UMBC Science Education Research Unit (SERU)

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Mission Statement: To innovate the field of STEM education through engaging in and/or supporting faculty, staff, and students in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and STEM student success initiatives.

Vision Statement: To be a leader in innovative STEM pedagogical research and student success initiatives that address current challenges within STEM education.

Specific Aims of SERU:

-To support, coordinate, and/or implement research projects that investigate strategies and best practices to improve STEM pedagogy and/or STEM student success -To disseminate scholarly work in academic journals, at local and national conferences or workshops, and other educational resources (open educational resources, STEM education databases, etc.)


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
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    Introduction to Research: A Scalable, Online Badge Implemented in Conjunction with a Classroom-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) that Promotes Students Matriculation into Mentored Undergraduate Research
    (Understanding Interventions, 2020-05-14) Ott, Laura E.; LaCourse, William R.; Maton, Kenneth I.; Kowalewski, Caitlin; Stolle-McAllister, Kathleen; Godsay, Surbi
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    Supporting Deaf Students in Undergraduate Research Experiences: Perspectives of American Sign Language Interpreters
    (American Society for Microbiology, 2019-09-29) Ott, Laura E.; Hodges, Linda C.; LaCourse, William R.
    Deaf undergraduates are eager to engage in research but often feel marginalized due to lack of appropriate accommodations to allow for effective communication within heterogeneous research teams consisting of hearing peers and/or mentors. In this case study, we interviewed four American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters who provided full-time accommodations to teams consisting of one deaf student and two hearing peers during a six-week internship. We queried the interpreters on their role and experiences in supporting the research teams. Our findings indicate that the interpreters can be a valuable asset to heterogeneous teams by supporting both deaf and hearing individuals and advocating for the deaf student. That said, interpreters also had to overcome challenges unique to interpreting in the research environment, such as deciding when and how to interpret. The insights provided by the interpreters interviewed here are valuable as undergraduate research programs evaluate how to provide appropriate accommodations to deaf students engaged in research. In addition, they also highlight the need for research experience coordinators and mentors to consider supporting diverse teams in developing effective communication strategies and applying universal design for learning to the research environment.
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    Using Clickers for Deliberate Practice in Five Large Science Courses
    (NSTA, 2017-11-01) Hodges, Linda C.; Anderson, Eric C.; Carpenter, Tara S.; Cui, Lili; Feeser, Elizabeth A.; Gierasch, Tiffany Malinky
    Clickers are often used as an active learning tool in face-to-face classes to enhance student engagement and assess student learning. In this article we share the variety of ways that we use clicker questions to promote deliberate practice in large science courses. Deliberate practice is the use of specifically structured exercises that develop the skills and habits of mind essential to improve performance. We use clickers across five different courses in biology, chemistry, and physics at a midsize public research university to develop students' abilities in scientific reasoning and problem solving. We gathered students' views of our practices using the Classroom Response System Perceptions (CRiSP) Questionnaire. Even given the differences in our approaches, the majority of the 1,614 students who responded reported that our clicker questions enhanced their motivation, attention, engagement, and participation in class. Students recognized that we used clickers to provide practice and feedback, addressing their learning needs in real time. Students were less positive about clicker questions making class more enjoyable, and a third of students reported answering without really understanding. These responses may reflect that clickers require students to test themselves before the exam - a critical, though sometimes discomfiting, step to learning.
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    Using Reading Quizzes in STEM Classes—The What, Why, and How
    (National Science Teachers Association, 2015) Hodges, Linda C.; Anderson, Eric C.; Carpenter, Tara S.; Cui, Lili; Gierasch, Tiffany Malinky; Leupen, Sarah; Nanes, Kalman M.; Wagner, Cynthia R.
    Many active learning pedagogies depend on students' preparing for class in advance. One common method for holding students accountable for this preparation is the use of reading quizzes. When used thoughtfully, reading quizzes can also actually promote student learning through the testing effect. In this article we describe why and how we use reading quizzes in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics courses. We point out the advantages and disadvantages of various delivery methods, such as in class or online, on paper or via clickers, and individual or team based. Our examples highlight the role of these quizzes in promoting student preparedness and in providing feedback to both students and instructors about student learning. Drawing on the literature and our experience, we answer questions that instructors may have about how to use these quizzes to help them achieve their goals for student learning.y
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    Students’ Understanding and Perceptions of Assigned Team Roles in a Classroom Laboratory Environment
    (NSTA, 2018-03-01) Ott, Laura E.; Kephart, Kerrie; Stolle-McAllister, Kathleen; R. LaCourse, William
    Using a cooperative learning framework in a quantitative reasoning laboratory course, students were assigned to static teams of four in which they adopted roles that rotated regularly. The roles included: team leader, protocol manager, data recorder, and researcher. Using a mixed-methods approach, the authors investigated students’ perceptions of the team roles and specifically addressed students’ understanding of the roles, students’ beliefs in their ability to enact the roles, and whether working with assigned team roles supported the teams to work effectively and cohesively.
