STEM Small Grants Program 2012-2013

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 12 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/Biology Division

Stanger-Hall, Kathrin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology

Improving Assessment in Introductory Biology (Final Report)

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Large lectures often use multiple choice (MC) tests due to the logistics of scoring large numbers of exams. There is a need to reconsider this approach because of the potential negative effects MC-only tests may have on courses and student learning. Constructed-response (CR) questions are those that require students to apply their understanding of a concept, evaluate information and/or describe a concept in their own words. This proposal seeks to continue and expand a project to incorporate CR questions into exams for large introductory biology classes with the help of undergraduate assistants. CR questions will be used for in-class tests for BIOL 1107 and BIOL 1108. Data will be collected through online surveys and in-class tests to measure short-term changes in students’ study behavior, motivation and test performance. Findings will be shared with STEM colleagues at UGA and presented at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER) in the summer of 2013.

Stanger-Hall, Kathrin

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology

"Science PeTS" for Learning about Biodiversity: Implementation (Continuation Request) (Final Report)

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With the help of a STEM grant from last year, a website was designed and created on Personal Teaching Species for Learning Biodiversity.  Stanger-Hall designed a biodiversity learning experience for students to research and create species web pages that will be linked to other species pages that have community-level relationship.  The overall learning goals were to help students learn about biology, biodiversity, evolution of structure and function in an ecological context, and species interactions in a community.  This Fall 2012, the project will be implemented in BIOL 1108, with the help of graduate teaching assistant support to oversee the implementation for the class and analyze the data on learning of biodiversity. This project will help students to work cooperatively on a project and seeing the biological concepts “come to life” through application of what they have learned in class.  Assessments will include pre-and post-tests, assignments within the project and questions on the final exam. The project will impact two sections of BIOL 1108, or roughly 480 students total.  Results will be shared at relevant science education conferences and publications.

Beckmann, Sybilla

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics

Izsak, Andrew

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Proportional Reasoning of Middle Grades Pre-Service Teachers (Final Report)

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If more students are to major and graduate in STEM disciplines at UGA, they need to start college with a better understanding of foundational mathematics. An important part of foundational mathematics is the web of ideas connecting multiplication, division, and proportional relationships. In this proposal, Beckmann and Izsák will study two programs at UGA that lead to certification to teach mathematics in the middle grades: a specific middle grades program (grades 4-8) and a secondary program (grades 6-12). Two semi-structured hour-long cognitive interviews will be conducted with four pairs of prospective teachers from MATH 5035 and four pairs from EMAT 4500. The cognitive interviews will be analyzed and disseminated at national and regional meetings. Dr. Beckmann, who teaches in the middle grades program, will incorporate findings into her revised book, Mathematics for Elementary Teachers.  In addition, the project will be used as a pilot for a National Science Foundation REESE proposal.

Cantarella, Jason

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics

Shonkwiler, Clay

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics

Providing Context for Calculus with Video Games and Data (Final Report)

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Traditional calculus instruction is effective at teaching students the “how” of calculus: the majority of our students emerge with a well-practiced computational skill set. Current calculus courses are much less effective in teaching students the “why” of the subject. The goal of this mini-grant is an increased understanding for undergraduates of the usefulness and the relevance of calculus and a corresponding increase in interest in enrolling for subsequent math and STEM coursework.  To achieve this, the PI and Co-PI will develop two open-ended demonstrations and accompanying student activities to add to the MATH 2260 integral calculus course. The first is based on video games, while the second uses an iPhone/iPod to gather acceleration and position information for a swinging pendulum. The integral calculus course at UGA is one of the largest courses in the math department.  Over the past five years, approximately 700 students per year have taken the course.  With the advent of the new engineering program, this number is expected to climb substantially.  In addition, this course is required for most STEM majors and many math education students also enroll. The most important dissemination mechanism for the grant will be internally in the mathematics department’s training program for graduate students learning to teach calculus. Training on these materials will be incorporated in the department’s training activities for the graduate assistants. The demonstrations will also be made into web videos for those interested in mathematics teaching, and presented at various conferences.

