STEM Small Grants Program 2011-2012

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.

Stanger-Hall, Kathrin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology

Online Case Studies for Learning of Biological Processes in Introductory Biology (Final Report)

Read Summary

Case studies have become an increasingly popular teaching tool in Introductory Biology to engage students in an authentic learning exercise. In Biology 1108, with classes about 500 students per semester, it remains difficult to engage all students. This project will generate three online cases as an attractive and cost-effective means to implement case studies in large classes. The online cases can be used outside of class and enable instructors to engage significantly more students in authentic learning without losing valuable class time. In the proposed study, Adobe Captivate 5.0 software will be used to create online versions of three paper based case studies designed to teach complex physiological processes and to compare the learning outcomes from the paper based (control) and online versions (treatment). The project will create learning aids for introductory biology students that will engage them in biology and will allow them to practice their problem solving skills in the context of case studies, which highlight the relevance of biology for their life and facilitate their critical thinking skills. Dr. Stanger-Hall will assess student learning for the course overall, with tests administered at the beginning and end of the semester, and before and after each case study. Assessments will be incorporated into the final exam and student performance will be evaluated on the lower-level and higher- level thinking skills. After publishing the results of the online case and paper comparison, findings will be disseminated to interested introductory biology faculty.

Stanger-Hall, Kathrin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology

"Science Pets" for Learning of Biology and Environmental Literacy (Final Report)

Read Summary

As a course that fulfills UGA’s Environmental Literacy Requirement (ELR), Biology 1108 needs to stress the processes that all organisms share as well as the relationships between those organisms. Students often struggle to evaluate the quality of Internet and other resources. In this project, students will learn about environmental literacy and how to evaluate the quality of Internet resources before using them to create their own websites. This project will engage students by allowing them to choose a species they are interested in, work cooperatively on a project, and allow biological concepts to ‘come to life’ through applying what they learn to their particular science-pet species. Students will have the opportunity to conduct research in a low-stakes environment, supported by group members.  Stanger-Hall will create a rubric to assess each of the items on the template provided to the students.  Assessment will include whether the intervention improves scores on exams pertaining to environmental literacy as well as specific biological processes covered in this project. The results will have a direct impact on curriculum design in the Biological Sciences, specifically introductory biology classes at UGA.

Armstrong, Norris

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biology Division

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

Read Summary

This is a continuation of a STEM mini grant awarded in 2010-2011 that incorporates more active, student-centered learning into BIOL 1107, Principles of Biology I. 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. Based on the work completed in the previous year, four multi-part constructed-response questions were incorporated into assessments used in a class of approximately 450-600 students in Fall 2011 and again in Spring 2012. Initial findings will be disseminated at the Regional STEM Institute of Teaching and Learning. Plans are to expand constructive-response questions in the large classes of BIOL 1108, Principles of Biology II, next year.

Miller, Kristin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biological Sciences

Assessing the Use of Caselets to Solve Teaching Dilemmas as Instructional Undergraduate Biology Laboratories that Teach Biology as Inquiry

Read Summary

This is a continuation of a STEM mini grant awarded in 2010 entitled, “Preparing Graduate Students to Teach Introductory Biology as Inquiry: The Use of Inquiry Caselets to Solve Teaching Dilemmas.” Caselets are an abbreviated form of case discussions which introduce typical teaching dilemmas. Caselets allow college-level science instructors to be able to present and discuss common teaching dilemmas when teaching science as inquiry. In turn, this reflection-on-action through use of caselets by the GLAs will allow for discussion of how to solve those dilemmas using pedagogy that underlines the curriculum. The goal of this project is to develop inquiry caselets and solutions, develop a web resource where these professional development materials are accessible, assess the benefits of caselets, and identify collaborators who will use and assess caselets. In this project, Miller will continue to write caselets and their solutions and her students in GRSC 7770 will also write caselets. Data collection on the benefits of using caselets will be conducted in these GRSC 7770 sections. Findings will be presented at the 2012 national Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE) meeting.

Miller, Kristin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biological Sciences

Travel Funds for Assessing the Use of Caselets to Solve Teaching Dilemmas as Instructional Undergraduate Biology Laboratories that Teach Biology as Inquiry

Read Summary

In this secondary grant, Miller and a teaching assistant will present the work from the primary grant (see above) to peer biology lab educators at a national conference (ABLE). Attendees will have an opportunity to understand the process of caselets, view the cases and solutions, and work in small groups to discuss collaborations.

