STEM Learning Communities Program 2009-2010

The UGA Office of STEM Education has awarded start-up funding to five STEM learning communities as part of the University System of Georgia’s STEM Initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 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 2009-2010.

Adams, Malcolm R.

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Department

Mathematics Curriculum Team (Final Report)

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Assessment is a driving force in how the Georgia Performance Standards are interpreted and implemented. This year, the Mathematics Curriculum Team will continue its work by studying advantages and disadvantages of standards-based assessment and grading. Team members will study specific MATH 1 assessment tools currently being used by the teachers on the team, as well as items provided by mathematics education team members. Local MATH 1 teachers will be invited to share their formative assessment tools, discuss the development of new tools, and discuss standards based assessment and grading. This year’s goal is to help teachers develop quality formative assessment tools as well as provide some quality control for some of the benchmark and/or end of course exams. Conceptual guidelines for the development of quality formative assessment tools will be addressed and findings will be presented at regional mathematics conferences.

Brickman, Peggy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Plant Biology Department

College Science Education Researchers Learning Community (Final Report)

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The University of Georgia has hired tenure-track faculty to support science education reform efforts in its large introductory core courses. These science faculty are being asked to tackle innovative methods of instruction and then research the effectiveness of improving student learning. To work on this daunting task, science and science education faculty have joined forces in the College-Science Education Researchers Learning Community to share knowledge of effective student learning strategies for college students enrolled in STEM courses. They engage in collaborative research projects such as testing innovative methods of assessments for critical thinking, experimenting with peer evaluation of teaching, and incorporating more writing into the curriculum. The learning community plans to continue the development of a communal reference project, editing and updating the references this year. The learning community will organize and host a UGA workshop on the use of qualitative methods in educational research. Faculty from Educational Psychology and Math and Science Education will be invited to present at this workshop.

Shen, Ji

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Technology Based Science Education at Jefferson Schools (Final Report)

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Research on educational technology has shown that computer-based curricula can help students learn important STEM concepts. The Jefferson Schools Technology-based Science Education Learning Community will continue in its second year to share new and effective technologies that provide instruction for important STEM concepts. Discussions will focus on the opportunities and challenges of adopting technology-enhanced science modules in the classroom to help students learn physical sciences. Teachers will share approaches and exchange experiences they faced after using technology simulations that were discussed last year, such as Molecular Workbench developed by the Concort Consortium and WISE learning environments. This year the learning community will expand their discussions to include new technologies such as motion sensors, mobile devices, and automated assessment systems while focusing on how these technologies improve students’ learning in physical sciences.

Shifrin, Ted

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Department

Northeast Georgia A.P. Calculus Learning Community (Final Report)

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A.P. teachers are often the only teachers in their respective schools teaching the challenging Advanced Placement (A.P.) curricula representing college-level courses. Therefore, it is essential for A.P. teachers to find “space” for open and respectful collaboration to hone their pedagogical skills and deepen content knowledge. The Northeast Georgia A.P. Calculus Learning Community has provided teachers such space. Since 2005, teachers have shared successful lessons, deepened their understanding of mathematical content, broadened their instructional expertise, developed strategies to motivate students, and discussed review techniques to help students earn exemplary scores. This learning community provides remarkable results: an increase in student scores on the A.P. calculus exam is typical for these teachers. This year, educators will continue to share best practices and participate in hands-on activities that sharpen students’ skills. Members will disseminate their success by presenting best practices and lessons at regional mathematics conferences.

Wolfe, Gerri

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Regents’ Center for Learning Disorders

Lindstrom, Jennifer

UGA, College of Education, Communication Sciences & Special Education

STEM and the Diverse Learner (Final Report)

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According to the National Science Foundation, there is an increased need to educate a diverse workforce in STEM fields. However, individuals with disabilities are the most marginalized among the underrepresented groups in STEM fields and face significant obstacles and barriers to accessing higher education STEM programs. The STEM and the Diverse Learner Learning Community has been established to build knowledge about methods and practices that would ensure full inclusion of all students in STEM education. This year, the learning community members will continue a research project designed to collect data that will inform STEM educators of the barriers that keep students with disabilities from entering and completing degrees in science and math. An on-line survey will be distributed to science, math, special education teachers, K-12 administrators, and higher education STEM faculty. Results of the study will be used to help to shape “best practices” for teaching diverse learners in science and mathematics courses. Dissemination includes presentations to all participants and a publication in a relevant, scholarly journal.