SUTL - Undergraduate Teaching and Learning Projects

2018-2019 Project Descriptions

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Title: The effect of authentic learning experiences on attitudes towards the physical sciences, diversity in science, and community belonging Mentor

Mentor: Georgina Montgomery, Lyman Briggs College and the Department of History

Fellow: Alison Singer, Community Sustainability

Description: This project will seek to assess the impact of a freshman course that tasks learning teams with creating exhibits focused on themes of diversity and inclusion in science for a real client, specifically for the director of Abrams Planetarium. Working in collaboration with a SUTL fellow, we will seek to assess how a hands-on, authentic learning experience impacts students’ attitudes towards the physical sciences, issues of diversity in science, and their sense of belonging to the LBC and MSU community.

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Title: Processes of learning ethnography in student-led fieldwork

Mentor: Dan Menchik, Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Sociology

Fellow: Nicole Lehpamer, Department of Sociology

Description: Ethnographic fieldwork has been long understood as a lone-wolf effort. However, based on some initial published collective efforts, there may exist educational and scholarly benefits to conducting ethnography by class participants or other kind of student group. This project is conceived of as an effort to develop some principles for conducting such student-organized collective ethnographic fieldwork, by means of an effort to put those principles into practice. The payoff of analyzing and theorizing the social organization of this research would be scholarship describing some best practices for this model of research, a model being increasingly used but rarely studied by social scientists.

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Title: Evolution education research with digital organisms (Avida-ED)

Mentor: Rob Pennock and Jim Smith, Lyman Briggs College

Fellow: Reid Blanchett, Department of Genetics

Description: The NSF funded Avida-ED Active LENS project has been training instructors and administering surveys to participating students for the past three years. As a result, we have accumulated a large source of student survey data which can be used to address a variety of questions related to student learning of evolutionary processes and concepts. Our initial research objective was to assess broader student learning gains as a result of using Avida-ED. We have administered a series of surveys to assess these constructs. However, it is very clear that additional detail pertaining to student learning can be gleaned from the data we have collected. For example, how does student understanding, particularly the occurrence of misconceptions, vary across populations? What specific elements of evolution by natural selection are most impacted by student interaction with Avida-ED? Does active-learning using experimental evolution with digital organisms improve students’ understanding of scientific practices and the nature of science? A graduate student interested in investigating undergraduate teaching and learning will identify, with PI guidance, an interesting question that can be examined based on the data we have collected.

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Title: Developing an assessment plan for an undergraduate bioethics minor

Mentor: Robyn Bluhm, Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Philosophy

Fellow: Ted Van Alst, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Description: In Fall, 2017, MSU’s bioethics minor moved from the College of Human Medicine to Lyman Briggs College, where it is being administered in partnership with the College of Arts and Letters. In conjunction with this move, the minor’s curriculum has been changed to add two required courses: LB 240 (Theories and Methods in Bioethics), which serves as an introduction to bioethics and a “gateway” to the minor, and a Bioethics Capstone course, LB 440. After an initial consultation with MSU’s Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology, Dr. Bluhm is developing an assessment plan for the minor that centers on these two courses (as they are the only ones that all students in the minor will take). The project’s goals for the 2018-2019 academic year will be (1) to use students’ final assessments in these two courses to begin to develop a rubric that can be used to assess whether future students are meeting the objectives for the minor and (2) to review the academic literature on curriculum assessment to identify additional options for assessment. This latter goal will be particularly important in helping to address challenges arising from the structure of the minor; for example, aside from these two required courses, students select from a wide range of classes to complete the minor, so that there are numerous “pathways” through the minor and, relatedly, students come from many Colleges and majors across campus. The goal of this project is to find a way to make this diversity a strength of the minor, rather than a limitation.


