STEM Small Grants Program 2010-2011

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 11 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.

Armstrong, Norris

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Genetics

Lemons, Paula

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology

Moving from an Instructor-Centered to a Student Centered Class in Introductory Biology (Final Report)

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Introductory science courses frequently rely on very large sections to accommodate student demand. There has been a growing call to move away from this instructor centered format because it has been found to be relatively ineffective at engaging students or promoting learning. This proposal is an effort to update and modify Biology 1107 in order to improve student skills including critical thinking, reading, communication, problem solving and applied math. Data will be collected through several assessments, including the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal to measure aspects of crucial thinking, a Science Motivation Questionnaire, and a Science Process Skills Assessment. Changes made to BIOL 1107, the prerequisite for many upper level Biology classes, will impact nearly 1,000 students per year.  Findings will be published in peer reviewed journals and presented at national meetings.

Miller, Kristin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biological Sciences

Koballa, Thomas

Georgia Southern University, Dean, College of Education

Brickman, Peggy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology

Preparing Graduate Students to Teach Introductory Biology as Inquiry: The Use of Inquiry Caselets to Solve Teaching Dilemmas

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Current calls for science education teaching reform at the higher education level promote the use of inquiry-based science experiences in the classroom in order to achieve higher science literacy and a stronger understanding of the basic concepts and processes of the nature of science. A problem lies in the lack of teaching preparation and professional development materials, especially those which are pedagogically-specific, given to college level science instructors. This project proposes to develop a set of “caselets”, an abbreviated form of case discussion that can be used in shorter time sessions. Caselets will be developed in the form of teaching dilemmas that occur when teaching science as inquiry. These teaching preparation materials will be used with graduate student instructors of introductory biology laboratory courses at UGA during weekly instructional preparation sessions, as well as in future sections of GRSC 7770. Overall, 6-10 caselets will be developed with this grant. The results of the project will be submitted to an appropriate practitioner journal. Dr. Miller plans to present the information in a workshop at the 2011 Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE) annual conference.

Atwood, Charles

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Behmke, Derek

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Implementation of Graphical Representations of Student Performance Based Upon IRT Analysis, In-Time Interventions and Cognitive Load Theory into the JExam Interface

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Particularly in large classes like CHEM 1211/1212 classes, it is extremely difficult to assess areas of weakness in which students needs help. The goal of this project is to design an interface which will compare an Item Response Theory (IRT) or Cognitive Diagnostic Modeling (CDM) related assessment of each student’s performance on a series of topics to a similar measure of the class as a whole. From the assessment, data will be collected that will measure individual versus class-wide abilities on specific chemistry topics. Statistics will then be generated for the individual versus class-wide ability.  The information will be used to improve class instruction and tailor help for students. Once the project is completed, student progress will be tracked to see if advisement/help sessions have changed academic performance. Findings will be publishing in pertinent journals as well as communicated to WebAssign and Cengage to be incorporated in national homework systems. Results will also be presented at scientific meetings across the country.

Atwood, Charles

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Moody, John

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Problem Based Instruction Initiative (PBI2) and JExam- An Integrated Approach to Learning and Assessment

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All too commonly, students perceive learning in CHEM 1211/1212 as a sort of routine plug and chug set of steps requiring few problem-solving skills. In the past year, Problem Based Integrated Instruction (PBI2) was implemented in one section of CHEM 1211. Students in this section worked in groups to solve two large problems requiring the integration of various aspects of the chemistry curriculum.  This year, the project team will expand this integration to all sections of CHEM 1211. The goal is to develop problem-based instruction reports and assessments that can be acquired and graded by JExam. The PBI2 activities will be assessed for effectiveness, and then the team will interact with programmers to make changes in the underlying JExam structure to accept and grade reports. This will improve the ability of JExam to build and grade more comprehensive assessments. After the research plan is enacted, older assessments in JExam will be used to indicate effectiveness in the current PBI2 program. Student progress on exams will be reviewed for effectiveness and refinements to the project. Results will be published in pertinent journals, such as Journal of Chemical Education. In addition, the work will be presented at scientific meetings.

