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REU 2019 Project Descriptions Coming Soon!

REU 2019 Project Descriptions

CiDER faculty at North Dakota State University engage in discipline-based education research at the undergraduate level in biology, chemistry, computer science, math, and physics. These faculty have compiled brief REU project descriptions that include studying instructional innovations, conceptual reasoning, and student approaches to learning. Each REU student will work closely with associated project mentor(s), taking ownership of a portion of the research. As part of your application and to help ensure a good research experience this summer, we ask you to identify your top 3 project choices.

Project descriptions

STUDENT REASONING

Project 1. Studying study strategies
Faculty mentor: Jenni Momsen
Graduate student mentor: Tara Slominski

How do you study? Do you cram? Or space out your studying? Do you study differently for different courses? Do you change your study approaches after an exam? We are exploring these questions – and more – at NDSU and your REU project will help us understand how students approach studying and the results may impact instruction. We are interested in how students approach studying in two courses, Introductory Biology and Human Anatomy and Physiology. Through this project, we hope to discover whether students’ study approaches change over a semester, if there is a relationship between study strategies and course performance, where students learn study strategies, and more generally, what strategies students already use in these courses.

Students working on this project will code and analyze data from biology courses to answer questions about study strategies. Through this research experience, you will:

-Develop a deep understanding of evidence-based learning strategies
-Learn qualitative and quantitative research techniques including: (1) analysis of survey data, (2) categorization of student written responses, and (3) basic statistics to determine significance
-Develop new research questions for further exploration
-Synthesize research findings in the form of a scientific poster presented at the end of the program

Project 2: Tough decisions: WWSD (What Would Students Do?)
Faculty co-mentors: Kimberly Booth, Jennifer Momsen

Students encounter socio-scientific issues on a consistent basis. Should I seek antibiotics for my cold? Do I really need to get the flu shot? The ability to make evidence-based decisions about socio-scientific issues is a crucial skill that instructors emphasize, yet little research has been done on what reasoning students actually use to make decisions. This research question is especially critical for non-science students as they comprise the majority of the voting population.

Our research goal is to characterize student reasoning used to inform decisions on important socio-scientific issues by collecting student written responses from an undergraduate non-majors biology course. Do students use evidence-based reasoning from concepts learned in biology, or perhaps other aspects of their lives such as religious or political ideologies? By determining what information students use when making decisions, we hope to provide targeted instruction that emphasizes the importance of making evidence-based decisions.

After completion of this project, the REU students will be able to:
-Analyze, categorize, and quantify students’ written responses
-Complete basic statistics to determine statistical significance
-Make scientific claims based on the analyzed data
-Synthesize and present a scientific poster
-Develop new scientific questions for further research

Project 3. Vector addition & subtraction: Consistency of student responses in different representations
Faculty mentor: John Buncher

Vectors, objects having both a size and a direction, are extremely useful in modeling the physical world. They can describe things such as the velocity of the wind, the direction to go down a hill the fastest, or the forces acting on an object. A key goal of an introductory physics class is for students to be able to visualize the manipulation and combination vectors in different formats, but this is often surprisingly difficult for students to master. In an effort to understand some of the difficulties students have with vectors, we asked students to add and subtract two vectors in a variety of problems to see how they performed.

As a part of this project, you will be looking for patterns in how students answered the various questions. Do students always answer similar types of questions correctly? Incorrectly? Do they always make the same type of mistake on similar questions, or do they make different kinds of mistakes? By examining students’ spoken, written, and multiple-choice responses, we can gain insight into why certain aspects of vector addition are difficult, and why some interventions meant to assist students are ineffective.

In the course of the research experience, participants will:
-Synthesize literature on student understanding and performance on vectors,
-Learn quantitative methods, such as network analysis, to quantify the connections between student answers,
-Learn qualitative methods, such as coding written responses and/or interview data
-Present their research progress in lab group meetings
-Present their research progress as part of an oral presentation to their fellow REU participants and other faculty mentors, and,
-Synthesize research findings in the form of a scientific poster to be presented at the conclusion of the program.

