Breakout Sessions for Friday, April 13, 2018

Peter Mahaffy, The King's University

Peter Mahaffy, The King's University, and James Walsh, Oberlin College

Contextualizing STEM education with climate science literacy

Climate change has been identified as one of only two core planetary boundaries which has the potential on its own to drive the earth system into a new state, should the boundary be substantially and persistently exceeded. Yet, for a variety of reasons, including the complexity of climate change, STEM educators find it difficult to address in discipline-based classrooms. Climate change represents a classic complex system. “The spatial scale is global; the time scale dwarfs normal human concerns; and the dynamics of the climate are exquisitely complex and imperfectly understood.” (Sterman and Sweeney, 2002) Yet aspects of climate science can readily be understood with application of basic concepts in mathematics, chemistry, and physics.

In this hands-on workshop, participants will explore a set of interactive learning resources and models dealing with the science of climate change. Approaches to infuse climate science literacy through core STEM content will be discussed.

Matthew Graham, Northeastern Illinois University

Matthew Graham, Northeastern Illinois University, and Ross Sweet, Simpson College

Crafting Out-of-Class Engagement

After outlining the structures, thought processes, and lessons that we have learned modifying an “Introduction to Proofs” course that has been taught ten times across three universities and colleges, we will help audience members craft out-of-class engagement that maximizes quality formative assessment for a course of their choosing.

We view our "Introduction to Proofs" course as a communications course where students are expected to gain proficiency with formal and informal communication, both verbally and in written form. We initially flipped the course to allow lots of time for students to interact and fight with problems from the daily worksheet in-class. We found that students did gain proficiency in transmitting ideas verbally. We also discovered that these gains did not usually translate to gains in formal written communication.

To help our students develop proficiency in formal writing, we independently used Piazza and PAR (Peer Assisted Reflection) to give meaningful formative assessment. We will discuss the challenges and successes in designing a formative feedback system using Piazza that worked for this course. Additionally, we will discuss successes using PAR in this course. These systems give a method to craft out-of-class engagement that maximizes formative assessment and can easily accommodate writing assignments.

Elisabet Head, Northeastern Illinois University

Elisabet Head, Joseph Hibdon, Jr., Paulo Acioli, and Scott Mayle, Northeastern Illinois University

Incorporating Student Research into the Introductory STEM Curriculum

The PEERS (Peer Enhanced Experiential Research in STEM) breakout session will provide STEM faculty with guidance for incorporating hands-on research and computational activities into introductory STEM curricula. This session will mimic the successful implementation of these activities at Northeastern Illinois University. Participants will develop initial ideas for small research and/or computational activities that can be integrated into their introductory courses. By the end of this session, the participants will have created outlines for research activities that they can implement in their particular disciplines.

Scott Kreher, Dominican University

Scott Kreher and Ellen McManus, Dominican University

Evolution and Sustainability as Contexts for Integrative Learning

We know that students need interdisciplinary knowledge and integrative skills in order to understand and solve complex problems in an increasingly interconnected world. We also know that students must be given robust opportunities to develop integrative, problem-solving skills. But within the structures of most of our institutions, these opportunities are not easy to create, especially across the disciplines. Assessing the success of interdisciplinary, integrative learning is even more challenging.

Evolution and sustainability, especially when studied together, are inherently interdisciplinary, integrative, and well suited to complex inquiry-based learning.

This session will do three interconnected things:

  • Describe a junior-level seminar in which students explore evolutionary thinking across the disciplines, through reading, online discussion, laboratory activities, and hands-on problem-solving work with beekeeping and native landscaping.
  • Report the results of a pre- and post-test on knowledge about and attitudes toward evolution, which was administered to students over several semesters in which the teaching and learning conditions varied in salient ways.
  • Invite participants to imagine integrative courses in their own areas of expertise and to think together about how integrative learning might be assessed in such courses.

Our goal is that participants will leave the session inspired to overcome institutional challenges to creating opportunities for integrative learning and equipped to confront hard questions about how to assess such learning. They will be given access to the pre- and post-survey and materials on how it was developed and how it has been used.

Scott Mayle, Northeastern Illinois University

Scott Mayle and Lauren Rabe, Northeastern Illinois University

Using Physics Modules to Incorporate Computational Thinking into Teacher Education in STEM

There is a drive in the United States to incorporate Computational Thinking (CT) methods into K-12 STEM education. At Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), we have embedded CT into the math and science curricula of the teacher education programs. This provides experience for pre-service teachers in applying CT skills such as quantitative thinking and problem solving. Funded by a National Science Foundation Computing in STEM (C-STEM) grant, a set of discipline-specific modules were developed targeting students in the Math, Science, and Technology for Quality Education (MSTQE) program, a middle-school teacher education program at NEIU. The physics modules used are intended to teach physics concepts while exposing them to principles of CT and using those principles to solve physics problems.