Wiegert, Craig

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

PHYSICS-MATH=STRUGGLE: Addressing Students' Math Deficiencies in Introductory Physics

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Physics is a mathematically demanding science discipline, even at the introductory level. Students must become adept at combining physics knowledge with previously learned math skills in order to solve and interpret quantitative problems. The purpose of this project is to attempt to improve students’ learning outcomes in introductory physics by specifically tacking their deficiencies in math skills. This proposal represents a continuation of work begun in a 2009-2010 STEM grant. The goal is to develop and curate a library of math-related, online formative assessment modules for the first semester of the introductory physics sequences. The second goal is to broadly assess the effectiveness of the modules. The hope is that more will be understood on the question of skill retention versus transfer; as well as to learn ways in which the modules can be improved, modified or specialized to the particular needs of different student populations. Wiegert plans to continue to develop the online math modules with the assistance of a CURO student and a graduate assistant. The online content created from the project will be freely accessible to any institution using LON-CAPA.

Stanger-Hall, Kathrin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology

Do Self Reported Religious Conflict and Attitude Affect Student Learning of Evolution? (Final Report)

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An in-depth understanding of evolution by natural selection is key for any in-depth understanding of biology. It is well known that even biology majors have many misconceptions about natural selection. This project will assess whether self reported religious conflict and attitude towards the theory of evolution affects student learning of evolution by natural selection. Students in Introductory Biology will be assessed, specifically those who report a conflict between the theory and their personal belief. Activities will focus on analyzing data that was collected in Spring 2010 for 487 students in BIOL 1108 (Principles of Biology II). These data fall into several categories: (1) Data was collected on students’ self-reported beliefs and conflicts concerning their religion and theory evolution. (2) The pre- and post- tests also included a short essay question asking students to apply their current knowledge of evolution by natural selection to a specific situation. (3) Student understanding of evolution by natural selection was assessed through multiple choice questions on the exam. The results of the project will have a direct impact on curriculum design in Biology courses, including the introductory courses at UGA. Results will also be disseminated to other UGA departments.

Mao, Leidong

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Engineering

Shen, Ji

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

UNITE: Undergraduate Nanotechnology Inquiry, Training and Experimentation at the University of Georgia (Continuing Project) (Final Report)

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Nanotechnology is expected to be one of the driving forces for the U.S. economy; therefore, it is imperative to educate this generation of students and provide them with the necessary skills to be able to compete for jobs in the 21st century. This project aims to create an innovative nanotechnology lab course and lab manual for UGA undergraduate students. Using STEM funds from a grant last year, Mao developed a lab manual with eight techniques and one experiment related to nanotechnology. This year, Mao and his team will develop three more lab manuals and evaluate their effectiveness in nanotechnology education. The lab manuals will be developed by tailoring traditional multidisciplinary science courses into one course with simple, hands-on experiments. Next the research team will work with two undergraduate students to help them identify a potential research problem and solve it through experimental design. The project will also collaborate with UGA’s Young Dawgs Program to host several high school students to pilot-test the new nanotechnology lab manuals and hands-on experiments. In order to disseminate findings, a website will be developed so that other researchers can access the lab materials necessary to perform experiments.

