STEM Learning Communities Program 2008-2009

As part of the Board of Regents’ STEM Initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), the UGA Office of STEM Education has awarded start-up funding to 10 STEM learning communities. These collaborative groups are charged with developing and sharing professional knowledge to improve STEM student learning at all levels of education. Below are summaries of the successfully-funded learning communities for 2008-2009.

Adams, Malcolm R.

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Department

Mathematics Curriculum Team (Final Report)

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In recent years, the Mathematics Curriculum Team (MCT) has been studying the effects of the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) on math classes in K-12 schools and how the GPS can affect the mathematics, statistics, and mathematics education curriculum at UGA. This year, the MCT will examine formative and summative assessment tools for MATH I and MATH II used in high school classrooms. The learning community is comprised of six UGA faculty from mathematics, statistics, and mathematics education departments, and includes two high school teachers. New assessment tools will be developed based on conceptual guidelines that emerge from the discussion of the MCT. The assessment tools will be shared and discussed with a regional group of teachers. The MCT will also continue to strengthen its working relationship with the Georgia Department of Education so that they may help with quality control and the development of formative and summative assessment tools.

Brickman, Peggy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Plant Biology Department

College Science Research and Education (Final Report)

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Introductory science courses held in large theater style classrooms at large research universities are often taught without activities that address problem solving and creative thinking skills. Assessment of student learning is typically based on multiple choice exams that do not require students to communicate their understanding of the complexity of issues. The College Science Research and Education Learning Community will form a collaborative group of education research science faculty, drawing members from each of the science departments on the UGA campus. Its purpose will be to share knowledge, research the effectiveness of student learning strategies for college students enrolled in STEM courses, and collaborate on research projects. The valuable information emerging in the learning community’s activities will be useful for trying and researching better methods of instruction.

Fertig, Chad

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Physics and Astronomy Department

Un-popular Science? (Final Report)

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There are many popular science books at the top of the non-fiction best seller list. They are simply excellent reads—unlike many middle or high school physical science textbooks. The primary purpose of the “Un-popular Science? Learning Community” will be to identify popular science books that might be able to be used as instructional materials for select STEM topics. Membership is comprised of physics professors and physics and physical science teachers in local high schools. The learning community will identify chapters and book passages that inspire students to learn more about physics. The chosen passages will be aligned with Georgia Performance Standards. In addition, the learning community will create a teacher’s guide on how to use the book chapters or passages as instructional materials for STEM subjects in high school.

Gregg, Noel

Lindstrom, Jennifer

Wolfe, Gerri

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Geography

UGA, Regents‘ Center for Learning Disorders (Final Report)

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In STEM education, individuals with disabilities are underrepresented and face significant obstacles and barriers to accessing higher education programs. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a strategy that has been used to support equal access to learning for all individuals including students with disabilities. The STEM learning community, “STEM and the Diverse Learner,” will be comprised of higher education academic administrators, STEM faculty, and disability personnel. The learning community’s goals are to promote the adoption of UDL, identify potential barriers for its use, and design ways to overcome these challenges. Members of the learning community will also learn the Principles of Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) and understand the differences between secondary and postsecondary disability services. In addition, members of the learning community will identify methods of tracking the performance of students to gather data across secondary and postsecondary institutions.

Koballa, Thomas

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education Department

Understanding why they leave (Final Report)

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This learning community entitled, “Developing an Ed.S. Program for STEM Educators,” is comprised of UGA faculty and grades 6-12 science teachers from north Georgia school systems. The purpose of this learning community is to develop an Ed.S. cohort program in STEM education for teachers of science holding a Master’s degree. The program will be a combination of courses designed to promote the integration of the STEM disciplines. Instruction will include on-site, campus-based, and online coursework for the teachers.

Mueller, Michael P.

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education Department

Georgia Citizen Science Education Network (Final Report)

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The Georgia Citizen Science Education Network (GCSEN) Learning Community will be created to study “Citizen Science,” an integrative method of teaching science in conjunction with mathematics and other subject areas. Citizen science is considered a successful way of engaging students in ongoing research and of guiding youth toward participating more fully in environmental decision-making. In Georgia, there are many citizen science projects housed at different websites. The vast number of websites may actually inhibit teacher participation instead of encouraging it. Therefore, a “Georgia Citizen Science Education Network” and companion website will be built so that more teachers can easily access and take advantage of the information found in the network. Information will be aligned to the Georgia Performance Standards and the learning community will also develop new citizen science projects of its own.

Navarro, Maria

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication

Using Hunger Issues as a Contextual Tool for STEM Teaching and Learning (Final Report)

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More quality educational programs are needed to illustrate the potential of integrating STEM disciplines to solve many of the problems and challenges of today’s society. To recruit and retain more students in STEM majors and careers, educators also must find appropriate contexts and interest approaches to motivate students, and demonstrate connection and application of the curriculum to the students’ environment. This learning community, “Using Hunger Issues as a Contextual Tool for STEM Teaching and Learning,” is comprised of UGA faculty interested in developing and teaching an undergraduate course using Contextual Teaching and Learning strategies. Issues revolving around the topic of ‘hunger’ provide a compelling context and require knowledge of societal, economic, agricultural, climatic, mathematical, and biological factors. The newly-developed course will be titled, “Worldwide Hunger: ALDR (FNDS) 2200 Introduction to Hunger.”

Shen, Ji

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education Department

Using the WISE Learning Environment (Final Report)

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The WISE learning environment is considered to be a powerful, free online platform that supports guided inquiry, embedded assessments, peer collaboration, interactive computer models, and teacher customization. A learning community will be formed that is comprised of approximately ten middle and high school teachers, as well as faculty and a graduate student from the UGA Science Education Program to study the use of the WISE system. The learning community’s purposes are to discuss central issues related to technology enhanced science education, learn how to use the WISE system, adapt existing modules to their own classrooms, customize modules according to their needs, and share other technology-based resources.

Shifrin, Ted

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Department

A.P. Calculus (Final Report)

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The AP Calculus Learning Community has been in existence since 2005, with membership drawn from 12 school districts in the region plus the participation of a faculty member from the UGA Mathematics Department. The learning community’s goal is to improve instruction to help students earn exemplary scores on the AP College Board exam. This year, the members of the learning community will share leadership, discuss successful lessons and ways to improve teaching practices, participate in hands-on activities that sharpen students’ skills, as well as motivate students to take responsibility for their own learning. Members ensure that improving student achievement is a focal point of every meeting and will present their best practices at regional mathematics conferences.

Wicklein, Robert

UGA, College of Education, Workforce Education, Leadership, and Social Foundations Department

Engineering and Technology Education (Final Report)

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The growing influence and complexity of technology has resulted in the increased need for students to learn a high level of technological skills so they may successfully compete in today’s global economy. Engineering and Technology Education requires students to learn about engineering and technology through problem solving activities. The Engineering and Technology Education STEM Learning Community has formed its membership from across departmental and college boundaries. The goals of the learning community are to investigate the methodologies through which students learn in a STEM environment, with special attention to engineering and technology modalities; develop methodologies that advance classroom instruction in STEM instruction utilized in K-12 schools; and to assess the success of STEM curricula at the local, state, national, and international levels.