Title: Analysis of the INQUIRE Program

Mentor: Ryan Sweeder and Sam Cass, Lyman Briggs College

Fellow: Merve Kursav, Programs in Mathematics Education

Description: The INQUIRE program has been a 10-year effort in Lyman Briggs College to support matriculating students who do not have math placement scores which allow them to begin in general chemistry in their first term. The intended outcomes of the program include helping student successfully transition to college, gain preparation for introductory science courses, build connections to the LBC community such that they graduate at improved rates from MSU and in STEM fields. This project is seeking to comprehensively understand if the project is achieving these goals for the participating students. The SUTL fellow will work to update previous quantitative data analyses that focused on grades earned in subsequent chemistry and biology courses, GPA, retention in STEM and MSU, and graduation rates. They also will help undertake surveys with both current and past INQUIRE students to understand the perceived impacts of the program and how that perception may change over time. Through triangulation using both qualitative and quantitative data, we anticipate having a strong understanding of the impact of this program.

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Title: Effective implementation of assessment corrections for meaningful learning and reflection

Mentor: Cassie Dresser-Briggs and Shahnaz Masani, Lyman Briggs College

Fellow: Sunghwan Byun, Programs in Mathematics Education

Description: In this study, we will assess the effectiveness of assessment corrections on student learning, both in terms of mastering concepts and progression as a learner. Furthermore, we will test whether corrections completed individually or in a group are most beneficial. To minimize instructor effect and avoid pseudoreplication in our experimental design, our initial study will be conducted in a single introductory biology course at Lyman Briggs College, a residential college within a large research I university in the midwest. In this course there are three unit exams and a cumulative final exam; thus we will compare three treatments in the following order, (1) control, no exam corrections, (2) individual, individual exam corrections, (3) group, group exam corrections. Concept learning gains will be inferred based on differences in percentage scores for particular concepts between the unit exam and the relevant questions on the final exam. Progression as a learner will be inferred based on pre and post survey responses provided by each student. Previous research has suggested that assessment corrections improve learning; our study will not only indicate if this outcome is more broadly applicable, but will expand on this idea by explicitly comparing different implementation methods for assessment corrections.

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Title: Integrating collaborative experiential learning laboratory into Lyman Briggs’ teaching and learning culture

Mentor: Isaac Record, Lyman Briggs College

Fellow: Stephen Vrla, Department of Sociology

Description: Lyman Briggs College has recently created a new learning space, the Collaborative Experiential Learning Laboratory (CELL), to support creative group projects, especially those combining aspects of HPS and STEM education. It is not trivial to adopt new technologies and methods into a class, and it is easy to misstep. The hope is that clear and adaptable examples and modules will help interested faculty to think through their learning objectives, assignments, and assessments involving creative collaborative group work. This SUTL project seeks to develop best practices for designing and assessing coursework that makes use of the space through a literature review, pilot course (LB 492, Fall 2018), pilot course module (LB 322A, Fall 2018), and expert-led “Building a CELL Curriculum” workshop to develop a CELL Course and Assignment Planning Guide (Fall 2018). It seeks to disseminate these insights through an additional “Assigning Creative Group Projects in the CELL” workshop for faculty to put the Planning Guide from the previous workshop into practice.

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Title: The figure of the day - an activity for improving scientific literacy skills among biology students

Mentor: Pete White, Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Entomology

Fellow: Caitlin Kirby, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Description: Quantitative and scientific literacy skills are important outcomes of undergraduate biology education, yet instructors often struggle to integrate the necessary opportunities for this kind of student learning. Biology is sometimes characterized as a “soft science”, and introductory course offerings are typically focused on concept- or (biological) system-based learning outcomes rather than on outcomes related to data visualization, data presentation, or statistics. In this SUTL project, we aim to implement and test the impact of a graph-reading activity called “Figure of the Day (FotD)” where students are presented with various types of graphs and are given practice interpreting them and hypothesizing about their meaning. The key feature of the FotD activity is that graph legends (and sometimes axis labels) are removed before the graphs are given to the class. In the absence of this key information, students are forced to carefully analyze and evaluate what is presented, and to apply their understanding of data visualization to create a narrative of what the graph may be representing. After student narratives are discussed, the full graph (with legends and labels) is then shown to the class for further discussion. We hypothesize that students who are given graphs with missing information will show a greater improvement in their scientific literacy skills when compared to students who are given graphs without missing information.