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News and Events 2015

dB-SERC News


September 14, 2015

  • dB-SERC course transformation awards and mentor-mentee awards are featured in an article in the Pitt Chronicle
  • Congratulations to the awardees!

March 30, 2015

dB-SERC featured in an article in Pitt Chronicle about using the flipped approach to teaching.
  • David Nero who received a grant from dB-SERC to flip his large enrollment introductory physics course discusses his instructional approach and student learning outcomes.

March 10, 2015:

Congratulations to Joe Grabowski for getting a proposal for improving graduate student success in Chemistry on which he is a PI recommended for funding!
  • Alexandru Maries, the dB-SERC post-doc is senior personnel on this proposal and he played an important role in designing the assessment and evaluation component. Part of the reason the proposal got recommended for funding is that the program manager really liked this component of this proposal.

 

dB-SERC Events


December 7, 2015: dB-SERC lunch discussion

  • Topic: Implementing a chemistry lab safety course
  • Discussion leaders: Dr. Ericka Huston and Dr. George Bandik, chemistry
  • During the lunch, Dr. Ericka Huston and Dr. George Bandik from the chemistry department will discuss their progress in implementing a chemistry lab safety course for which they received a dB-SERC Course Transformation Award. The purpose of this lunch will be to discuss how different types of learning activities will be incorporated into course lessons to reinforce best safety practices and how assessments will be developed to measure student learning.
  • If you plan to attend, please register at the following website: http://goo.gl/forms/fpvQgibxkh
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page

November 30, 2015: dB-SERC lunch discussion

  • Topic: Innovating Large Undergraduate Psychology Lectures with Learning Principles from Cognitive Science
  • Discussion leader: Dr. Tim Nokes-Malach, psychology
  • During the lunch, Dr. Timothy Nokes-Malach from the psychology department will discuss how he is transforming a large-enrollment psychology course based on several learning principles from cognitive science. Learning is robust if it leads to long-term retention, transfers to new contexts, and/or promotes future learning. Several cognitive processes that promote robust learning include self-explanation, analogical comparison, and memory-retrieval practice. Dr. Nokes-Malach, along with his graduate student Cristina Zepeda, received a dB-SERC course transformation award to “flip” classroom instruction by providing students opportunities to engage in activities based on the cognitive processes mentioned above (i.e., self-explanation, analogical comparison, and memory-retrieval practice). The purpose of the lunch is to discuss the implementation of the course transformation and also to provide feedback about implementation difficulties and assessment.
  • If you plan on attending, please fill out the form:  http://goo.gl/forms/0xxKWGTqor.
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page

November 9, 2015: dB-SERC lunch discussion

  • Topic: Implementation of student response systems in large enrollment introductory statistics classes 
  • Discussion leader: Dr. Kehui Chen, psychiatry and statistics
  • During the lunch, Dr. Kehui Chen from the departments of statistics and psychiatry will discuss how a large-enrollment introductory statistics class is being transformed using student response systems (clickers). Dr. Kehui Chen and Dr. Nancy Pfenning (statistics) received a dB-SERC course transformation award to implement clickers in the classroom this semester. The clickers are utilized to conduct surveys and short quizzes throughout the semester to achieve more effective communication between the instructor and students. They are also being used for data-generating activities to improve concept learning in statistics sampling and to utilize interactive case studies to help students apply statistical methods to real data analysis. The purpose of the lunch is to discuss the implementation of the course transformation and also to provide feedback about implementation difficulties and assessment.
  • If you plan on attending, please fill out the form: http://goo.gl/forms/GJFYNPn8Lx.
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page

