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The Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)


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No Question Left Behind Teacher Conference, 2013

                                      

Image Description: The Summit

Image Description: Outside Erickson Hall, Point Lookout

Image Description: View from cabin road at Point Lookout, 2013

Image Description: Welcome to the 2013 Center for Research in STEM Education No Question Left Behind Conference

Image Description: Susan McKay, Maine Center for Research in STEM Education, Opening Remarks

Image Description: Steve Kaback, a Maine Center for Reserach in STEM Education original

Image Description: Don't sneer at engineers

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Image Description: Learning Gene Sequencing with Legos

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Image Description: Workshop led by Misty Conrath

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Thesis Defense – Zachary Batz

ORAL THESIS DEFENSE

MST Candidate
Zachary Batz

Thesis Advisor: Michelle K. Smith

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Science in Teaching

August, 2014

 Reaching Struggling Introductory Biology Students with a
Targeted Peer Tutoring Program

Low persistence in STEM majors has long been an area of concern for institutions and educational researchers. The transition from introductory to advanced courses has been identified as a particularly “leaky” point along the STEM pipeline. Students who struggle early in an introductory STEM course rarely show significant improvement over the remainder of the semester. This poor early performance can damage self-efficacy and result in disengagement in the course, negative perceptions of the field, and reduced persistence in the course. This study examined the wide impact of an optional peer tutoring specifically targeted at these students who experience early difficulties in a large-enrollment, introductory biology course. Outcomes were measured using a combination of course performance, course management system data, and self-report surveys. Students who regularly attended peer tutoring were found to have increased engagement in the course, more expert-like perceptions of biology, better exam performance, and increased persistence relative to their peers who were not attending the peer tutoring sessions. Implications of these findings for universities looking to offer targeted academic assistance are discussed within.

 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm
113 Estabrooke Hall

 

 

Commencement Speaker 2014 – Justin D. Lewin

Justin D. Lewin
College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture
Bachelor of Science in Biology

Justin D. Lewin of Castle Hill, Maine, majored in biology. He also began graduate work toward a Master of Science in Teaching. His numerous academic honors include an Armed Forces Communication & Electronics Association STEM Teachers for America’s Future Scholarship and Maine PSP Summer Undergraduate Research Assistant Fellowship, both in 2012, and a UMaine Center for Undergraduate Research Fellowship in spring 2013. This spring, with a grant from the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, Mr. Lewin interned at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. His work in a reproductive biology lab there focused on better understanding spermatogenesis that may lead to potential targets for infertility treatment and/or male contraception. On campus, Mr. Lewin’s research in the School of Biology and Ecology included collaboration with Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Michelle Smith, analyzing the effectiveness of clickers — personal response systems — in middle school science education classes. He also was a teaching partner at Leonard Middle School and a tutor at Stillwater Montessori School, both in Old Town, Maine. Mr. Lewin was active in UMaine’s Peer Tutor Program, served as president of the Community Governing Board and as a UMaine resident assistant. He also was an active community volunteer. He expects to complete his master’s degree in 2016 and hopes to be a public school teacher of life science or physical science.

Image Description: http://umaine.edu/commencement/files/2014/04/Justin-Lewin.jpg

RiSE Colloquium – Monday, April 28 – Speaker, Vicki Sealey, Dept of Mathematics, WVA University

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)
University of Maine, Orono, Maine

Presents

Vicki Sealey

Department of Mathematics
West Virginia University

Lessons Learned from Research on Student Understanding of the Definite Integral

 

Abstract:  The Riemann sum and definite integral have numerous applications in the sciences and certainly are important to the mathematical community, in their own right.  Over the years, my goal has been to develop research-based curriculum materials for first-semester calculus courses that support students’ conceptual development of the definite integral, promote mathematical sophistication, and encourage students to see the connections in applications in the sciences.  In this talk, I will highlight several of the lessons learned over the past ten years of studying the teaching and learning of the Riemann sum and definite integral among first-semester calculus students.  Specifically, we will discuss several of the obstacles students have when developing an initial understanding of Riemann sums, definite integrals, and the connection to area under a curve.

Bio:  Dr. Vicki Sealey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at West Virginia University, where she coordinates the calculus sequence and conducts research in mathematics education.  She completed a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at West Virginia University, a master’s degree in applied mathematics at the University of Washington, and a PhD at Arizona State University where she studied undergraduate mathematics education.

