Discipline-based STEM Education Research Webinars
Organiser and host: Andrea Jimenez Dalmaroni
These webinars aim to bring together an interdisciplinary community of academics and discipline-based education researchers to share results, approaches, and methods, and further support the development of evidence-based STEM education.
The webinar series is sponsored by the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
All recorded talks will be available for viewing after the seminar series..
Find out more and register below:
‘Assessment: The silent killer of learning’
Wednesday 27 January 4pm GMT
Why is it that stellar students sometimes fail in the workplace while dropouts succeed? One reason is that most, if not all, of our current assessment practices are inauthentic. Just as the lecture focuses on the delivery of information to students, so does assessment often focus on having students regurgitate that same information back to the instructor. Consequently, assessment fails to focus on the skills that are relevant in life in the 21st century. Assessment has been called the “hidden curriculum” as it is an important driver of students’ study habits. Unless we rethink our approach to assessment, it will be very difficult to produce a meaningful change in education.
‘Active Engagement Instruction: Reforming introductory physics at MIT’
Wednesday 17 February 4pm GMT
In the late 1990s, the Physics Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had a problem. The Department was responsible for teaching the two required physics courses that are part of MIT’s core requirements—mechanics and electromagnetism—and the failure rate in both was dismal, class attendance was low, and there were no laboratories associated with the two courses.
To address these issues and following the lead of other physics departments in the US, notably the Scale-Up Program at North Carolina State University, the Department went to an active engagement model know as TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning). TEAL is a teaching format that merges lectures, simulations, and hands-on desktop experiments to create a rich collaborative learning experience, with instruction taking place in two classrooms designed to maximize student-faculty and student-student interaction. Introduced in 2001, this format with various modifications has been used to teach freshmen physics at MIT for the last twenty years. I discuss the history of that effort, which I led in its first six years, and the way it has changed over time up to the present day.
John Belcher is the Class of 1922 Professor of Physics at MIT and an Oersted Medalist of the AAPT. In addition to his efforts in education, he has been associated with the Voyager Mission to the Outer Planets since launch in 1977, and is currently involved in the analysis of plasma data from the Local Interstellar Medium, following Voyager 2’s penetration into that region in 2018.
‘Writing Strategies for Learning: How Writing Can Change the Way Students Learn Science’
Wednesday 10 March 4pm GMT
Writing engages students in solidifying tacit and unformed ideas, in connecting these ideas together, and in translating them for particular audiences. In this session, we will explore applications of writing-to-learn pedagogy used in a variety of STEM classrooms. We will discuss strategies that make writing feasible, even in large introductory courses.
‘Supporting student success with active learning strategies’
Wednesday 24 March 4pm GMT
Science courses are essential for the success of students who will eventually pursue medical-related and graduate degrees. Organic chemistry is a particularly challenging course and is typically viewed as a gate-keeper course because of high student withdrawals and failure rates. Active learning strategies have been recognized as evidence-based practices that reduce achievement gaps in exam scores and passing rates for all students. Though all students benefit from active learning strategies, it offers disproportionate benefits for individuals from underrepresented groups in science fields. The implementation and assessment of a flipped classroom with peer-led team learning in an organic chemistry course will be presented. The impact of these activities on students’ cognitive and affective outcomes in this course will be compared to traditional courses. In addition, student dialogue during a group activity in another flipped classroom environment will also be presented. The implications of the results of these studies for classroom practice will also be discussed.
‘Taking a Scientific Approach to Teaching Science (and most other subjects)’
Wednesday 21 April 5pm GMT
Guided by experimental tests of theory and practice, science has advanced rapidly in the past 500 years. Guided primarily by tradition and dogma, science education meanwhile has remained largely medieval. Research on how people learn is now revealing much more effective ways to teach and evaluate learning than what is in use in the traditional science class. Students and instructors find such teaching more rewarding, and it also shows students how to learn most effectively. This research is setting the stage for a new approach to teaching and learning that can provide the relevant and effective science education for all students that is needed for the 21st century. I will also cover more meaningful and effective ways to measure the quality of teaching. Although the focus of the talk is on undergraduate science and engineering teaching, where the data is the most compelling, the underlying principles come from studies of the general development of expertise and apply widely.
‘Reflection and contextual transfer of PBL competences’
Wednesday 12 May 4pm GMT
Problem- and project-based learning (PBL) has become a very popular learning methods in engineering education. Mostly it has been applied at a course level, but recently we see and increasing number of institutions applying it at a system level. Research indicate that applying PBL in the classroom have a positive impact on students’ learning, but research also reveals that there is an added value on students’ learning of many generic competences such as communication, collaboration, and project management.
At Aalborg University, PBL is applied at all semester throughout the curriculum. During, first year, there has always been an introduction to students on PBL and how organise the learning processes, the so called PBL competences necessary to work efficiently in this type of learning system. The PBL competences are learned in practice and they need to be reflected in order to become learned competences which has been an integrated part of the curriculum.
Recently, Aalborg University decided that the students should reflect the PBL competences throughout the entire study and the students should submit an individual PBL competence profile before graduation. But how can students reflect their generic PBL competences and progress the learning from one project to the next? This webinar will address these questions based on both theoretical considerations and practice experiences.
‘Attributes of the 21st Century STEM educator, and pathways to institutional support’
Wednesday 26 May 4pm GMT
For many years now, we have heard how teaching and learning was changing, how it was getting more complex, how student preparedness and aspirations from a university degree were shifting and that technology was no longer an optional extra. Universities pursued a variety of educational initiatives that – for the most part – moved the needle positively but incrementally for teaching and learning and the student experience. Then COVID happened.
In a very short space of time in March 2020 (days to ensure continuity of current courses, weeks to plan how to progress and graduate thousands of students, months to reimagine the entire portfolio of courses) the essential blueprint for education at a residential university had to be redrawn. As the year went on, it became abundantly clear that we were going to be in this environment for some considerable time, before things could get back to ‘a new version of normal’.
In this talk, I will reflect on the experiences and challenges of the past year, and how they have highlighted major issues for how teaching and learning is organized, supported and valued at institutions. As we look to the future of ‘post-COVID’ teaching and learning, it seems clear that there will be aspects of teaching and learning that will be permanently altered by the COVID experience (even if we can’t yet see exactly what they might be across our different institutional contexts). I will illustrate some of the attributes that I think are required for educators to thrive in this environment and outline ways institutions can support the development of these capabilities amongst faculty and staff.
‘Bias in our STEM classrooms: Efforts toward a more equitable curriculum’
Wednesday 2 June 4pm GMT
Equal access to education, with a focus on improving inclusion for historically marginalized groups, has been a longstanding goal of educators and administrators. However, evidence continues to mount that students from these groups still do not receive equitable access in STEM coursework. Critical race theory, which emphasizes an examination of the context of marginalized individuals’ experiences, implies discipline based education research (DBER) may be uniquely positioned to provide insights into why inequities persist in specific STEM courses. This talk will situate the problem of inequity in an undergraduate chemistry curriculum, and will present data collected from a survey administered at a large primarily white, undergraduate institution. These data reveal how students’ racial and gender identities may impact their attitudes as they undertake chemistry laboratory coursework. The necessity of valid measurements for detecting differences when comparing demographic groups will also be presented. Finally, practical recommendations for addressing inequity in STEM courses will be offered.