November 2, 2015: dB-SERC lunch discussion

  • Topic: Transforming a core computer science course from small to large classroom format
  • Discussion leader: Dr. Adam Lee, computer science
  • During the lunch, Dr. Adam Lee from the computer science department will discuss the design of a large enrollment computer science course for which he received a dB-SERC course transformation award. The number of computer science majors at Pitt has increased over 100% over the last 5 years, which has resulted in larger class sizes. The computer science department is transforming a core computer science course from small to large classroom format. The course transformation involves using research based approaches for large classes, including a flipped classroom approach, in-class clicker questions, the development of a quiz bank for use in recitations and outside of class, and frequent use of formative assessments. The purpose of the lunch is to discuss the design of the course and also to provide feedback about implementation and assessment.
  • We hope you can join us. If you plan to attend, please register here 
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page

October 21, 2015: dB-SERC lunch discussion 

  • Topic: Implementation of a flipped, large enrollment introductory science course
  • Discussion leader: Dr. Matteo Broccio, physics and astronomy
  • During the lunch, Dr. Matteo Broccio will discuss the implementation of a flipped, large enrollment introductory science course for which he received a dB-SERC Course Transformation Award. The purpose of this lunch is to discuss preliminary results of the course transformation, ideas for overcoming implementation difficulties, and feedback regarding assessment.
  • If you plan to attend, please register at the following website: http://goo.gl/forms/82bvcnVNy6
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.​

October 16, 2015: dB-SERC lunch workshop

  • Topic: The challenges and possibilities of meaningful assessment in introductory STEM
  • Discussion leader: Dr. David Hammer, Tufts University, Physics department
  • The lunch workshop will be held in Allen Hall, Room 321, from 12 - 2 pm
  • Abstract: Much of the difficulty in assessing student learning, especially in introductory courses, is that assessment itself is part of what students should be learning.  The practices of the STEM discipline are substantially about assessing the quality of ideas, at the level of the community (e.g., in physics, “can we now conclude there is a Higgs boson?”) and at the level of individual (e.g., “do I understand that derivation?”). Unfortunately, for a variety of practical and societal reasons, assessment in STEM courses typically happens by authority. Most STEM instruction holds students accountable to correctness, fidelity to the canon of community knowledge, in ways that are antithetical to the practices of the discipline. In this workshop, I’ll discuss the challenges and possibilities of assessment more closely aligned with the discipline. I will first present my own attempts, in introductory physics, with video examples from lecture and written examples from exams and problem sets. These will illustrate and motivate the claim that meaningful assessment demands close attention and responsiveness to students’ thinking and engagement, not only to how they understand concepts but also to how they approach learning. I will then invite participants to examine student thinking as evident in their own courses, using data they bring in the form of student written work, video if it is available. 
  • In preparation: Please bring examples of work, from any STEM class, that provides evidence of what and how students are thinking. The examples might be of problem sets or lab reports, of journals or online discussion forums, anything that shows students' expressing reasoning, ideas, questions, and uncertainties concerning the substance of the course. They could also be of face-to-face interactions, from lecture, section or office hours. There the idea is to have the interaction on video, but it can also work to have a carefully written account, with as much as you can remember of what the student(s) said and did. For our purposes here, quantitative data isn't helpful (e.g. results of a multiple choice survey).  The idea is to look at rich evidence of students' thinking as it arises within the courseSo please bring two or three examples of students' written work, or up to 10 minutes of video or a page or two of written account, showing or describing face-to-face interaction. We don't need everyone to bring examples, but it will help to have some.
  • Note that the workshop is two hours long. We would be happy to have you join us even if you can only attend the first hour. If you plan on attending, please fill out the form at this link:  http://goo.gl/forms/lJ1e7neFXC
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.​

