2015 STEM Institute

Active Participation at the Fourth Annual UGA STEM Institute on Teaching and Learning

Saturday, March 28, 2015

“We’re all in it together,” was the theme of the Fourth Annual UGA STEM Institute on Teaching and Learning, a conference dedicated to student success in STEM. The Institute on March 28, 2015 included speakers who identified as teachers, community leaders, and researchers.

The morning began with breakfast before Dr. Charles Kutal officially welcomed the participants. Sheila Jones provided an encouraging evaluation of UGA STEM Initiative projects. One goal of Complete College Georgia is to increase the number of STEM undergraduate degrees awarded by the University System of Georgia (USG). She said it’s about recruitment and retention, and she echoed the theme that “we’re all in it together.” See the presentation here.

Superintendent of Clarke County Schools Philip Lanoue enageged the audience with his personal experiences in education and asked “how do we take academic risks with kids?” Among the ideas and activities he shared was Experience UGA, a program that brings public school students to the University campus for educational field trips that inspire them. He insists flexibility determines success.

UGA Assistant Vice President for Facilities Planning Gwynne Darden and Project Architect Arzu Yilmaz educated participants about progress on UGA’s Science Learning Center, scheduled to finish in 2016. The building is modeled after the collaborative learning environment of UGA’s Miller Learning Center: it’s “not a bunch of offices.” See their presentation here.

Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation Lee Zia visited Athens for his presentation, “Partnering to Improve STEM Learning and Teaching.” He said that partners include students, faculty, departments, institutions, agencies, and societies. He said, “chase the idea, not the funding...for change, you must fund collaboration.”

Two breakout sessions occurred in the afternoon. You can read about the six presentations below this review.

The day concluded with a group think activity called “Catalyzing STEM Education” in which the participants brainstormed to answer two critical questions for STEM disciplines. In small groups, participants discussed what is important in partnerships, and three vital components of a potential 5-10 year STEM education goal.

STEM teaching and learning is not simple or easy to define; it includes students majoring in STEM disciplines, but also those at schools and institutions who are required to take any STEM course, like all undergraduates at the University of Georgia. Participants focused on the importance of partnering with helpful groups that move all goals forward, and on new methods to keep students engaged and active within STEM subjects. Active learning is the cornerstone of STEM success, and the Fourth Annual UGA STEM Institute on Teaching and Learning itself was a conference with active participation and engagement. We’re all in it together to improve STEM teaching and learning.

The Office of STEM Education would like to thank all speakers, employees, and participants for the Institute’s success, and encourage collaboration and communication post-conference to keep the needle moving forward on STEM success.


The following presentations occurred during the first breakout session:

Project FOCUS; a Partnership between the Clarke County School District and the University of Georgia 

Speaker:  Dr. David A. Knauft, Professor Emeritus, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, The University of Georgia

Project FOCUS is a 3-credit course at the University of Georgia where science majors, both undergraduate and graduate students, are partnered with K-8 teachers to collaborate in the teaching of science. Teachers have been able to teach a richer, hands-on science experience, K-8 students have benefited from additional opportunities for science learning, and university students have engaged in a practice of community engagement that continues after graduation. See the presentation here.

Improving Student Performance in Calculus

Speaker: Dr. Dabney Dixon, Professor of Chemistry and Coordinator of STEM Education Initiatives, Georgia State University 

Three years ago Georgia State began a program of extensive change and innovation to support students in Calculus I. The changes included adding Supplemental Instruction, weekly graded homework assignments, and careful advising of students. This session will provide information as to what worked and what didn’t as well as offer suggestions for improving retention in math courses. See the presentation here.

Instructional Feedback: Is it Making the Grade?

Speaker: Dr. Peggy Brickman, Professor, Department of Plant Biology and Division of Biological Sciences, Franklin College, The University of Georgia

A national survey of college biology faculty reveals an overwhelming dissatisfaction with end-of-semester student evaluations (particularly for instructors teaching large courses). Faculty from research-intensive campuses have much lower access to peer evaluations, and responses to open-ended questions uncovered a large unmet desire for greater guidance and student assessment data to provide better instructional feedback. See the presentation here.


The following presentations occurred during the second breakout session:

Physical Activity and Learning: Moving Children in the Right Direction

Speakers: Dr. Phillip Tomporowski, Professor, and Bryan McCullick, Professor and Coordinator of HPE Teacher Education Program, Department of Kinesiology; Paula Schwanenflugel, Professor, and Marty Carr, Professor, Department of Educational Psychology; Jennifer Gay, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior;  
The University of Georgia

The Physical Activity and Learning intervention is a multidisciplinary after-school program for elementary-school children attending two schools in the Clarke County School District. University faculty have designed a program that integrates physical activity games with mathematics, and reading. We address the unique role that physical activity plays in ecological models of education and health. Funding from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. See the presentation here.


Transitioning Face-To-Face (F2F) Inquiry Biology Laboratory Modules to Fully Online Platforms

Speaker: Dr. Kristen Miller, Academic Professional Associate, Department of Biological Sciences, and Courtney Holt, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Entomology, Franklin College; The University of Georgia

In this presentation we will describe our efforts to transition an introductory biology laboratory course for non-science majors to a fully online platform. Successes and challenges of how to offer inquiry teaching and learning in an online environment will be shared. Preliminary data analysis of a research study comparing online versus face-to-face (F2F) students' likelihood of enrollment in and expectations/anticipated experiences of an online biology course will also be shared. See the presentation here.


Teaching Excellence at UGA: Engagement Opportunities with the Center for Teaching and Learning

Speaker:  Dr. Denise Domizi, Coordinator of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Center for Teaching and Learning, The University of Georgia

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at UGA provides campus-wide leadership on matters relating to instruction. In this session, we will share the many opportunities—such as learning communities, workshops, graduate courses, and fellows programs—that the CTL has available to faculty, postdocs, and graduate students to invigorate their teaching and to engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning. See the presentation online here.