Thomson, Norman

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Tippins, Deborah

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Bobe, Rene

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Anthropology

Scott, Anna

Athens Academy

A Case Study of Pre-Service Teachers' Use of Argumentation in Learning to Teach Science: Understanding Climate's Influence on Evolution (Final Report)

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There is an urgent need to prepare science teachers in ways that enable them to use argumentation as a strategy for helping their future students develop genuine understandings of global climate change as a factor in evolution. The goal of this research project is to explore how pre-service secondary science teachers use scientific argumentation as a strategy for developing and teaching global climate change lessons that reflect an understanding of evolution to 9th/10th grade students. The study will investigate discourse and look at the aspects of argumentation including: weighing evidence, interpreting texts, evaluating scientific claims and constructing explanations. Phase 1 activities will take place during Fall 2010 and will include obtaining IRB approval, recruiting voluntary consent of participants, creating rubrics to access understanding of argumentation and designing instructional activities to model the use of scientific argumentation. Phase 2 will take place during Spring 2011 and will include initial interviews with four pre-service case study participants, short essays written by students synthesizing understanding of evolution, and concept maps by students to show evolution and climate change understanding. Phase 3 will include second interviews with participants, observations of teachers, analysis of research data, concept maps by pre-service teachers, and an initial draft of the research paper. Results of the study will be shared at the annual meetings of the Association of Science Teacher Educators, National Association for Research in Science Teaching, and the Georgia Science Teachers Association.

Kellam, Nadia

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

Walther, Joachim

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

STEAM: Integrating the Arts into STEM through a Stop Motion Animation Lesson

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Many reports have pointed to the need for more students graduating with STEM majors. Other reports focus on the large number of students turning away from engineering. One reason may be that engineering students are not being adequately prepared to deal with the ambiguous problems of their workplaces.  Students are not being trained to think creatively and do not have the skills needed to address today’s increasingly complex problems.  By integrating the Arts into STEM (STEAM), another crucial dimension to STEM students’ educational experience is added, and may well attract more students to STEM majors. In the spring of 2010, Drs. Kellam and Walther introduced an interactive group learning activity based on stop-motion animation in their Synthesis and Design Studio (ENVE 1010, 1020, and 2010). The goal of this research project is to evaluate and disseminate the activity as one example of transferable strategies to broadly promote integration of art into the STEM curricula. Specifically, student data will be collected from the stop-motion animation activity, including focus group interviews and process reflections. Data will be analyzed to determine student impact and will be interpreted to determine ways to improve the curriculum for a 2nd iteration in Spring 2011. Findings will be disseminated locally and through a journal publication.


Lemons, Paula

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biological Sciences

Multiple Choice Testing in College Biology: What Cognitive Steps Does It Trigger? (Continuation Grant) (Final Report)

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Although developing higher order cognitive skills, including application, analysis, synthesis or evaluation, is viewed as a major teaching goal, too often students do not develop these skills in college classrooms. A STEM grant in 2009 helped develop a set of case studies covering major areas of organismal biology for UGA’s non-majors BIOL 1104 course. This project will (1) continue developing higher order curricula for BIOL 1104 and (2) develop a plan for sequencing BIOL 1104 curricula in order to scaffold student development of higher order reasoning skills. This will impact BIOL 1104, which has about 600 students per year, as well as BIOL 2108H, enrolling up to 40 students per year.  While completing two new case studies, an overall curriculum plan for BIOL 1104 will be developed to scaffold in the development of higher order reasoning skills. To measure the impact of student learning, test analysis and student surveys will be used. An evaluation of each case study will be administered immediately after the study and at the end of the course. Last year’s work was disseminated through National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS). This year’s findings will be disseminated through publication.

Lemons, Paula

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biological Sciences

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

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This research project will be based on a qualitative analysis of the cognitive steps students take when answering multiple choice test questions. Up to 400 students are enrolled in BIOL 1104 each semester and student learning is typically assessed using multiple choice questions. The goal of this project is to teach BIOL 1104 students to document the steps they take in successfully solving multiple choice questions. Student documentation of how they solve test questions will be collected and reviewed. “Think-aloud” interviews will be conducted with a random sample of BIOL 1104 students. The student documentation and “think-aloud” interviews will be analyzed using standard qualitative methods. To measure student learning, test analysis and student surveys will be used. Findings will be disseminated through publication in peer-reviewed journals.