An interactive lesson will be presented using one of the modules designed for physics. This lesson is used to expose future teachers to computation thinking while introducing the concept of energy and its conservation. The simulation is run on the trinket platform that allows you to access both the simulation and the code for the simulation from a web browser. Since the lesson requires the use of a simulation, access to the internet and access to a tablet/netbook/computer would be needed (at least one per small group of 2-5 people).

Jennifer Slate, Northeastern Illinois University

Jennifer Slate, Northeastern Illinois University

Incorporating modeling and computer coding into science and math courses

Modeling is increasingly used to explore complex scientific systems, analyze large datasets, and test predictions. Students traditionally study established models, such as how genes encode proteins or how falling objects accelerate. However, they may not have the opportunity to build, modify, or test models. We thus developed a computer simulation that allows introductory biology students to model the spread of a mosquito-borne virus. People advance from susceptible to infected to recovered, and the proportion of the population in each stage is tracked over time. Students can vary total population size, the percentage of people initially infected, the infectious period, and chance of contact. Students also gain programming skills by modifying the computer code to add factors such as mosquito life span or an incubation period in which the virus cannot yet be transmitted.

Netbooks will be available for session attendees to interact with the model. In addition, we will explore other models freely available through the NetLogo website of potential use in a variety of science and math classes. The goal is to find an appropriate computer simulation and to gain ideas for helping students to build their own models or modify an existing model to address a particular scientific question.

Adam Spiegler, Loyola University Chicago

Adam Spiegler, Loyola University Chicago

Climate and Sustainability in Mathematics

A focus on climate change and sustainability underscores the importance of mathematics in predicting of the future. Statistics also cautions us on overreliance on such predictions by allowing us to visualize the uncertainty in such predictions.

In this workshop, we will discuss where issues of sustainability and climate change may be benefit courses in Calculus, Precalculus, Statistics, and College Algebra. Participants will engage with each other with materials from the Calculus Consortium books (Calculus, D. Hughes Hallett, A. Spiegler, et al) and with data gathered to promote student enquiry into climate issues (for example, from the Yukon, Nenana, and Tucson).

Emma Turian, Northeastern Illinois University

Emma Turian, Northeastern Illinois University

Initiating a Translational Bio-Mathematics Research Seminar for Undergraduate Students

The aim of this session is to introduce participants to as step-by-step process on how to develop and teach an interdisciplinary applied math course. The discussions will be based on my own experience gained during the development and teaching of a seminar called: Mathematical Modeling for Cancer Risk Assessment, implemented at NEIU. The need for the initiation of such an interdisciplinary course comes from an increasing national effort started by MAA's Curriculum Foundations Project: Voices of the Partner Disciplines. The objective of this effort has been to make undergraduate courses more pragmatically relevant, and keep pace with the ever changing picture of how mathematical sciences are used across other scientific fields. The seminar developed at NEIU was conceived as an opportunity for students to engage in scholastic activities, perform research, and present pertinent results for an interdisciplinary field that combines mathematics with biomedical disciplines, such as cancer morphology and therapy. The success of the seminar could be quantified by the number of posters presented at the International Conference on Risk Analysis (ICRA7), specifically the fact that two students enrolled in this seminar won first and second prize, respectively.

Building on my personal experience and feedback from my students, I will attempt to tailor this breakout session in a way that might allow the participants to use similar methodologies and strategies, and perhaps implement or improve existing educational activities on their own.

The format of the proposed session will be "Lecture with Interaction." As a presenter, I will provide handouts including a list of items that would become topics of discussion for each group(s) of participants, in the anticipation that they will answer those questions that they are familiar with. Next, I plan to present and explain the rationale of the Cancer seminar from NEIU, how it was designed and implemented as well as share the results, successes, pitfalls, and lessons learned from this experience. During the presentation, I plan to engage the audience in a collaborative dialog, which will give the participants the opportunity to ask questions and provide possible input on specific issues that were addressed regarding teaching a research course. Participants will be encouraged to group, discuss and answer/check-mark the items presented in the handouts. Achieving the objectives of the session could be assessed based on the feedback from participants regarding their willingness to implement a similar research seminar for their students, as well as their consensus on the tools and strategies needed for such a venture.