Project 4. Cognitive psychology, machine learning and computer science
Faculty Mentor: Gursimran Walia
Graduate Student Mentor: Maninder Singh

We are investigating the ways human cognition theories can impact the development of Computer or Software systems. Students will leverage cognitive theories from Psychology and work on toolkits (e.g., Natural Language Processing toolkit) to develop and analyze Machine Learning algorithms and gain insights into the intelligent software systems. Students working in lab will help to design, create, and conduct controlled experiments to collect data and validate technological prototypes.

Project 5. Grab your digital pickaxe, we’re mining Big Data
Faculty Mentors: Warren Christensen, John Buncher

The most common and efficient assessment measure for University-level, large-enrollment introductory STEM courses is the multiple-choice Conceptual Survey. The Force Concept Inventory is the most widely known of these surveys and has been utilized thousands of times over to assess student conceptual learning in introductory mechanics-based physics courses. Collection and analysis of these data across a wide diversity of school and students has recently been made possible through the Learning About STEM Student Outcomes (LASSO) initiative. LASSO has collected an incredible data corpus that is ripe for query and investigation. Inquiries can be made on numerous scales, on the question level, on the student level or on the institution level. Students will utilize and develop a broad set of quantitative analysis and statistical skills.

The researcher on this project will be able to:
-Develop and execute queries for a database of student responses
-Become familiar with statistical test and models for large data 
-Work with a faculty mentor, and independently
-Develop familiarity with common multiple-choice Conceptual Surveys

IMPLEMENTATION

Project 6. “When are we ever going to use this?” Blending service learning and science
Faculty mentors: Danielle Condry and Kathryn Wissman

Sometimes what we do or learn in the classroom seems far removed from what happens in the “real world”. This disconnect can make a subject boring or decrease a student’s motivation. One method often used in social science courses is to incorporate “service learning” projects into the classroom. These projects get students out in the community, learning and helping others at the same time! Evidence has shown service learning has impacts on student learning outcomes, personal growth, and even career development. But how would that look in a class like microbiology or psychology?

This project focuses on (1) creating service learning modules for science courses and (2) using and developing ways to assess the impact of those learning modules. Example research questions: Does service learning impact the satisfaction of major choice in undergraduate students? Does service learning impact student success in the classroom? How is career choice impacted by service learning projects? Does class size alter impact of service learning courses?

Students working on this project will:
-Become familiar with literature related to service learning and its impacts
-Create/modify service learning modules for science courses
-Find or develop methods of assessment of impact of those learning modules
-Have the opportunity to code and analyze student responses from preliminary data collection
-Create new research questions for future study
-Communicate progress to other teaching faculty and/or researchers
-Synthesize research findings in the form of a scientific poster presented at the end of the program

Project 7. To flip or not to flip? Using a meta-analysis to assess the effectiveness of flipped learning in chemistry
Faculty mentor: Alexey Leontyev

Watching video lectures at home? Doing homework in class? Welcome to flipped learning, a new instructional approach, where students first learn new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then use class time to practice and deepen their knowledge through problem-solving or group activities. Flipped learning has recently come to the forefront of education, and multiple research studies address the effectiveness of flipped learning on students’ success in chemistry classes. But when different researchers approach the subject, they would come up with all sorts of ways to do it. Also, the classes they study are different. And instructors come up with a million different ways to flip their classes. In this project, we will investigate how these decisions affect the students’ success in a class. We will use a meta-analysis, which is a statistical procedure that helps to summarize and interpret the results of multiple studies.

Research questions
1) Does flipped learning improve students’ achievement and success rates in chemistry courses?
2) What factors affect the effectiveness of flipped chemistry classes?
3) Is there a publication bias with respect to the published studies that investigate the impact of flipped learning?