Dustman, Wendy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Microbiology

Orey, Michael

UGA, College of Education, Education Psychology and Instructional Technology

Changes in Attitude, Motivation and Learning Efficacy Resulting from Blended (Hybrid) Teaching in an Upper Division Science Undergraduate Course (Final Report)

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As enrollment at UGA increases, class sizes are expanding into the hundreds. There is a need to find alternative instructional solutions to provide smaller class sizes, yet minimize the economic impact of hiring additional teaching faculty. Implementation of a hybrid instructional method for teaching large classes may allow UGA to provide courses that are student-centered and promote higher order thinking skills. This study of data collected in MIBO3500 will allow the grant recipients to determine whether a change in the mode of instruction improves the student performance in the class, particularly on questions which require critical thinking and problem solving skills.  The study will also assess changes to student motivation to learn science and learning in general.  Student performance data from Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 on pre-test and post-test questions and other data were collected for analysis. Ultimately, the goal is to develop an instructional delivery method for large courses which provides the benefits of small class size without compromising quality of instruction or student learning. The grant will be disseminated in appropriate journals and presented at conferences associated with microbiology/science education.

Grundstein, Andrew

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Geography

Porinchu, David

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Geography

Vercoe, Richard

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Geography

Akers, Pete

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Geography

Das, Ujjaini

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Geography

The Development of "Inquiry-Based" Exercises on Local Physical Geographic Processes and Landforms for Geography 1111L: An Introduction to Physical Geography Laboratory Sections (Final Report)

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Geography 1111 (An Introduction to Physical Geography) lecture section, along with the lab component 1111 L, satisfies the Area II requirement for a four-hour physical science course with laboratory. The development of more engaging exercises could make a very positive impact upon the 300-400 students who routinely enroll in Geography 1111L. Most of these students are non-majors and may never take another science course. In this mini-grant, three new field-based exercises on river systems and land forms, soil processes and ecosystem dynamics will be developed. The new labs are designed to engage students as scientists, with a focus on scientific reasoning and application of factual knowledge. The development of more engaging exercises could make a very positive impact on 300-400 students enrolled yearly in GEOG 1111L. Assessment strategies will be both qualitative and quantitative, with control sections taught in the conventional manner and experimental section with the new exercises.  The success of the exercises will be based on comparison of quiz scores between classes, as well as written responses in end-of-year evaluations.  Interviews will be conducted with the lab instructors, as well.

Kong, Fanbin

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

Shewfelt, Robert

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

Improving the "Heat Transfer" Educational Video Game for Enhanced Learning Outcomes (Final Report)

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This project is a continuation of a 2011-12 mini-grant to develop a “Heat Transfer” educational video game. Education video games have been shown potential to stimulate learning. By playing a video game, students can develop their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Heat transfer is a fundamental subject in many engineering curricula. This grant proposes to develop a complete “Heat Transfer” video game by enriching the current version of the game with new lessons, levels and puzzles to cover the three basic modes of heat transfer and to develop a mobile video game to work on devices using the Android operating system. The current version of the game has been tested in a food engineering class, FDST 4060/6060. Positive feedback received shows high potential for the game to be used as a part of normal classwork or as extracurricular supplemental materials.  The game has attracted attention from other STEM departments at UGA as well as at Mississippi State University.  The results will be presented at the 2013 Institute for Food Technologists and there are plans to publish a paper in the Journal of Food Science Education.

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)

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Dr. Mao plans to continue the 2011-12 grant on the development of his lab-on-a-chip modules. Lab-on-a-chip is an exciting new engineering field that is revolutionizing the design of chemical and biological measurement systems. It is enabling the system integration of biological and chemical labs much as semiconductor micro fabrication previously enabled system integration of electronics. In this proposal, lab manuals of the teaching module will be integrated into a course with simple, hands-on experiments for undergraduates. The goal of the project is to develop micro-scale fluid dynamics (lab-on-a-chip) technology to help undergraduate students at UGA from a variety of backgrounds to understand the properties of transport by diffusion at the cellular and subcellular scales.  Undergraduates will be identified to test-drive the teaching module and provide feedback. Assessment will be based on student evaluations to improve the module. This grant will collaborate with UGA’s Young Dawgs Program to host high school students’ research experiences. The course manuals created will be disseminated to other universities and high schools.