Mary Carrington, Governors State University

Mary Carrington, Tim Gsell, and John Yunger, Governors State University

Undergraduate Research as Part of a Biology Curriculum (exhibition session)

Approximately ten years ago, the Governors State University Biology Program began a concerted effort to incorporate undergraduate research into classwork by adding a two course sequence of undergraduate research (BIOL4990 Undergraduate Research I and BIOL4992 Undergraduate Research II), to be required for all Biology majors. The overall purpose of adding these two research courses into the core curriculum was to enable undergraduates to gain research experience and skills to successfully compete a research project independently or as a team member. Our specific course goals are for each student to understand the research process, to develop independent critical thinking skills, to develop skills in data analysis and interpretation of results, and to develop oral and written communication skills. Four Biology faculty members teach this course sequence. Each class is capped at ten students, who take the entire two course sequence together. During the first course, they read and discuss primary literature, and write and orally present a research proposal. Then during the second course, they collect and analyze data, write up their results, and orally present their results. Besides completing one’s own research project, each student is required to give feedback on other students’ draft research proposals and final papers. Student evaluation is based on presentations, class discussions, and written work.

We will present student outcomes (including evaluations of the courses), assessment tools used and results of assessments, potential problems and solutions, and various strategies for teaching the courses. We will ask participants to think about ways in which they might incorporate undergraduate research into curricula at their schools.

Funda Gul, Stevens Institute of Technology

Funda Gul, Stevens Institute of Technology and Castle Point Learning Systems

Gradarius: Changing Calculus Learning and Teaching (exhibition session)

At Stevens Institute of Technology, we do calculus differently. Students learn not only through lectures, but through team problem-solving sessions, self-study projects, and innovative teaching methods. Lectures feature live polling that allows students and professors alike to instantly assess how well key concepts are understood, and we deliver all of our content online (we no longer require a textbook).

We are also excited to have introduced Gradarius into our courses. Gradarius is a one-of-a-kind online learning platform developed at Stevens, and developed expressly for the purpose of helping students master calculus problems in an intuitive, step-by-step manner, by replacing written homework completely in our calculus sequence. Gradarius is the world’s first online learning platform to give college students step-by-step feedback on calculus problems. It was designed to allow students to enter all of their work one step at a time, like they would if they were solving problems on paper.

During the poster session, I will show the student and instructor sides of the platform and will allow the participants to solve calculus problems on their own to have real time experience.

Byoung Sug Kim, Roosevelt University

Byoung Sug Kim, Roosevelt University, and Eun Kyung Ko, National-Louis University

Explicit versus Implicit Teaching: Pre-service Elementary Teachers’ Peer Teaching Lessons on Science and Engineering Practices and Mathematical Practices (exhibition session)

When the effects of different types of instruction in science and mathematics skills are investigated, it is evident that the success of explicit instruction, compared to implicit instruction, is prevailing. As such, in helping students develop appropriate science and engineering practices outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards and mathematical practices from Common Core Standards, teachers need to have adequate pedagogical knowledge related to explicit teaching of those practices. To the best of our knowledge, however, we know little about how preservice teachers design and implement science and mathematics instruction in science and engineering practices and mathematical practices. We examined preservice elementary teachers’ approaches to teaching those practices from their peer teaching lessons during science and mathematics teaching methods courses. They implemented two peer teaching lessons in the courses over the semester. The data were collected from three science and mathematics teaching methods courses, respectively. The analysis of peer teaching lessons, lesson plans, and reflective journals indicated that preservice elementary teachers’ first peer teaching lessons were restricted to implicit teaching. Although more explicit teaching lessons were observed in the second peer teaching, two thirds of the participants remained as implicit teaching. Preservice elementary teachers also failed to write appropriate instructional objectives and assessment plans in regards to practices. Our findings suggest more support is necessary for helping preservice elementary teachers teach science and engineering practices and mathematical practices.

During the session, we will provide the information about how to design more explicit and reflective instruction for the practices with samples from the preservice teachers’ peer teaching lessons.

Aaron Schirmer, Northeastern Illinois University

Aaron Schirmer and Cindy Voisine, Northeastern Illinois University

The use of Novel Online Peer Learning Platforms to Enhance Student Engagement in the Classroom (exhibition session)

The majority of students taking our non-majors Introductory Biology course do so to fulfill a general education requirement. Challenges facing faculty teaching this course are maintaining student engagement and ensuring academic success. To address these issues, we have introduced two novel online peer learning platforms into our course design.

The first tool is a crowd sourced video lesson site where students create a two-minute educational and entertaining video that describes a biological concept discussed in lecture. The second tool is a novel student directed meme platform called Flashmemes, which combines the concept of flashcards with memes. Students build their own Flashmemes and utilize them as study aids. As part of this interactive session, we will present the design, implementation, and analysis of the current use of these tools. We will also discuss potential future applications of these peer platforms and seek feedback on how to further improve their use in the classroom.