Lemons, Paula

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Biological Sciences

Prevost, Luanna

Michigan State University, Engineering

SOLVE IT! Tutorials: How Do Online Problem Solving Tutorials Use Faded Scaffolding to Impact Student Learning? (Final Report)

Read Summary

SOLVE-IT! Tutorials are self-directed online tutorials that use faded scaffolding to teach Introductory Biology students how to solve challenging, data driven problems. The tutorials are designed to address areas of weakness in students’ problem-solving skills. SOLVE-IT! Tutorials will be implemented in Biology 1104 in Spring 2012 in order to collect data on the impact on student learning. An open-ended survey will be administered to all tutorial students after each tutorial, asking them to describe what they found useful and not useful about the tutorial. The survey will also ask them to describe how the tutorials affected their problem-solving strategies. Additionally, a focus group meeting will be held for tutorial students at the end of the semester. Students will also be divided in to a SOLVE-IT! group or control group. SOLVE-IT! students will be required to complete all three SOLVE-IT! Tutorials. As part of each tutorial, students will be given a problem to solve pre and post tutorial to measure learning. The control group will take three online tutorials made of static, non scaffolded web pages. They too will solve a problem pre and post tutorial. Student learning will be measured on the final exam by including 18 multiple choice questions covering tutorial material. Findings will be disseminated through presentation at the 2nd annual meeting of the Society for Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER) in Summer 2012.

Walther, Joachim

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

Kellam, Nadia

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

Sochacka, Nicola

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

Reflection as a Way of Integrating Student Learning Across Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (Final Report)

Read Summary

Future STEM graduates need to possess more than the propositional knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Feedback from focus groups in Synthesis and Design Studio (ENVE 1010, 1020 and 2010) brought to light several learning experiences that needed to be transformed. This project will develop, implant and disseminate a strategy to foster deliberate student reflection on the basis of an empirical study of prior data collected in a STEM course. Deliberate reflection is increasingly recognized for its role in the contextualized learning of content, providing a means of making content personally meaningful for students. Lending personal relevance to STEM content also has the potential to significantly increase student motivation and improve retention. The project will develop an evidence based strategy to foster reflection in STEM courses. This strategy will be implemented in an engineering course in Spring of 2012. The success of the course in improving student motivation and retention will be evaluated through course surveys and through document analysis of students’ written reflections. The research team will disseminate the strategy in a local workshop with STEM educators at UGA to broaden the potential positive effects of deliberate reflection to other STEM courses. The ability of the workshop to help STEM faculty to achieve similar effects in their classes will be evaluated in a post-workshop survey.

Kong, Fanbin

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Food Science and Technology

Shewfelt, Robert

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Food Science and Technology

Development of a Video Game as a Tool to Teach "Heat Transfer" Fundamentals in Undergraduate Courses at the University of Georgia (Final Report)

Read Summary

Heat transfer is a basic undergraduate subject in many engineering curricula such as chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and food engineering. The concept and calculation often present a big challenge to undergraduate students. This project will develop a video game as a teaching tool for undergraduate students to learn the basics of heat transfer theory and sharpen problem solving skills. The video game strategy is geared to keep students engaged and prepare them for high tech careers. Once successful, this strategy can be applied to the teaching of other course contents, including courses geared to high school students. To test the efficacy of the video game, it will be utilized as part of content in two Food Sciences courses: Food Engineering Fundamentals (FDST 4050/6050) and Principles and Methods of Food Processing (FDST 4010/6010). Each course will be randomly split into two groups. One group will be taught via the video game, the other through a PowerPoint presentation that contains all the information in the video game. The data obtained from this study will be statistically analyzed to indicate if there is a significant difference between the PowerPoint group and video game group, and if the video game is a more effect teaching tool than the PowerPoint presentation. The findings will be presented at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) conference.