October 5, 2015: dB-SERC lunch

  • Topic: A discussion on authenticity in teaching
  • Discussion leaders: Dr. Ben Rottman and Dr. Tim Nokes-Malach, psychology
  • The lunch will be held in Allen Hall, Room 321, from 12 - 1 pm
  • During the lunch, Dr. Ben Rottman and Dr. Tim Nokes-Malach will discuss the topic of authenticity. A goal of many instructors is to make their course more “authentic”. However, authenticity in instruction can mean many different things such as a similarity between the exercises in class to the tasks that researchers or industry professionals perform, self-discovery (as opposed to passive learning), or a focus on primary sources vs. textbooks, among others. There are also many potential benefits of authentic practices including better transfer of problem-solving to new problems, increased motivation, and more of a focus on the scientific process rather than just facts. Yet, there are also many challenges in designing authentic courses. The goals for this lunch session are to discuss different versions of the meaning of authenticity, why authenticity is important, in what sorts of classes should authentic learning should be implemented, and barriers to implementing authentic instruction. Participants are encouraged to share their own views on and experiences with authentic learning. Two articles are available to read before the discussion to spark conversation and can be found at the following website:  https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B2-rXm7yur0oMWgzUEt2aWFiNDQ&usp=sharing
  • If you plan to attend, please register at the following website: http://goo.gl/forms/dDSWFCYXdh

  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

September 28, 2015: dB-SERC lunch

  • Topic: Development of a chemistry laboratory safety course
  • Discussion leaders: Dr. Ericka Huston and Dr. George Bandik, chemistry
  • The lunch will be held in Allen Hall, Room 321, from 12 - 1 pm
  • During the lunch, George Bandik and Ericka Huston from the Chemistry Department will discuss their efforts to develop a chemistry laboratory safety course for which they received a dB-SERC course transformation award. This course is being developed in collaboration with Pitt’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety, the Department of Chemistry Safety Committee, and local PPG Industries. The course is being designed to provide students a broader and more rigorous understanding of accepted best safety practices in modern chemistry laboratories using authentic learning experiences. The structure of the course will be based on pilot activities being tested this term with a select group of students and faculty. The purpose of the lunch discussion is to provide feedback on the course design, class activities, and assessment.
  • If you plan to attend, please let us know by filling out the form: http://goo.gl/forms/AcRFGZtS4i.
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

September 21, 2015: dB-SERC lunch

  • Topic: Taking reflective teaching to the next level
  • Discussion leader: Dr. Scott Franklin, professor of physics and astronomy at Rochester Institute of Technology
  • The lunch will be held in Allen Hall, Room 321, from 12 - 1 pm
  • During the lunch, Dr. Scott Franklin will discuss the topic "Taking reflective teaching to the next level." Caring, committed instructors are reflective, thinking deeply about their methods, what worked and what did not, and why students struggle with concepts and topics. This lunch discussion will explore how we can take reflective teaching to the next level. The exercise has direct implications for STEM courses of all disciplines and environments, particularly lectures. After an initial example, this lunch discussion will elicit specific topics from the participants' own disciplines and engage the group in a discussion about productive directions for future reflection.
  • If you plan to attend, please let us know by filling out your name here: http://goo.gl/forms/hh7mt8I8vc
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

September 16, 2015: dB-SERC lunch

  • Topic: Integrating modeling instruction throughout a large lecture introductory biology course
  • Discussion leader: Lisa Limeri, biology
  • The lunch will be held in Allen Hall, Room 321, from 12 - 1 pm
  • During the lunch, Lisa Limeri and Dr. Sam Donovan from the biology department will discuss the implementation of modeling instruction in a large enrollment introductory biology course for which they received a dB-SERC mentor-mentee award. Modeling instruction refers to organizing course content around core models in the discipline and providing students with opportunities to build, use, and evaluate those models. Engaging students in modeling instruction has resulted in gains related to both disciplinary content and nature of science learning outcomes. The course transformation will involve integrating modeling instruction throughout the large enrollment introductory biology course “Foundations of Biology 2.” The course currently makes heavy use of models in both lecture and recitation, but the implementation of modeling is neither explicit nor coherent and thus is not having a significant impact on student learning. In adopting a modeling instruction approach, Lisa Limeri and Sam Donovan will develop a consistent assignment framework that will use standardized modeling language and lead students through an analysis of each model as it is introduced. They will assess the impact of this curriculum change with post-assessments on students’ understanding of modeling, focus group feedback, as well as making comparisons to students who took the course before the curricular revision. The purpose of the lunch is to discuss the design of the course and also to provide feedback about implementation and assessment.
  • If you plan to attend, please let us know by filling out your name here: http://goo.gl/forms/2g6Jb3Txy8
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

