STEM Small Grants Program 2008-2009

As a part of the Board of Regents’ STEM Initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the UGA Office of STEM Education awarded a total of eight small grants to fund research projects to improve instruction and enhance the success of students taking STEM courses. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of STEM majors and the number of students prepared to teach STEM courses in grades 6-12.

Atwood, Charles

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry Department

Implementing Project Learning into CHEM 1211 and 1212 (Final Report)

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Project learning has been successfully used to teach students integrated topics when the class size is small or if the classroom has been renovated to accommodate innovative teaching tools. However, due to the huge class size (350 students or more) of UGA’s CHEM 1211 and 1212, there currently has been no specific model of project learning employed with these classes. In this project, Dr. Atwood will implement project learning in CHEM 1211 and 1212 by proposing changes in how admissions, lecture classes, and labs are integrated to facilitate project learning in these large classrooms. In addition to changes in the curriculum, Dr. Atwood will design appropriate assessments and methods for grading, such as using technology. This project would have a substantial impact on how students interact and learn chemistry in a large freshman chemistry class and could be replicated at other institutions across the USG system, as well as the nation. Results will be presented in a local meeting, the state-wide STEM Institute, as well as national and regional American Chemical Society meetings. This project will serve as preparation for submission of a CCLI grant to the National Science Foundation, which if funded will permit full implementation.

Instituting Cognitive Load Theory into JExam (Final Report)

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At UGA, CHEM 1211 and 1212 are freshman chemistry courses taught in a lecture-based format to approximately 1800 students per semester. Tests and homework are delivered to all students using JExam, a UGA developed computerized testing and homework system. In this project, Dr. Atwood will: 1) design, build, and implement a modified Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) algorithm which can be utilized in the JExam homework system; 2) assess the effectiveness of the system on student learning; and 3) modify the algorithm as necessary to maximize the benefits of CLT. Assessment will be done by using Item Response Theory. Student performance will be measured by comparing past student performance on the topics addresses. The results will be presented locally, at the state-wide STEM Institute, as well as at national and regional American Chemical Society meetings.

Brickman, Peggy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Plant Biology

Miller, Kristin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Biological Sciences

Ballif, Michelle

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, English

Assessing student and instructor benefits of the “Writing Intensive Program” in large science classrooms (Final Report)

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The Biosciences Division at UGA, charged with providing over 4000 students each year with a basic introduction to the field of biology, strives to incorporate writing assignments as the primary tool for learning and assessment in its introductory laboratory courses. This project is intended to determine how students and instructors benefit from employing the “Writing Intensive Program” (WIP) in introductory biology laboratories as self-described by both the undergraduates enrolled in these labs as well as the graduate laboratory assistants (GLAs) teaching them. WIP was developed by Dr. Michelle Ballif in the UGA Department of English. The project will provide insight into the benefits of using writing assignments as a primary method to assess achievement of the course content and objectives. Data collected will allow researchers to assess students’ self-confidence in writing, their willingness to communicate science via writing, and their desire to engage in further coursework. Findings are critical to convincing Biosciences faculty as well as other science and science education department faculty to consider WIP training as essential for GLAs, Teaching Assistants, and pre-service teachers. The results will be submitted to an appropriate journal and presented in a major workshop at the 2009 Association of Biology Laboratory Education Annual Conference, as well as through a campus seminar to interested faculty from other science departments.

Kellam, Nadia

UGA, Faculty of Engineering

Costantino, Tracie

UGA, Art Education

Cramond, Bonnie

UGA, Educational Psychology and Information Technology

Integrating Creativity into Engineering Education Through a Cross-disciplinary Design Course

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In this project, Dr. Kellam and her colleagues will design and implement a cross-disciplinary engineering design course, Synthesis and Design Studio, for environmental engineering students in spring 2009 to emphasize students’ creativity and critical thinking in engineering education. The goal is to better prepare students for tackling large scale issues in engineering by tapping into their creativity and problem-solving abilities. Faculty from Art Education, Educational Psychology, and Engineering will collaborate to modify the curriculum using “real world” problems such as global warming or the energy crisis. The effectiveness of the course will be evaluated by analyzing the end-of-course projects. Surveys and interviews will also be used to determine students’ perception of the innovative curriculum in comparison to a traditional engineering course. This project will provide a better understanding of how to prepare students to be creative and innovative thinkers. The findings will be disseminated at a national conference (Creativity and Innovation Conference) and submitted to a professional journal. Lessons learned from the “pilot test” of this new course will contribute to continued efforts to receive external funding.

Knox, John A.

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Geography

Grundstein, Andrew J.

