STEM Small Grants Program 2009-2010

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 nine 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 H.

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Moody, John

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Implementation of Problem-Based Instruction into CHEM 1211 and 1212 (Final Report)

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Problem-based instruction has been shown to increase students’ overall knowledge of the subject matter, improve students‘ approach to the scientific method, and maintain their interest in the class. However, there are challenges in implementing problembased instruction in CHEM 1211 and 1212, primarily because of the large class size (there are approximately 1500 to 1700 students in CHEM 1211 and 1212). This large class structure creates a lack of flexibility for grading the large amount of student work generated by problem-based learning. This project aims to address this challenge. A set of class problems will be developed that focus on important topics and integrate content from various disciplines. Grading methods will be created and tested, including developing a rubric for each problem, using the JExam system to score the student work, and comparing hand graded work to that which was graded by the JExam. Dr. Atwood and Mr. Moody hope to integrate problem-based learning into the general chemistry courses to better prepare students for subsequent science classes and retain students‘ interest in majoring and graduating with a STEM degree. The results will be presented at local, state, and national conferences and submitted for publication to national journals.

Atwood, Charles H.

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Behmke, Derek

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Implementation of In-Time Interventions into CHEM 1211 and 1212 using JExam (Final Report)

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From prior research, Dr. Atwood has identified 9-10 general chemistry topics that, if problematic to students in CHEM 1211 and 1212, can be a barrier to successful student performance. It has been found that if a student misses two out of three homework questions targeted to one of these specific chemistry topics, there is a 73% probability that the student will miss at least half of the questions for that topic on a following test. This project plans to identify homework problems that focus on these targeted topics and monitor student responses. Students who struggle with these homework problems will be invited to special remediation sessions before they take the first test. Student performance will be tracked on tests throughout the course, assessing the effectiveness of the early interventions on student performance. At the end of the course, students will also take the national American Chemical Society (ACS) exam. It is expected that the number of students staying in CHEM 1211 and 1212 will increase and overall student performance levels should go up. Results will be presented at local, state, as well as national meetings and submitted to peerreviewed journals.

Dustman, Wendy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Microbiology

Branch, Robert Maribe

UGA, College of Education, Educational Psychology & Instructional Technology

Bridging the Gap Between Traditional and Open-Inquiry Based STEM Education: Development of a Guided-Inquiry Web-Based Learning Tool (Final Report)

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Although long recognized as a challenge, educators are still have difficulty transitioning students from traditional labs or guided-inquiry labs (such as POGIL) to open inquiry-based labs. In this project, Drs. Dustman and Branch will collaborate to develop a web-based guided-inquiry learning tool and associated assessment materials that can be used in conjunction with hands-on experiences to help students develop metacognitive skills. This web-based tool may be applied to different disciplines, will be adaptable for several grade levels, and designed to be economical for limited school budgets. Design will involve “choices” for students to make, provide students opportunities to reflect, and then adjust their choice. Evaluation plans include recruiting high school STEM teachers to use the web-based tool in their classrooms. The findings will provide insight into the benefits of using web-based tools for guided-inquiry investigations to assess student learning of course content. The co- PIs will also use the results of this project to convince STEM faculty and administrators to consider guided-inquiry training as a regular part of their curriculum.as through a campus seminar to interested faculty from other science departments.

Foutz, Timothy L.

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological and Agricultural Engineering

Navarro, Maria

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological and Agricultural Engineering

Thompson, Sidney

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological and Agricultural Engineering

Identifying Faculty-Based Specifications for Improving Instruction and Enhancing Student Success in STEM Disciplines

(Final Report) Read Summary

Low enrollment in STEM disciplines may be attributed to the perception that STEM careers are for people who want to study exclusively in the math and science disciplines. Many students entering the arts and humanities have a traditional viewpoint that knowledge offered by STEM studies is not needed for their academic and career objectives. Interestingly, many STEM professions currently have a critical need for people who can integrate knowledge from many disciplines—the natural, mathematical, social sciences, and arts—in order to solve complex and systemic problems. Engineering programs are changing to attract non-traditional students; however, liberal arts curricula need to change by including more math, science, and engineering for those students to be prepared for jobs in the 21st century. Changes in both curricula are important and timely, but will only be achieved if faculty are willing and able to make the changes. The purpose of this project is to determine whether UGA faculty will accept, learn, and implement strategies and techniques into their disciplines to increase STEM student learning and enrollment. A questionnaire will be designed and administered to UGA faculty. Data will be analyzed to assess the level of awareness, attitude, skills, and practice of faculty in different departments and across the university. The results of the study will provide information on how the general faculty population approaches STEM reform. Findings will be shared across the university, presented at conferences, and submitted for publication in journals.

Lemons, Paula

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biological Sciences

Infusing Introductory Biology Courses with Higher-Order Curricula (Final Report)

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Although developing higher-order cognitive skills is viewed as a major teaching goal, all too often students do not develop these skills in college classrooms. Dr. Lemons has been working to assess such skills using short essay questions that require both higher order cognitive skills and key disciplinary content knowledge. Dr. Lemons has developed a laboratory exercise for an introductory biology course that supports the development of those skills to solve scientific problems. In this project, Dr. Lemons intends to implement a modified version of the laboratory exercise in Introductory Biology (BIOL 1104) and evaluate its impact on content knowledge and higher order thinking skills. Measures include: student performance on a pre-post test that requires content knowledge and higher order thinking, students‘ self assessment of their responses that require content knowledge and higher order thinking, and students‘ perceived learning. Descriptions will be obtained of the cognitive steps students go through in answering the type of short-essay questions used in this study. Results of this project will impact the teaching of BIOL 1104, reaching about 600 students per year. Collaboration with instructors of the three other introductory biology courses will help shape the collective efforts to continue improving and reforming Introductory Biology at UGA. The findings will also be disseminated via peer-reviewed journals and presentations at regional and national conferences.