September 9, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch 

  • Topic: Using smart phones, tablets, and laptops in a guided inquiry physical chemistry course
  • Discussion leader: Dr. Sean Garrett-Roe, chemistry
  • The lunch will be held in Allen Hall, Room 321 from 12-1 pm.
  • During the lunch, Dr. Sean Garrett-Roe from the chemistry department will discuss the design of a guided inquiry physical chemistry class for which he received a dB-SERC course transformation award. Guided inquiry teaching places students at the focus of the learning process. Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) is based on a learning cycle of exploration, concept invention, and application. Students work in groups to explore rich data displays and are guided by a series of questions to construct their own understanding. With a solid mental framework for the concept in place, subsequent tasks regularize the concept with standard terminology, as well as apply, extend, and refine the ideas. Typical POGIL materials are worksheets, and paper has proved to be effective for many situations. A problem in the physical chemistry classroom, however, is that many topics are dynamic. Static representations on the page force students to imagine how pictures evolve with time. The goal of this course transformation award is to refine and assess POGIL materials that introduce dynamics using interactive simulations that run on student's mobile computers (smart phone, tablets, and laptops). The purpose of the lunch is to discuss the design of the course and also to provide feedback about implementation and assessment.
  • If you plan to attend, please let us know by filling out your name here: http://goo.gl/forms/5OsGJWP2mf
  • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    September 4, 2015: dB-SERC Workshop for New Graduate Teaching Assistants

    The Discipline-Based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC) will offer a two hour workshop for new TAs (although all TAs are welcome to join) on September 4, 2015, 3:00-5:00 pm, Thaw Hall Room 102. The workshop will focus on discipline-specific issues in the teaching and learning of Natural Sciences. This workshop will be beneficial to graduate students who will serve as new TAs in the Natural Sciences and will build upon CIDDE’s workshop for new TAs offered the preceding week. In this workshop, we will discuss evidence-based strategies for improving the effectiveness of recitations including but not limited to: creating a TA teaching community, fostering collaborative learning, improving student participation, assessing student learning, and improving use of formative student feedback. The workshop will be followed by a reception during which complimentary food will be provided.

    Interested TAs can register by following this link: http://goo.gl/forms/PU87Ix1yAu


    August 31, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Introducing students to scientific journal articles in Introduction to Psychology
    • Discussion leaders: Dr. Natasha Tokowicz, department of psychology, and Adeetee Bhide, department of psychology
    • The lunch will be held in Allen 321 from 12-1 pm
    • During the lunch, Dr. Natasha Tokowicz and Adeetee Bhide from the department of psychology will discuss the design of a large-enrollment introductory psychology class for which they received a dB-SERC mentor-mentee award. Ideally, in addition to subject-specific knowledge acquisition, classes should focus on higher level goals such as critical thinking, self-direction, and cross-disciplinary transfer. However, these higher level goals are often difficult to achieve in large introductory classes. The proposed transformation will add a project to a section of Introduction to Psychology that focuses on these higher level goals. For the project, students will give group presentations about popular press and empirical psychology articles. Specifically, students will read a popular press article about psychological research and one of the empirical articles cited within it. Then, they will present about both articles and critique how faithfully the findings from the empirical article were explained in the popular press article. The goals of this project are to: 1) increase students’ self-efficacy in terms of reading primary scientific literature; 2) increase students’ interest in psychology and their motivation to learn more about psychology outside of the classroom; 3) increase students’ critical reading skills and make them more skeptical consumers; and 4) improve students’ presentation skills. Dr. Tokowicz and Adeetee Bhide will measure how well students achieve these goals using a pre/post-test design. 
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    August 28, 2015: New Faculty Workshop

    The Discipline-Based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC) will host a workshop on Friday, August 28th titled "Strategies for improving and assessing student learning." This workshop is mainly targeted for new faculty, however, any faculty interested in teaching and learning is welcome to attend. In this workshop we will discuss basic strategies to improve student learning based on cognitive research and practical considerations. In addition, strategies to assess the extent to which course goals have been achieved will also be discussed. A complimentary light breakfast (coffee/tea/juices and bagels) and lunch will be provided.