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Geography

Development, Implementation and Research of Rotating-Tank Laboratory Experiments in Undergraduate Geosciences Courses at the University of Georgia (Final Report)

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In studying the atmosphere, undergraduate students need a weather laboratory to be able to visualize and comprehend the circulation of the atmosphere on scales larger than can be seen outside their windows. Rotating-tank experimentation provides applications to the real-life atmosphere and has been limited to research or graduate-level education. The purpose of this project is to adapt this experimentation for use in undergraduate courses at UGA, research its effectiveness with UGA students, as well as develop and implement some innovative experimentation tailored to UGA courses and faculty strengths. This project will impact teaching and learning in geography classes at UGA including GEOG 1112L, GEOG 4112, GEOG 4180, and GEOG 1111L as new laboratory demonstrations are developed. The results of the project will be disseminated through: 1) the expanding community of rotating-tank experimenters formed through the “Weather in a Tank” project; 2) a workshop on teaching weather and climate; and 3) a submission to the journal of Geoscience Education.

Navarro, Maria

UGA, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES), Agricultural Leadership, Education, & Communication

Foutz, Tim

UGA, CAES, Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE)

Thompson, Sid

UGA, CAES, Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE)

Kellam, Nadia

UGA, CAES, Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE)

Understanding Why They Leave (Final Report)

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The UGA Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department has as a priority retaining and increasing the number of students entering engineering. Researchers for this project will analyze the reasons why students leave the program and propose what can be done to enhance the engineering curriculum and increase recruitment and retention. Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected using surveys, individual interviews, as well as focus groups. Quantitative measures such as demographics, academic background, index of learning styles, personality profile system, community service attitudes scale, and self-esteem scale will be analyzed. Students’ experiences in classes and in the program, satisfaction with the program and career opportunities, and reasons to stay (or not) in the program will be taken into account as qualitative data obtained by conducting a semi-structured interview. Data will be analyzed to inform enhancements to the UGA Engineering Program to influence students’ decisions to remain in the program. Results of the research will be disseminated to inform similar studies for other STEM majors.

Stanger-Hall, Kathrin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology

Holschuh, Jodi

UGA, Division of Academic Affairs

Overcoming Student Resistance to Critical Thinking: Testing the Effect of Exam Format (Final Report)

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Based on preliminary data, UGA science majors tend to be reluctant to accept critical thinking as a valuable learning skill and are performing significantly worse on exam questions that tests critical thinking as compared to questions that test remembering and basic understanding. In this project, the researchers will determine whether the inclusion of short answer/essay questions on exams make students less resistant to critical thinking and better critical thinkers. Specifically, these researchers will establish whether students change their study habits when faced with short essay questions included on a multiple choice test. If study habits are changed, it will be determined whether the change correlated to better scores on their exams. The study will be conducted with two BIOL 1108 classes during the spring 2009. Between these two classes only the exam format is different whereas the level of difficulty is equivalent. Statistical analyses will test for differences in attitudes, study strategies, and exam performance by learning levels. This study will have an impact on how students should be taught and assessed at UGA, provide data to justify funds for lecture Teaching Assistants (for grading support), and provide valuable information for other STEM classes with multiple choice assessments. Results of this study will be published in a Life Science Education journal, shared with colleagues at UGA, and presented at scientific meetings.

Tippins, Deborah J.

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Mueller, Michael

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Schenk, Anne

UGA, State Botanical Garden

Carroll, G. Denise

UGA, Forestry Research

Cajigal, Aris

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Ethical Decision-Making in the Education of Future Teachers of Science: Exploring Teachers' Beliefs through Popular Culture Videocases (Final Report)

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STEM scientists and science educators have called for more authentic science learning experiences to help improve teachers’ understanding of the nature of science. The use of ethical decision-making in pre-service teacher courses can improve students’ understanding of the nature of science. The purpose of this study will be to develop two videocase models based on popular cultural resources (the movies Arctic Adventure and Nim’s Island) as a context for studying pre-service science teachers’ understandings of the nature of science. A rubric will be created to assess pre-service teachers’ content and pedagogical understandings of the nature of science, with the focus on ethical decision-making. This study will determine if the implementation of the models along with the use of ethical decision-making will improve pre-service teachers’ understanding of the nature of science. The project will also produce a curriculum resource (videocases) that teachers can use to further students’ understanding of the nature of science. The findings will be presented at the Association of Science Teacher Educators and the STEM conference, as well as posted on the State Botanical Garden website.

Wicklein, Robert

UGA, College of Education, Workforce Education, Leadership, & Social Foundation

Smith, Cameron

Oconee County High School

Baker, Ronald

GA Department of Education

Expanding Technology and Engineering Career Pathways in Georgia (Final Report)

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Using design-based and inquiry-based instruction, Engineering and Technology Education can excite the curiosity of learners. However, these learning opportunities in engineering and technology education programs are seemingly overlooked. Students in Georgia’s high schools must be made aware of the advantages of majoring in engineering as well as opportunities within the engineering career pathway. This project is aimed at designing and developing instructional media (such as DVDs, Streaming Video, and POD Casts) that will highlight integrated STEM concepts, STEM related career options, as well as goals and options of the engineering and technology education. This project proposes to increase the number of qualified students entering engineering education collegiate programs throughout the state. The instructional and recruitment media will be disseminated to all engineering and technology education high school teachers throughout the state of Georgia. The effectiveness of the media will be evaluated by determining whether students are attracted to careers in engineering or technology education.