Mao, Leidong

UGA, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NanoSEC), Faculty of Engineering

Shen, Ji

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

UNITE: Undergraduate Nanotechnology Inquiry, Training, and Experimentation (Final Report)

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Nanotechnology is expected to be one of the major driving forces in the global economy for the 21st century, so it is critical to prepare our undergraduate students with the skills they will need for future careers in this discipline. Since most nanotechnology training takes place at the graduate student level, this project will focus on the development of innovative nanotechnology lab course modules and a lab manual for undergraduates with an emphasis on biological applications. Experiments will be designed to be simple, economical, robust, portable and reflect the multidisciplinary nature of nanotechnology. The lab manual will provide students with unique experimental experiences that will be an introduction to a broad base of experiments possible in this new field. Students will learn fundamental science and engineering principles related to the lab projects. The lab modules will also be designed to emphasize critical thinking and problem solving skills. Several undergraduate students will complete the lab modules and provide feedback for improvement. When the modules are complete, the co-PIs will share them with high school teachers and present at professional conferences.

Mueller, Michael

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Tippins, Deborah

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Pickering, John

UGA, Odum School of Ecology, Entomology

Developing Reflection through the “Silver Screen:” Exploring Beginning Teachers‘ Use of Videoessays to Enhance their Understanding of Socioscientific Issues (Final Report)

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Socioscientific issues are found in many facets of everyday life. They typically are controversial and philosophical problems without clear solutions. Based on current research, beginning teachers struggle with how to teach socioscientific issues (SSI) within the constraints of standards-based curricula. It has been demonstrated that reflection and dialog are key strategies for helping beginning teachers successfully incorporate SSI into their classrooms. However, reflection strategies often lag behind innovation in technologies that can engage and motivate. This project will investigate the instructional value of using videoessays to reflect on SSI as an enhanced pedagogical practice in a secondary science education methods course. Beginning teachers will explore SSI using videoclips that they record on digital cameras and edit into videoessays. They will then reflect on how they might use such a tool to assess their students‘ exploration of SSI. At the end of the course, beginning teachers will be able to apply this reflective practice to other aspects of their science teaching. This project will influence the ways teachers use today’s technologies in the classroom and serve as a guide to informing subsequent methods of science teaching courses. The videoessays will be shared on appropriate websites. Other findings of this study will be presented at regional and national conferences and submitted for publication in a referred journal.

Shen, Ji

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Jackson, David

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Collaborative Activities for Science Content, Science Methods, and General Methods Courses for Preservice Middle School Science Teachers

(Final Report) Read Summary

Faculty and teaching assistants in departments of Science Education and Science (e.g., Physics and Geology) propose to strengthen collaboration and coordination among their respective departments in order to help prospective science teachers develop a deeper understanding of the content as well as a robust and practical pedagogical content knowledge. The faculty will share lesson plans and frequently participate in each other’s courses. Science faculty will serve as content consultants and provide feedback for improving the lessons and lab materials. Debriefing after teaching will also be a collaborative process. College classroom activities will be co-developed to help prospective middle school science teachers simultaneously gain scientific understanding as well as pedagogical knowledge and insight into science teaching. In addition, monthly meetings of key faculty will be held to discuss curriculum design, implementation, and further collaboration. This project will serve as a model for cross-departmental collaboration among faculty in Arts and Sciences and Teacher Education, with the ultimate goal of pre-service teachers developing integrated pedagogical content knowledge. Findings will be presented at local and national conferences, published on freely accessible websites, and submitted to practitioner based magazines and research-based journals.

Walker, Sally

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Ecology

Swanson, Sam

UGA, Franklin College of Arts Sciences, Ecology

Geobiology and Humans: How Life on Earth has Contributed to Environmental Change (Final Report)

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Four students developed 11 teaching modules in May 2010 on Evolution, Biodiversity and the Origin of Life, Extinctions and Mass Extinctions, and Human Resourse Use. At first, the students had a difficult time trying to figure out how to design a teaching module for a class. The professors had to meet with the students individually and send emails to students to encourage them to "think outside the box," to "be creative," and to help the professors learn "new teaching methods." The professors had to give STEM students specific ideas on what to do for interactive activities, but the students were not given the exact information on how to do it. Results indicate that students learn best when they discover for themselves with the guidance of professors in their field of endeavor.

Wiegert, Craig

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

Thompson, Scott

Georgia Gwinnett College, Physics

PHYSICS – MATH = STRUGGLE: Addressing Students’ Math Deficiencies in Introductory Physics (Final Report)

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Physics is one of the most mathematically demanding science disciplines, especially for non-physics majors. Physics faculty have observed that a substantial fraction of students entering introductory physics courses lack a strong foundation of mathematical ability. The purpose of this project is to attempt to improve students’ learning outcomes in introductory physics by providing mathematical interventions starting early in the semester and continuing to scaffold throughout the term. Drs. Wiegert and Thompson will create a library of math-related, online formative assessment modules for the first semester of the introductory physics sequence. These online tutorials will target specific mathematical skills that are essential to success in physics. Data will be collected to assess the effectiveness of these modules in improving students‘ mastery of the introductory physics material. By remediating students‘ math abilities and facilitating the transfer of these skills, it is anticipated that a positive impact will be made on retention in the STEM disciplines. The findings will shed light on the question of skill retention versus transfer, and suggest ways in which modules can be improved, modified, or specialized to the particular needs of different student populations. The created online content will be freely accessible to other higher education institutions, and dissemination will include presentations at the American Association of Physics Teachers conference.