMET professional development and how it can be successfully implemented on a national scale. The second is identifying the best practices in SMET education during the early years of college and determining pathways through college-level SMET education taken by successful students pursuing a range of goals from K–12 science teacher to bench scientist in industry. Connecting these two lines of work are the Institute’s efforts to determine what has been learned and what we need to know about systemic reform in SMET education. There are two complementary pieces to this third and integrating line of work. One focuses on meta-analyses and syntheses of existing knowledge about systemic reform in SMET education, including research, evaluation, and the wisdom of the practitioner. The other focuses on reconceptualizing evaluation so that it can cope with the complexities of systemic reform.

The fourth line of work is on preservice teacher education, an area of effort tightly tied to the first three: professional development, college-level SMET education, and systemic reform. The research is needed to address such key questions as, How can scientists and educators better work together to prepare outstanding K–12 teachers of SMET? and How can preservice and inservice teacher educators be more tightly coupled so that teacher professional growth and development over time is enhanced?

Three themes cut across all of the Institute's work. One is a deep concern for understanding how equity in SMET education can be achieved. Another is the role of technology in improving the quality of SMET education and providing strategies for implementing successful innovations on a national scale. The third cross-cutting theme is a commitment to disseminating NISE products and knowledge to everyone who might benefit. The Institute responds to the National Science Foundation directly, by taking on work requested, and indirectly, by identifying what needs attention and placing effort there.  

NISE Structure

The NISE operates as a highly interactive collegial system, while maintaining clear lines of  leadership and responsibility necessary to ensure work of high quality. The NISE fosters collaborative work and cooperation among the education and science faculties at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and throughout the nation. The multidisciplinary nature of NISE's work is reflected in parity between scientists and educators throughout the management structure and in the composition of project teams.

To pursue its work, the NISE is organized into interdisciplinary teams. Team Leaders meet regularly with the director, Andrew Porter, associate directors Robert Mathieu and Barrett Caldwell, and the project manager, Paula White, to make decisions about implementing NISE strategies. A nine-person Advisory Team, consisting of scientists, education researchers, education practitioners, and representatives of the industrial sector, provides advice and oversight to all Institute work.

The NISE interacts often with representatives from collaborating professional organizations to explore how NISE work addresses their needs and to share the results of its work. At the annual National Advisory Board meeting, NISE researchers exchange ideas with leaders in education and industry from across the nation.

NISE Fellows

The NISE recruits Fellows from industry, K-12 teachers, and higher education faculty. NISE Fellows work on projects related either to NISE teams or, in some cases, to the Institute as a whole. The breadth and diversity of the NISE Fellows Program enhances the quality of discourse and extends the effects of NISE work. Selection criteria include candidates' qualifications, match with the NISE mission, significance of the proposed work, the ability to work collaboratively, and the ability to produce valuable work in a timely fashion. To date, the NISE has accepted 43 Fellow applicants (a 50 percent acceptance rate). Twelve Fellows currently work with the NISE. 


Research Programs

Dissemination Programs

Organizational Process Programs

National Institute for Science Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Last Updated:  May 05, 2003