**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

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**

**Justi****n 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.

University of Maine, Orono, Maine

Presents

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

**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**

**ORAL THESIS DEFENSE**

MST Candidate

**Jon Janelle
**Thesis Advisor: Natasha Speer

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the

Requirements for the Degree of

Master of Science in Teaching

May, 2014

**PROOF CONCEPTIONS OF COLLEGE CALCULUS STUDENTS**

Mathematicians and mathematics education researchers have consistently asserted the crucial and multifaceted roles that deductive reasoning and proof play in mathematics. In contrast, students at many levels of education have been found hold severely limited views of proof that may lead them to view mathematics as a rigid, formal, and largely meaningless discipline. Improving students’ understandings and attitudes of reasoning and proof is necessary to motivate a greater number to consider careers in STEM fields and to prevent attrition in mathematically-intensive degree programs.

This study consisted of an investigation into 59 undergraduate calculus students’ views about the nature and purposes of mathematical proof, the forms of empirical arguments they perceived as valid proofs, and the connection between their proof construction and validation practices. Previous studies of student proof conceptions have primarily focused on three groups: students in secondary geometry courses, pre-service and in-service teachers, and advanced undergraduate and graduate students who have received formal instruction in the creation of deductive proofs. However, little attention has been given to the connection between students’ proof constructions and validations or to examining students’ conceptions after the completion of a high school geometry course, but before enrollment in proof-based mathematics course. Using data obtained from written surveys and interviews, this study was designed to fill this gap in the literature.

Findings suggest that a majority, more than 80%, of college calculus students believe that the inspection of a few examples and the testing of a single extreme case are valid forms of mathematical proof. In addition, students who incorrectly validated empirical arguments as proofs were significantly more likely than their peers to construct empirical arguments when asked to verify a conjecture. Consistent with the findings of past researchers, approximately half accepted false arguments based on their proof-like surface features, for example the use of variables or formal mathematical language. While two-thirds of students were able to describe at least one purpose for proof consistent with descriptions generated by the mathematical community, many were unable to acceptably describe a single meaningful use. The pedagogical implications and limitations of these findings are discussed.

** **

**Thursday, April 17, 2014
2:00-4:30 pm
207 Boardman Hall**

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

**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:

- what is the nature of student thinking when solving a distance/time graph problem?
- do students with different levels of mathematical experience solve graph problems differently from each other?

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**

*Maine Center for Research in STEM Education
Colloquia & Seminar Series*

**Presents**

**Warren Christensen**

North Dakota State University

Assistant Professor of Physics

Director of Growing Up STEM REU

**Student reasoning about matrix multiplication: **

** a window for investigating math/physics frame shifts**

In principle, a student who has completed both Linear Algebra and Quantum Mechanics should have a wealth of conceptual and procedural knowledge that has been attained from classes in mathematics and physics. However in practice, it seems that many students come into our physics courses with a lack of skills that we know were taught in math courses. Do students fail to retain this information or do students possess this information but only within specific contexts? This investigation casts light on students’ thinking about matrix multiplication and how their thinking appears to be influenced by their framing of the problem as either a mathematics or physics question. We use the framework of Framing and Resources to describe a single student’s thinking during an interview. Using an interview protocol written by mathematicians from a study in Mathematics Education, we explicitly probed mathematical thinking, and investigated if (and when) students attempted to relate mathematical problems to physics. Using lexicon analysis, we find students seem to shift from a “mathematical frame” to a “physics frame” and back again, but struggle to successfully transfer concepts between those frames. I will highlight the markers for these frame shifts and explore the potential instructional consequences of this work.

**Friday, March 21, 2014
3:00 – 4:00 pm
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall**

*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**

*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.