Three-dimensional learning (3DL) in STEM education is a model described in the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education, a recent document outlining a research-based approach toward facilitating a coherent, in-depth understanding of the sciences for K-12 students. 3DL posits that teaching and learning of a scientific discipline should involve three features:
- disciplinary core ideas (the fundamental themes at the center of a scientific discipline),
- crosscutting concepts (ideas that span across disciplines), and
- scientific practices (the skills that scientists use to study and make sense of the world).
The 3DL for Undergraduate Science (3DL4US) project has adapted this framework for teaching and learning at the university level, with a particular emphasis on transforming introductory (“gateway”) courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. This focus on gateway courses is motivated by the 2012 report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which predicts that the United States will be short a million people with STEM degrees at the end of the next decade. The same report also notes, “The first two years of college are the most critical to the retention of recruitment of STEM majors.”