 

Monday, April 28, 2014

3:00-4:00 pm

Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium

Room 165, Engineering and Science Research Building

Thesis Defense – April 9 – Shawn Firouzian

ORAL THESIS DEFENSE

MST Candidate
Shahram Shawn Firouzian
Thesis Advisor: Natasha Speer

Thesis Committee:
Natasha M. Speer
Robert Franzosa
John Thompson

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Science in Teaching

May, 2014

Correlations Between Students’ Multiple Ways of Thinking About the Derivative and Their Abilities to Solve Applied Derivative Problems

There is extensive research on students’ understanding, thinking and difficulties with the derivative and applied derivative problems, however there are very little works correlating the two fields. In this study, the correlations between students’ multiple ways of thinking about the derivative and their abilities in solving the applied derivative problems such as related rate and graphing problems are investigated. Fine-grained analysis of the students’ written surveys and clinical interviews revealed that students’ having two or more ways of thinking about the derivative correlate to their higher abilities in solving applied derivative problems.

 

 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
4:30 p.m.
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium, ESRB

RiSE Colloquium, April 7, 2014 – Eric Pandiscio

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education
(RiSE Center)
Colloquia & Seminar Series

 Presents

Eric Pandiscio
Department of Exercise Science and STEM Education
Maine RiSE Center, University of Maine

 Differentiated student thinking while solving
a distance vs. time graph problem

 This study probes the thinking of students at different stages of mathematical experience: college students who have taken calculus; college students who have not taken calculus; current high school mathematics teachers; graduate students in a discipline-based mathematics education program.  The study asks:

Using a covariational framework (Carlson, Jacobs, Coe, Larsen & Hsu, 2002), preliminary data reveal many students have difficulty working with phenomena that display varying rates of change.  Data also indicate many students estimate answers, even when an exact answer is possible.  Data were collected via written surveys and semi-structured oral interviews.  This work builds on, yet diverges from, prior research in physics education (McDermott, Rosenquist & van Zee, 1987; Thornton & Sokoloff, 1990; Kim & Kim, 2005), and mathematics education (Chiu, Kessel, Moschkovich & Munch-Nunez, 2001; Moschkovich, 1996) that describes difficulties students have with graph interpretation.

  Monday,  April 7, 2014
3:00-4:00 pm
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall

RiSE Colloquium – March 17, 2014 – Lauren Barth-Cohen, Speaker

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)
Colloquia & Seminar Series

Presents

Lauren Barth-Cohen, PhD
Post-Doctoral Research and Teaching Associate
Center for Research in STEM Education, University of Maine

Evidence Construction in a Field Geology Environment

 Abstract: Evidence is key to many scientific practices including argumentation, explanation, and modeling. For learners engaged in scientific practices, often we aim for them to construct scientific evidence from observations in the world, but the details of how learners go from observation to verbal accounts of evidence in support of a claim in a complicated environment has been overlooked.  In this talk we argue that much can be learned about scientific practices from examining how evidence is constructed from human sensory data. We present a case of one teacher who was involved in an evidence construction activity as part of a professional development workshop in a field geology environment. Using theoretical machinery from coordination class theory we model the evidence construction process, specifically how observations as connected with prior knowledge turn into evidence for a claim.  Use this model we illuminate the teacher constructing evidence to support a claim for the relative ages of two types of rocks in the field, and we also use the model to illustrate her constructing hypothetical evidence to support an alternative claim. This case illustrates the importance of a commonly overlooked dimension of scientific practices, and implications suggest that  evidence construction is applicable to both instruction and professional development.

Monday,  March 17, 2014
3:00 pm

 Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall

Image Description: Maine Center for Research in STEM Education

February 3 RiSE Colloquium – Paula Lemon, speaker

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)
Colloquia & Seminar Series

Presents

Paula Lemons
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Georgia

Helping Biology Students Develop Problem-Solving Skills

 

Based on economic projections, about one million more U.S. STEM professionals will be needed over the next decade to fill positions in fast-growing occupations that require problem solving. Yet little is known about the development of problem-solving skills among undergraduate biology students. It is also not known how to support college faculty who want to change their courses in order to promote problem solving. Dr. Lemons developed a method for creating biology questions that encourage problem solving, and she used these questions to document the particular problem-solving steps used by students. Her work revealed that students practice a mixture of helpful and not helpful problem-solving steps. Faculty can use this research by coaching their students to use helpful problem-solving steps. Unfortunately, many faculty who want to guide their students in problem solving face the challenge of transitioning from instructor-centered to learner-centered teaching. Dr. Lemons studied faculty who were making this transition. Her work shows that faculty focus primarily on personal experience, not empirical evidence, when making decisions about teaching. These studies point to ways to increase the amount of learning about problem solving in undergraduate biology classrooms by supporting both students and faculty.

