STEM Learning Communities Program 2012-2013

The UGA Office of STEM Education has awarded start-up funding to seven 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 2012-2013.

Adams, Malcolm

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Department

Blount, Sandy

Clarke County Schools (Retired)

Mathematics Curriculum Team (Final Report)

Read Summary

The Mathematics Curriculum Team (MCT) members have worked collaboratively to implement the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) for mathematics into their UGA departments and associated high schools for the last seven years with funding from GSTEP, PRISM and STEM grants. The MCT has been a leader in the mathematical community with respect to GPS and the change to the new Common Core State Standards for Georgia (CCGPS). The MCT will continue to explore issues related to the implementation of CCGPS such as curriculum, instruction, assessment and resources, and use their positions of influence to disseminate their work.

Fertig, Chad

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

Physics Learning Community- Teaching Modern Physics (Final Report)

Read Summary

Modern physics is often skipped at the high school level because of the complexity of the material and general time constraints. Teachers in previous physics learning communities argued that they often lacked the demonstration equipment and/or the knowledge of the use of such equipment for effective demonstrations of modern physics concepts. Our Physics Learning Community has a strong foundation in putting modern physics experimental apparatus into the hands of teachers, and providing discussion for the best use of these materials to augment learning. The Physics PLC plans to continue to develop the externally-supported “Radiation in the Environment” program, which puts radiation detector kits into area classrooms for long-term studies.  This year, the community will branch out into other types of experimental demonstrations of modern physics and impact the classrooms of the teachers in the group.

White, Dorothy

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education Department

Mathematical Pedagogical Problem Solvers (MPPS) (Final Report)

Read Summary

The Mathematical Pedagogical Problem Solvers will continue their collaborative work as a professional learning community that was started in 2010-11. The MPPS consists of middle school mathematics teachers from each of the four Clarke County middle schools, UGA graduate students, and Dr. White. In the past year, the MPPS added two first-year teachers so that they might benefit from the discussions and work of the community. Dr. White developed a cultural tool kit to help teachers identify students’ mathematical cultures including their mathematical strengths, out-of-school activities, group habits, and learning styles.  This year, the work as a PLC centers on identifying and documenting students’ mathematics strengths and solving pedagogical problems, with a focus on classroom observations.

Kutal, Charles

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Associate Dean; Chemistry Department

Coleman, Dava

Jackson County Schools

Chemistry Learning Community (Final Report)

Read Summary

The Chemistry Learning Community has been in existence since 2005. The CLC recruits new members each year from the UGA faculty and chemistry teachers in the surrounding area. Last year, topics included discussion on Quantum Theory and molecular structures of interesting compounds, and an activity related to non-Newtonian fluids. Current science teaching issues were also discussed such as standards and the assessment of standards.  Each meeting has time built in to share successes and challenges of teaching chemistry.  This year, the CLC’s work will again be content-focused.  Topics to be discussed this year were set at the first meeting of the year on August 29th.

Shifren, Ted

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Department

Whitmire, Paula

Oconee County Schools

AP Calculus Learning Community

Read Summary

The Northeast Georgia AP Calculus Learning Community was formed in 2005 with 14 members who met monthly to share successful lessons, deepen their understanding of mathematical content, broaden their instructional expertise, develop ways to motivate students and discuss review techniques to help students earn exemplary scores on the College Board exam. Currently, 15 high school teachers representing 10 school districts are regular participants. The AP Calculus Learning Community values the experiences they have had in improving instruction and helping students learn. The members plan to continue the successful work, which includes sharing leadership, taking turns sharing successful lessons, discussing teaching practices and the AP exam format, and supporting each other as more teachers are adding AP Calculus BC at their schools.

Franklin, Chris

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Statistics Department

Maddox, Kaycie

Northeast Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA), Mathematics Specialist

AP Statistics Professional Learning Community (Final Report)

Read Summary

The AP Statistics Professional Learning Community (PLC) will meet monthly during the 2012-13 school year, facilitated by Chris Franklin of the UGA Statistics Department and Kaycie Maddox, Mathematics Specialist of Northeast Georgia RESA, to support the AP Statistics teachers from local high schools. The major purpose of this group is that of ongoing collaboration and calibration of the AP Statistics learning objectives and implementation of instructional best practices to prepare students for the College Board exam. Members benefit from the opportunity to discuss, clarify, and explore the rigorous pedagogical content knowledge for this course with an internationally recognized expert in the field.  This year, each learning objective will be explored to determine what students should know, do, and understand.  Rubrics will be used to review student work from various classroom assignments.  Learning community participants will share and review learning activities to be used during instruction to provide feedback for revisions for optimal use and outcome.

Brickman, Peggy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology Department

College Science Education Research Group Learning Community (Final Report)

Read Summary

The University of Georgia has one of the largest groups of discipline-based science education researchers at the college level.  Ten UGA faculty have Ph.D.’s in the area of science, but are conducting education research on student learning in college science courses. The learning community has met for the last five years as a collaborative group of education research faculty from each of the science departments on campus, as well as faculty from neighboring colleges such as North Georgia College and Dalton State College. Past efforts include securing external grant funding for collaborative learning projects and hosting workshops with experts in the field.  The major goal continues to be to share knowledge and research the effectiveness of student learning strategies for college students enrolled in STEM courses. The group engages in collaborative research projects such as testing novel methods of assessment for critical thinking, interactive animations, incorporating more writing in the discipline, and training future faculty in these areas.