Students working on this project will be able to:
-Conduct a comprehensive search of the literature
-Extract statistically relevant information from published studies
-Conduct a meta-analysis using Comprehensive Meta Analysis software
-Interpret outcomes of a meta-analysis
-Communicate progress to other teaching faculty and/or researchers
-Synthesize research findings in the form of a scientific poster presented at the end of the program

Project 8. How green is your curriculum? Content analysis of green chemistry concepts in organic chemistry textbooks and laboratory manuals
Faculty mentor: Alexey Leontyev

Green chemistry and sustainability have become increasingly important topics for chemistry education. In recent years, multiple initiatives have sought to increase emphasis on green chemistry in the undergraduate curriculum. However, the efforts to develop lesson plans or textbook examples to integrate green chemistry material in organic chemistry courses are fragmented and unstructured. However, textbooks and instructional materials play a significant role in curriculum design which guides and supports teaching and learning. Thus, the availability of curriculum materials affects to what extent green chemistry concepts are implemented into current teaching practices.

This exploratory study will inform the development of a survey to assess to what extent green chemistry is taught across the country. This project will also help organic chemistry instructors make an informed decision about adoptions of curriculum materials as well as identify gaps in for the development of curriculum materials. In this project, an undergraduate student will conduct a content analysis of the most used organic chemistry textbooks and a set of laboratory manuals to evaluate the amount of material devoted to green chemistry topics, its complexity, and its role in narratives and assessment.

Research question: Which green chemistry concepts are included in organic chemistry textbooks and laboratory manuals?

Students working on this project will be able to
-Identify green chemistry concepts in instructional materials
-Conduct content analysis of instructional materials (textbooks, lab manuals)
-Communicate progress to other teaching faculty and/or researchers
-Synthesize research findings in the form of a scientific poster presented at the end of the program

Project 9. Charting change in undergraduate instruction
Faculty mentor: Lisa Montplaisir
Graduate student mentor: Becky Reichenbach

Change, as they say, is hard. We know that undergraduate instruction must change if we are to meet the ever-evolving needs of our students, and yet university classrooms nationwide are still dominated by traditional lecture. A large, and growing, group of STEM faculty at NDSU are participating in a reform project seeking to change this profile. What happens during as faculty change and transition away from lectures? What changes do faculty make within a course? How much change is needed? We have a rich set of course artifacts to explore, including syllabi, exams, projects, and formative assessments. Our data set includes instructor samples from four different colleges: Agriculture, Food Systems, & Natural Resources; Engineering; Health Professions; and Science & Math.

Student researchers on this project will be able to:
-Choose which type of course artifacts they want to examine,
-Develop and implement coding schemes,
-Analyze and summarize qualitative data,
-Synthesize data and present a scientific poster, and
-Develop new questions for future research

Project 10. What’s the point? Investigations on Non-Cartesian coordinate systems in mathematics and physics
Faculty Mentor: Warren Christensen
Grad Mentor: Brian Farlow

Students in upper-division physics courses are required to use numerous mathematical techniques that are presumably taught in their mathematics courses. This is incredibly difficult for many students. Our investigation seeks to understand how students in upper-division physics courses think about non-Cartesian coordinate systems. Some of our recent work has shown that Calculus textbooks feature very few problems with Cartesian coordinates, yet many physics courses require students to use them successfully to solve problems. This study will feature two tracks: 1) An analysis of results from free-response questions given to Calculus III students will uncover students’ thinking after instruction in the math course where Non-Cartesian coordinates are taught, and 2) An analysis of upper-division physics textbooks to ascertain the extent to which and the context within that Non-Cartesian questions are used in the physics courses.

The researcher on this project will be able to:
-Analyze student written responses and develop codes for common answers
-Work with a faculty and graduate student mentor
-Analyze questions in textbooks and build on previous research
-Become familiar with research and literature across disciplinary lines


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Last Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2018 3:12:40 PM
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