 

Monday,  February 3, 2014
3:00 – 4:00 pm
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall

 Snacks will be provided at 2:45 in the Hill Auditorium Lobby.

for a Printable page, please click Colloq February 3 2013.

December 2 Colloquium – Benedikt Harrer

Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of Maine

THESIS DEFENSE
& MAINE RISE CENTER COLLOQUIUM

Benedikt Harrer
Ph.D. Candidate

“IDENTIFYING PRODUCTIVE RESOURCES IN SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS’ DISCOURSE ABOUT ENERGY”

A growing program of research in science education acknowledges the beginnings of disciplinary reasoning in students’ ideas and seeks to inform instruction that responds productively to these disciplinary progenitors in the moment to foster their development into sophisticated scientific practice. This dissertation examines secondary school students’ ideas about energy for progenitors of disciplinary knowledge and practice. Previously, researchers argued that students’ ideas about energy were constrained by stable and coherent conceptual structures that conflicted with an assumed unified scientific conception and therefore needed to be replaced. These researchers did not attend to the productive elements in students’ ideas about energy.

To analyze the disciplinary substance in students’ ideas, a theoretical perspective was developed that extends Hammer et al.’s resources framework (Hammer et al., 2005. Resources, framing, and transfer. In Mestre, Ed., Transfer of Learning: Research and Perspectives, 89-120. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing). This elaboration allows for the identification of disciplinary productive resources—i.e., appropriately activated declarative and procedural pieces of knowledge—in individual students’ utterances as well as in the interactions of multiple learners engaged in group learning activities.

Using this framework, original interview transcripts from one of the most influential studies of students’ ideas about energy (Watts, 1983. Some alternative views of energy. Physics Education, 18/5, 213-217) were analyzed. Disciplinary productive resources regarding the ontology of energy, indicators for energy, and mechanistic reasoning about energy were found to be activated by interviewed students. These valuable aspects were not recognized by the original author. An interpretive analysis of video recorded student-centered discourse in rural Maine middle schools was carried out to find cases of resource activation in classroom discussions. Several cases of disciplinary productive resources regarding the nature of energy and its forms as well as the construction of a mechanistic energy story were identified and richly described.

Like energy, resources are manifested in various ways. The results of this study imply the necessity of appropriate disciplinary training for teachers that enables them to recognize and productively respond to disciplinary progenitors of the energy concept in students’ ideas.

 

MONDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2013
3:00 pm
ARTHUR ST. JOHN HILL AUDITORIUM

Thesis Defense – Daniel Bragdon

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education

presents

ORAL THESIS DEFENSE

MST Candidate
Daniel Bragdon
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Natasha Speer

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Science in Teaching

May 2014

University Students’ Graph Interpretation and Comprehension Abilities

There is an increase in demand for individuals to be successful with graph interpretation. Society is currently lacking individuals who have majored in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), where most courses require linear graph comprehension as a prerequisite skill. The Common Core for State Standards Initiative for Mathematics, Next Generation Science Standards, and the Maine Revised Learning Results all characterize these as skills to be mastered before a student enters high school. Reading information from graphs and making inferences based on graphically-presented information is challenging for students and researchers have documented a variety of difficulties students have with graph comprehension. These difficulties include, among others, having knowledge of the graph context incorrectly influencing graph comprehension, viewing the graph as an iconic representation of the event and confusing slope and height. Being able to extrapolate and make predictions based on graphs is especially challenging for students. This research on graph comprehension has been primarily focused on students in elementary, middle, and high school and findings do not provide definitive answers as to why these difficulties are prevalent or why certain kinds of questions are so difficult. Despite the important role graph comprehension plays in undergraduate students’ learning of STEM content, little is known about the performance and thinking of this population of students. For the present study, college students in introductory mathematics and physics classes were given linear graph comprehension tasks. Data include both written responses and interviews designed to investigate student thinking were conducted with a subset of students. Findings indicate that students answered extrapolation questions incorrectly more often than other questions. On a written in class survey only 67.6% of students correctly answered an extrapolation question correctly, compared to a success rate of 86.7% on interpolation questions. Interview data analysis generated similar results with only 50% of students consistently answering extrapolation questions correctly. Student responses to interpolation questions can be used as a predictor of a student’s success on extrapolation questions. Implications for instruction are discussed along with directions for further research.

 

 

Monday, November 18, 2013
3:00 pm
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium (165 Barrows Hall, ESRB)


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The Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)
5727 Estabrooke Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5727
Phone: (207) 581-4672 | Fax: (207) 581-9555E-mail: mstinfo@maine.edu
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1865