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Research Questions

Unit Image
Students collaborating together during class lecture. Utilizing whiteboards and their computers to create a timeline.
Photo Credit:
John McEvoy

Use of Concept Inventory and Associated Assessments to Improve Undergraduate Curriculum

Recently, our department started using a concept inventory (CI) to assess the content progress students were making during their time here. The CI utilized is a nationally recognized and validated instrument aligned with the American Society of Microbiology Undergraduate Curriculum Goals and Objectives. Although we can easily extract the numerical performance of this inventory, the misconceptions that are common to our students are unknown to us. This project would entail the creation of a coding system for each question and analysis of the answers given by our students. Further research may be done on the CI itself and lead to publications in conjunction with the original authors. An example of further research: is there gender bias evident in the performance of the students on specific questions.



Community Engaged Learning in STEM

Evidence has shown community-engaged learning (CEL) has impacts on student learning outcomes, personal growth, and career development. But how would that look in a STEM class like microbiology?

This project focuses on (1) perceptions of CEL (2) Optimizing the implementation of CEL (3) using and developing ways to assess the impact of those learning modules (4) creating CEL opportunities in science courses. Example research questions: Does CEL impact the satisfaction of major choice in undergraduate students? Does CEL impact student success in the classroom? How is career choice impacted by CEL projects? Does class size alter the impact of service-learning courses? What are students' initial perspectives of CEL projects?

Using PAR (Participatory Action Research) to make research more equitable.

Traditional research strategies in education and other fields have used the scientific method to do research "on" populations. This is a colonialist view of the researcher in a position of power and omnipresent over what occurs in the population and the research on that population, the deficit model. This one-sided view and interpretation of research data can create an incomplete understanding of the research question and the population. The one-sided view has led to misuse of data and a lack of positive change for the population of inquiry. PAR is a research strategy that shifts the scientific method into a position where the researcher builds relationships with a population in order to facilitate the development of research questions with the population, ideally having individuals from the community involved in the scientific method exploring those research questions. Involving the population and individuals from that population have many benefits of understanding perspectives, connection, and trust with the community, and being better able to advocate for equity and change using the data collected.

Development of Equitable Grading Strategies in Large Enrollment Courses

What happens in the classroom has continued to evolve with education research over the past 50 years. But what about grade systems? Why are we still using antiquated scales, points, and letters that stress out students and don’t capture the struggle and true learning that happens throughout the semester? Is there some other way we could measure achievement in our classrooms? Something that benefits students in the process. Is less stressful. Is meaningful. Develops with the students. Yet, is also achievable in our giant college classrooms with sometimes hundreds of students. Standards based grading occurs in the elementary level, and has been implemented at the college level in many smaller enrollment courses, can we take lessons learned from those environments to make it work in our large enrollment classes? What does that look like? How does learning change? How do students change? This project seeks to combine PAR research and engage the students these grading systems have shackled for too long to offer hope for change.

Developing Project- Using teaching methods for science communication to increase public science literacy

More information to come as this project develops with the student leading.

Developing Project- Efficacy of cross-institutional mentoring programs to increase STEM student researchers retention and success.

More information to come as this project develops with the student leading.