Salguero, Tina

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

Outreach-Focused Course Component for UGA Chemistry Undergraduates (Final Report)

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For some time, the traditional lecture-style course format has been challenged as an ineffective way to educate students, particularly those in the STEM fields who must develop significant problem solving skills.  Dr. Salguero’s project focuses on developing an innovative outreach-based class activity in a recently revamped course, CHEM 4400. The goals of the project are to 1) improve learning and confidence by having students apply their chemistry knowledge to a real situation, 2) develop the professional skills of students, especially with respect to oral communication and scientific citizenship, and 3) provide a tested example of how faculty can implement active instruction in an improved course for chemistry majors.  In the new CHEM 4400 class project, teams of 2-3 students will work together to develop a 10 minute chemistry demonstration, including both an experimental part and an accompanying technical explanation. During the last few weeks of the semester, each team will “perform” their demonstration in one of the large general chemistry sections. The impact of this project will be measured through videotaped chemistry demonstrations viewed by the whole class, students will be asked to write a short reflective essay on the final exam, and anonymous feedback will be collected from the departmental course evaluation. The demonstrations will be made available on YouTube, and results will be presented at a STEM education conference, and published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Tippins, Deborah

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Shen, Ji

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

An Analysis of Pre-service Science Teachers' Interdisciplinary Understandings of Design Technology in Physics: The Case of Newton'sThird Law and Linguine (Final Report)

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There is an urgent need to understand more fully how students can build interdisciplinary understandings in the context of engineering curricula, instruction and assessments. There are four central goals to this project. The first is to investigate pre-service teachers’ understanding of teaching, learning and design technology through case-based pedagogy. The second is to investigate the understanding through authentic problem-solving tasks. The third is to use the IT3 framework (Shen, Sung, & Rogers, 2012) in analyzing students’ application of interdisciplinary knowledge to design technology cases and authentic tasks. The final goal is to assess the efficacy of the IT3 framework as both a formative and summative assessment tool in the design technology context. The first phase of the mini grant will use cases to explicate and clarify knowledge of teaching and learning in the context of physics-based design technology problems. In the second phase, the research team will read through individual case reactions and analyze the transcripts of the focus group discussions generated around the two cases using the IT3 framework.  Preliminary findings will be shared with Georgia educators through presentations at the spring 2013 STEM conference, the National Association for Research in Science Teaching conference, and the National Science Teachers Association conference.

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 for Pre-service Science Teachers: Phase II (Final Report)

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This mini grant is a continuation of a grant begun in 2011-12.  In STEM disciplines, students need to organize knowledge efficiently and effectively both within and across disciplines. Unfortunately, extensive research has suggested that many students only develop isolated understandings when learning STEM topics. In the original grant, a technology-enhanced transformative knowledge system was developed and implemented to help students better organize and integrate knowledge. In Phase I the system was used by approximately 50 preservice science teachers.  The pilot tests have shown promise in enhancing students’ knowledge organization strategies. The goal of Phase II is to further develop and refine the platform functionality, research its impact on student learning and increase participation with a broader spectrum of participants. The project will directly impact 50 to 80 preservice science teachers every year in the science education program at UGA. The findings will be presented at local and national conferences, publicized on social media, and submitted to peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Journal of Science Education and Technology).

White, Dorothy

UGA, College of Education, Mathematics and Science Education

Smith, Bettye

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

Expanding a Cultural Awareness Unit for Pre-service Mathematics Teachers (Final Report)

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As American public school populations become increasingly diverse, teachers need to work effectively with all students, especially in math where the achievement gaps between students of various cultures persist. The literature on preparing preservice teachers to teach culturally diverse students highlights the need for them to critically reflect and discuss issues of diversity.  White and colleagues (in press) developed the construct “multicultural mathematics dispositions” to enable preservice teachers to see math as a cultural activity and their role as a mediator between students’ culture and mathematical understanding.  The goals for this project are to revise, implement and research a cultural awareness unit in a mathematics methods course to support secondary pre-service teachers’ development of “multicultural mathematics dispositions.” The unit consists of three components: article search and critique, class discussions and post-discussion reflection.  The unit will be implemented in EMAT 3450, a course for secondary mathematics preservice teachers taught by Dr. White at Clarke Middle School as part of the UGA/Clarke County School District Professional Development Partnership. Pre/post tests will be administered, and course artifacts and audiotaped class discussions will be collected for analysis to inform revisions to the unit.  The results of the study will be shared at two conferences, the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Professional Development School. Additionally, manuscripts will be submitted to the Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education and School-University Partnerships.