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    Development and Assessment of Modules to Integrate Quantitative Skills in Introductory Biology Courses
    (The American Society for Cell Biology, 2017-10-13) Hoffman, Kathleen; Leupen, Sarah; Dowell, Kathy; Kephart, Kerrie; Leips, Jeff
    Redesigning undergraduate biology courses to integrate quantitative reasoning and skill development is critical to prepare students for careers in modern medicine and scientific research. In this paper, we report on the development, implementation, and assessment of stand-alone modules that integrate quantitative reasoning into introductory biology courses. Modules are designed to improve skills in quantitative numeracy, interpreting data sets using visual tools, and making inferences about biological phenomena using mathematical/statistical models. We also examine demographic/background data that predict student improvement in these skills through exposure to these modules. We carried out pre/postassessment tests across four semesters and used student interviews in one semester to examine how students at different levels approached quantitative problems. We found that students improved in all skills in most semesters, although there was variation in the degree of improvement among skills from semester to semester. One demographic variable, transfer status, stood out as a major predictor of the degree to which students improved (transfer students achieved much lower gains every semester, despite the fact that pretest scores in each focus area were similar between transfer and nontransfer students). We propose that increased exposure to quantitative skill development in biology courses is effective at building competency in quantitative reasoning.
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    Unique Down to Our Microbes—Assessment of an Inquiry-Based Metagenomics Activity
    (American Society for Microbiology, 2017-06) Lentz, Thomas B.; Ott, Laura E.; Robertson, Sabrina D.; Windsor, Sarah C.; Kelley, Joshua B.; Wollenberg, Michael S.; Dunn, Robert R.; Goller, Carlos C.
    Metagenomics is an important method for studying microbial life. However, undergraduate exposure to metagenomics is hindered by associated software, computing demands, and dataset access. In this inquiry-based activity designed for introductory life science majors and nonmajors, students perform an investigation of the bacterial communities inhabiting the human belly button and associated metagenomics data collected through a citizen science project and visualized using an open-access bioinformatics tool. The activity is designed for attainment of the following student learning outcomes: defining terms associated with metagenomics analyses, describing the biological impact of the microbiota on human health, formulating a hypothesis, analyzing and interpreting metagenomics data to compare microbiota, evaluating a specific hypothesis, and synthesizing a conceptual model as to why bacterial populations vary. This activity was implemented in six introductory biology and biotechnology courses across five institutions. Attainment of student learning outcomes was assessed through completion of a quiz and students’ presentations of their findings. In presentations, students demonstrated their ability to develop novel hypotheses and analyze and interpret metagenomic data to evaluate their hypothesis. In quizzes, students demonstrated their ability to define key terms and describe the biological impact of the microbiota on human health. Student learning gains assessment also revealed that students perceived gains for all student learning outcomes. Collectively, our assessment demonstrates achievement of the learning outcomes and supports the utility of this inquiry-based activity to engage undergraduates in the scientific process via analyses of metagenomics datasets and associated exploration of a microbial community that lives on the human body.
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    Interactive Computer Simulations as Pedagogical Tools in Biology Labs
    (The American Society for Cell Biology, 2018-08-24) Whitworth, Karen; Leupen, Sarah; Rakes, Christopher; Bustos, Mauricio
    Student learning in biology may be impaired by instructional environments that emphasize technical methodology over analysis. We hypothesized that time gained by experimenting with accurate computer simulations could be used to engage students in analytical, creative learning. The effects of treatments that combined a week of simulated lab instruction with a week of standard lab instruction in different order (E-to-S and S-to-E) were examined using a controlled experimental design with random assignment of lab sections and hierarchical linear modeling analysis to account for possible clustering within sections. Data from a large sample of students (N = 515) revealed a significant increase (1.59 SD) in posttest scores for both treatment groups over the control. We posit as a plausible explanation the reinforcement of psychomotor learning due to strong engagement of cognitive processes facilitated by the computer simulation. This study supports a wider use of computer simulations as learning tools in laboratory courses.
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    Discovery Learning: Development of a Unique Active Learning Environment for Introductory Chemistry
    (The Trustees of Indiana University, 2018-12-10) Ott, Laura E.; Carpenter, Tara S.; Hamilton, Diana S.; LaCourse, William R.
    It is well established that active learning results in greater gains in student conceptual knowledge and retention compared to traditional modes of learning. However, active learning can be very difficult to implement in a large-enrollment course due to various course and institutional barriers. Herein, we describe the development and implementation of Discovery Learning, a novel active learning discussion/recitation for a large enrollment general chemistry course. Drawing on the very successful cooperative learning pedagogies Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) and Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies (SCALE_UP), Discovery Learning involves students working in self-managed teams on inquiry problems in a unique learning environment, the Chemistry Discovery Center. In this case study, we will describe the design and implementation of Discovery Learning and report data on its successes, which include increased student performance and retention.