SUTL - Undergraduate Teaching and Learning Projects

2023-2024 Project Descriptions

Dr. Isaac Record showing a learning displayTitle: Assessing a Critical Making Pedagogy

Mentor: Isaac Record

Fellow: Burcu Tatar-Ozkum

Description: There is interest in interdisciplinary approaches to solving wicked problems, problems that defy easy definition or resolution. One methodology for integrating insights from multiple disciplines is “Critical Making,” which combines traditional humanities and social science “critical thinking” research techniques with creative and constructivist making. This study examines the use of Critical Making in a classroom setting. We employ interviews, classroom observation, and pre-/post-test surveys to gain insight into student learning gains in methodology and content area, as well as attitudes toward Critical Makindg itself.

two graphs showing serotonin over timeTitle: “So that is why there is no change!” How students in physics, biology and calculus make sense of dynamical situations

Mentor: Jennifer Doherty, Kirtimaan Mohan, and Kristen Vroom

Fellow: Mayson Whipple

Description: Students in introductory Physics, Biology and Calculus courses are often confronted with situations where they need to make sense of dynamical situations. For example, a typical introductory physics course requires students to understand how displacement, velocity and acceleration change in relation to one another. In a biology class students might reason about how influx/efflux rates relate to changes in the concentration of a substance in a compartment over time. It is well documented in the research literature that a productive way to make sense of dynamical situations is by thinking covariationally – holding in mind a sustained image of two quantities’ values simultaneously (Thompson & Carlson, 2017). The aims of this research are to 1) investigate how Lyman Briggs students in introductory courses engage in covariational reasoning to make sense of dynamical situations and 2) explore the impact of discipline on students’ covariational reasoning by collecting data across introductory Physics, Biology and Calculus courses.

Thompson, P. W., & Carlson, M. P. (2017). Variation, covariation, and functions: Foundational ways of thinking mathematically. In J. Cai (Ed.), Compendium for research in mathematics education (pp. 421-456). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

a playground with a large factory in the backgroundTitle: Evaluating the ‘YOURE(in)CHARJ:A Youth-Led Interdisciplinary Research Experience for Climate & Health And Racial Justice’ program

Mentors: Shahnaz Masani and Melissa Charenko (with Mark Axelrod and Estrella Torres)

Fellow: Sanfang Miao

Description: ​The YOURE(in)CHARJ program aims to flip undergraduate education and research towards student-driven knowledge generation and dissemination. Through a peer-to-peer mentoring and research program for undergraduate students from historically underserved communities from the three residential colleges at MSU, we aim to empower the next generation of youth to lead their communities in just health responses to climate change. Junior and senior students with a demonstrated commitment to community engagement, advocacy and activism will be selected from the three residential colleges to act as undergraduate research mentors. They will learn key principles of YPAR, including shared decision-making, power sharing, legitimation of various forms of knowledge including lived experiences, and an orientation toward collective action and social change. Mentors will then guide sophomore undergraduate research fellows from historically underserved communities on a year-long social justice oriented YPAR project. The SUTL fellow will lead the evaluation of the program by identifying and operationalizing relevant theoretical frameworks, designing interview protocols, and analyzing data to identify key themes.

a board game with four different colored pieces on itTitle: Board games and the gamification of learning in college biology

Mentor: Peter White

Fellow: Titas Dutta

Description: The gamification provides an interesting avenue for augmenting student learning. As we continue to move away from the sage-on-stage model of teaching in higher education, new pedagogies continually look for more innovative ways to engage students in learning activities that are both fun and effective. One potential avenue for this learning involves table-top board games. Many recent games have tapped into biological themes and imply that players may learn fundamental biological principles as part of the playing experience (e.g., titles like Cytosis, Oceans, or Wingspan). However, these games often lack learning goals, or don’t have any empirical learning gains associated with them. In this SUTL project, the Fellow and Mentor would collaborate to test the Adventerra Game “Global Warming” in introductory biology courses at LBC, to explore whether it is associated with student learning. Other games (like the aforementioned Cytosis, Oceans, or Wingspan) may also be tested, depending on the interest of the Fellow.

a chart of showing various system levels and how they relate to an individualTitle: Computational Modeling in Intro Physics

Mentors: Kirtimaan Mohan, Katie Hinko

Fellow: Marshall Basson

Description: Computational modeling is by now a central pillar of modern science, yet it remains underrepresented in most introductory physics curricula. At Lyman Briggs College we introduce students to computational modeling early in our introductory physics course for life science majors. In order to build a curriculum where students find computation in the course more relevant both for learning physics as well as in general in other aspects of their lives, we need to consider how students already connect to computation and how they build a sense of relevance for computational modeling as the course progresses. The goal of our study is to determine what aspects of the activities used in the course helped students connect to its computational thread. We hope that this research will inform how to better build computation into an introductory physics course.

hands making a heart shape on the ground around a small plantTitle: Nurturing Mathematical Discourse by Teaching with Primary Source Projects

Mentor: Abe Edwards

Fellow: Tyler Powell

Description: This project seeks to understand whether and how implementation of a particular type of curricular materials (called “Primary Source Projects” or PSPs) can reshape mathematical discourse in undergraduate mathematics classrooms. More specifically, the proposed research has a two-fold mission: to investigate the pedagogical moves associated with nurturing students’ mathematical discourse via PSPs and to study the role that PSPs may play in fostering positive change in students’ identities related to mathematics. We are especially keen to examine student experiences with PSPs through the lens of Sfard's (2008 and subsequent) theory of commognition. The commognitive theory of learning holds that mathematics itself is a discourse and learning mathematics is tantamount to becoming a participant in this special form of discourse. Unfortunately, many instructional approaches in undergraduate mathematics classrooms do not invite, nor recognize, the kinds of discursive shifts that characterize increased participation in the mathematical community. We propose that by interacting with the primary source materials, as replacements for standard textbook–driven exercises, students will engage in deep, meta–level learning. As their mathematical discourse matures, students become more flexible, adaptable, confident, and enthusiastic about mathematics. This project is a pilot study for a larger multi-year project for which we have applied to the NSF for funding.