Mao, Leidong

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

Lab-on-a-chip Teaching Module for Undergraduate Students at the University of Georgia (Final Report)

Read Summary

Lab-on-a-chip is a new engineering field revolutionizing design of chemical and biological measurement systems. It enables system integration of biological and chemical labs and is an active research area that can ignite student interest. This new engineering field also has a low barrier for entry, making it possible for students to explore new content. This project will develop a course with simple, hands-on experiments that will prepare undergraduate students from many different backgrounds to meet the increasingly interdisciplinary challenges that face today’s engineers. An innovative lab-on-a-chip teaching module and lab manual will be developed and integrated into a course with simple, hands-on experiments that are suitable for undergraduates. Mao will also identify undergraduates to pilot test the teaching module and provide feedback. The teaching module will also be designed for use by K-12 educators. Mao will collaborate with UGA’s Young Dawgs program to host high school students’ research experiences.

Foutz, Timothy

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

Navarro, Maria

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Leadership, Education and Commission

Patrick-Singer, Kerri

UGA, College of Education, Workforce Education, Leadership and Social Foundations, Graduate Student

Analyzing Faculty Attitudes and Beliefs about a Liberal Arts-Oriented Student's Interest in the STEM Disciplines (Final Report)

Read Summary

Last year, over 60,000 people took the SAT in Georgia. When surveyed, 27% showed interest in a STEM discipline and over 35% indicated interest in a liberal arts discipline. Considering these percentages and the students who had SAT scores high enough to enter UGA, a significant increase in STEM majors will not occur through recruitment of students already interested in STEM disciplines. UGA will only experience an increase in STEM majors if students who initially indicate interest in liberal arts find academic opportunities that incorporate a new STEM-Liberal Arts education. Academia must develop new STEM-oriented programs of study that attract liberal arts oriented students if STEM graduation numbers are to increase. This proposal advocates more integrative, interdisciplinary STEM and non STEM teaching methods to increase interest in STEM fields. The project is a qualitative analysis of STEM and non-STEM faculty attitudes and beliefs about education reforms. Interviews will be conducted with faculty from Crop and Soil Science, Biology, Mathematics, Sociology, and Philosophy. Interviewees will be chosen from STEM and non-STEM disciplines in order to understand both perspectives. Findings will be published in an academic journal with a STEM oriented audience.

Shen, Ji

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Oliver, Steve

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Developing a Transformative Knowledge System (TKS) for Pre-service Science Teachers (Final Report)

Read Summary

The interdisciplinary nature of complex systems and phenomena in STEM demands that students organize knowledge efficiently and effectively across disciplines. This project aims to develop, implement and research a technology enhanced transformative knowledge system (TKS) to help students better organize, integrate and transform STEM knowledge. Shen will develop a learning and assessment tool (TKS) that will have event, wiki and concept map modes. The event mode may include pictures or computer models of physical events. Wiki mode allows students to write entries about terms they encounter. The concept map incorporates functions allowing students to produce concept maps. The research team will develop a prototype of TKS, pilot test the system with pre-service middle and secondary science teachers, and research the impact of TKS on student learning. The system will be pilot tested by students enrolled in ESCI 4410/6410, ESCI 4480/6480 and ESCI 6450/6460.  The project will impact approximately 50-80 pre-service science teachers every year in the science education program at UGA. Findings will be presented at local and national conferences.

Tippins, Deborah

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Thomson, Norm

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

A Case Study of Pre-service Teachers' Use of Argumentation in Learning to Teach Science: The Evolutionary Basis of Global Climate Change (Final Report)

Read Summary

This interpretive case study was initiated in 2010-11 to investigate pre-service secondary science teachers’ use of argumentation in designing and teaching lessons to support high school biology students’ understanding of the evolutionary basis of global climate change. The goal of the study was to explore how pre-service secondary science teachers used argumentation in developing and teaching global climate change lessons that reflect evolution to 10th grade students in biology. Specifically, the study investigated the teachers’ discourse as they constructed and taught lessons designed to infuse aspects of argumentation: weighing evidence, evaluating claims and constructing explanations. This study generated more data than anticipated. Preliminary findings showed pre-service science teachers are not experiencing interdisciplinary learning in science courses and are consequently creating partial understandings of the evolutionary basis of climate change. Additional data are now needed to understand the research questions: 1) observations of pre-service teachers during their teaching this fall and 2) discussions with biology and geology teachers regarding approaches to evolution/climate change. Results will be presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) conference.