STEM Learning Communities Program 2010-2011

The UGA Office of STEM Education has awarded start-up funding to nine 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 2010-2011.

Adams, Malcolm R.

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Department

Blount, Sandy

Clarke County Schools

Mathematics Curriculum Team (Final Report)

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The teacher preparation program at UGA must keep in step with the changes in the state’s high school mathematics curriculum in order to prepare Georgia’s prospective teachers. Now that the state of Georgia has rolled out the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) math courses to include Math IV standards, this interdisciplinary STEM team will study the GPS high school math curriculum to begin the work of correlating UGA courses to GPS high school math courses. There is also a need to address the deeper study of math and statistics standards taught in Georgia high schools. The team members will discuss the alignment of UGA secondary mathematics education course curricula with content standards taught in the state curriculum. The team includes faculty and graduate students from UGA departments of Mathematics, Statistics, and Math Education, as well as teachers of mathematics from area high schools.

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 chosen to support science education reform efforts in its large introductory and upper division science courses by hiring tenure-track faculty to teach and assess innovative methods of instruction. This Learning Community has been meeting for the last two years as a collaborative group of education research science faculty from several science departments on campus. It has now grown to include faculty from neighboring colleges such as North Georgia College and Dalton State College. The major goal continues to be to share knowledge of student learning strategies for college students enrolled in STEM courses. The community is engaged in research projects, such as testing new methods of assessment for critical thinking, peer evaluation of teaching, incorporating writing in the discipline, and training future faculty.

Fertig, Chad

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

Wikiscience for the Physics Learning Community (Final Report)

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The traditional, classroom-centric science curriculum competes for students’ attention with print media, movies, television and the internet. Because entertainment media’s main goal is not education, scientific accuracy often goes by the wayside. Science is routinely “spun” by political pundits or other varieties of talking heads to promote an agenda. Inconvenient facts are often ignored or derogated, and marginal “facts” are hyped beyond their merit. In the Physics Learning Community, this year’s goal is to help students be able to identify and discuss science missteps and mistakes drawn from popular media, and cultivate in them a healthy skepticism in what is encountered in the media. Learning Community participants are able to take away examples of science in the popular media for immediate use in their own classrooms.

Franklin, Christie

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Statistics Department

Maddox, Kaycie

Northeast Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA)

Data and Statistics Professional Learning Community (Final Report)

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The Data and Statistics Professional Learning Community is an outgrowth of the Data Analysis and Statistics Workshop in 2010, taught by Chris Franklin of UGA and Gary Kader of Appalachian State University, as a support for workshop participants as they implement the Georgia Performance Standards for Mathematics in  the statistics strand. Members have the opportunity to collaborate on lesson planning with appropriate tasks to support their students’ conceptual understanding of statistics standards in Mathematics I, II and III. Support for implementation of lesson plans through onsite observations and feedback is provided by Chris Franklin or Kaycie Maddox. The work of the Learning Community will impact the initiatives of STEM by providing the means and opportunity for participants to reach their students at a conceptual level, and enhancing student abilities to think statistically.

Franklin, Christie

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Statistics Department

Maddox, Kaycie

Northeast Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA)

AP Statistics Professional Learning Community(Final Report)

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The AP Statistics Professional Learning Community meets monthly to support the work of the AP Statistics teachers in regional high schools. Often these teachers work in isolation, so the Learning Community gives participants the opportunity to work together to clarify and calibrate expectations for AP Statistics objectives and the College Board examination. There are opportunities to examine student work with the goal of revealing gaps in student understanding and adjusting instruction to address those gaps. Participants will also have access to the expertise and experience of a university faculty member who has served as chief reader for the AP Statistics exam.

Atwood, Charles

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry Department

Coleman, Dava

Jackson County Schools

Misconceptions in Chemistry Learning Community (Final Report)

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The Misconceptions in Chemistry Learning Community began in 2004 and was formed from an interest of Dr. Charles Atwood’s in designing instruction to help students overcome misconceptions which were impeding their understanding of certain chemical principles. The Learning Community has continued to meet since its inception and is comprised of UGA faculty, graduate students and high school chemistry teachers who come together once a month to discuss critical issues in teaching chemistry. The Learning Community provides an opportunity for content-focused professional development for chemistry teachers. The overarching goal of the Learning Community is to improve student learning in chemistry and at each meeting members share and discuss special lessons which show student achievement.

White, Dorothy

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Mathematical Pedagogical Problem Solvers (MPPS) (Final Report)

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The Mathematical Pedagogical Problem Solvers (MPPS) Professional Learning Community is designed to provide teachers and mathematic educators an opportunity to: 1) discuss problems teachers encounter while instructing math, 2) examine how these problems signal the nature of the tasks and student understanding, and 3) explore and generate instructional strategies to resolve these problems. The MPPS is comprised of six middle school mathematics teachers, three graduate students and Dr. White. Teachers are recruited from the four middle schools in the Clarke County School District. The members of the MPPS read professional journals and meet monthly to discuss problems of practice by examining mathematics inherent in instructional tasks teachers have used in lessons. Teachers will learn from mathematics educators about students’ learning of the mathematics and various ways to solve problems.

Shifrin, Ted

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Department

Hooten, Pam

Morgan County Schools

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

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AP teachers are often the only ones in their respective schools teaching the College Board’s challenging college-level courses in their content area. The AP Calculus Learning Community has provided teachers collaboration in place of isolation, with remarkable results. The AP Calculus Learning Community was created in 2005 with 14 members who met monthly to share lessons, deepen understanding of mathematical content, broaden instruction, develop motivational strategies for students, and discuss review techniques to help students improve scores on the College Board exam. Current members in the Learning Community include 15 high school teachers who represent 10 school districts. New members are recruited by current members and through activity on the AP Calculus electronic discussion group. An increase in student scores on the AP exam is typical for these teachers.

Devos, Katrien

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology; College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics

Promoting Novel Partnerships between UGA and Local Educators to Develop a Module-Based Series of Lesson Plans Learning Community (Final Report)

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This Learning Community aims to partner graduate students (under supervision of faculty mentors) experienced in various areas of plant science research with local teachers to develop learning modules that can effectively communicate the purpose, approach and value of biological research to school-age children. The focus of the modules will be decided upon based on the interests of participants. Examples of core areas of inquiry could include biodiversity, conservation, genetics and genomes, physiology and plant responses to environment, and plant breeding and crop improvement. Graduate students will provide background on selected topics through short seminars. This information will be used by teachers to develop the outline of a lesson plan, which in turn will provide the basis for the development of an interactive teaching module with laboratory experiments designed by the graduate student that can be transferred to the classroom.