    Interested faculty can register by following this link http://goo.gl/forms/MVXmVke8hf. The deadline to RSVP by filling out the registration form is Wednesday August 26.


    August 21, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Improving teaching and learning in large-enrollment introductory statistics classes through student response systems
    • Discussion leaders: Dr. Kehui Chen, statistics and psychiatry, and Dr. Nancy Pfenning, statistics
    • The lunch will be held in Allen 321 from 12-1 pm.
    • Dr. Kehui Chen from the departments of statistics and psychiatry, along with Dr. Nancy Pfenning, from the department of statistics, will discuss the design of a large-enrollment introductory statistics class for which they received a dB-SERC course transformation award. They plan to use student response systems (clickers) to improve teaching and learning in introductory statistics classes. Introductory statistics course are typically very large courses and the students who enroll have varying levels of prerequisite knowledge. The clickers will be used to conduct surveys and short quizzes throughout the semester to achieve more effective communication between the instructor and students. They will also be used for data-generating activities to improve concept learning in statistics sampling and to utilize interactive case studies to help students apply statistical methods to real data analysis. The purpose of the lunch is to discuss the design of the course and also to provide feedback about implementation and assessment.
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    August 3, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Low cost approach for designing authentic learning experiences in upper-level laboratories  
    • Discussion leader: Dr. Brian D'Urso, Physics and Astronomy
    • The lunch will be held in Allen 321 from 12-1 pm.
    •  During the lunch, Dr.  Brian D’Urso from Physics and Astronomy will discuss the design of a project he will implement in the fall semester for which he received a dB-SERC Course Transformation Award. Dr. D’Urso is designing labs to include authentic learning experiences to help students develop problem solving, reasoning and higher order thinking skills, and learn to think like a scientist. He will present a set of guidelines for reforming labs and plans for applying these guidelines with an approach which is both low cost and more open to modification by students. The purpose of this lunch is to discuss the design of the reformed labs and also to provide feedback regarding the design, assessment, and ideas for overcoming potential implementation difficulties.
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    July 20, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Design of large enrollment flipped introductory science courses
    • Discussion leaders: Dr. Matteo Broccio and Dr. David Nero, Physics and Astronomy
    • The lunch will be held in Allen 321 from 12-1 pm.
    • During this lunch, Dr. Matteo Broccio and Dr. David Nero discussed the design of a project for which they received dB-SERC Course Transformation Awards. They discussed their design of large enrollment science courses and received feedback regarding their design, assessment, and ideas implementation. 
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    July 1, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Using technology to scale up innovative research-based introductory laboratories.
    • Discussion leader: Welkin H. Pope, Biological Sciences.
    • The lunch will be held in Allen 321 from 12-1 pm.
    • During this lunch, Dr. Pope discussed the design of a project for which she received a dB-SERC Course Transformation Award. The project is centered on efforts to scale-up the SEA-PHAGES course-based research experience (CRE) - a lab course for introductory students which can be substituted for a "traditional" lab - from one section to five sections with an ultimate goal of 15 sections in the next five years. Dr. Pope discussed the difficulties in maintaining the authenticity of the research and a sense of community - both important aspects of the course - and the proposed solution - the wireless ClickShares. In addition, she also discussed the assessment plan for this project.
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    June 17, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Instructor interventions to improve student group dynamics in long-term group projects
    • Discussion leader: Dr. Adam J. Lee and graduate student Bill Garrison, Computer Science
    • During this lunch, Dr. Lee and Bill will discus their progress on a 2015 dB-SERC Mentor-Mentee project. Their project concerns a data collection and course revision effort centered around CS 1653: Applied Cryptography and Network Security that focuses on the use of source code repository metadata to conduct project group assessments during the semester and help predict situations in which instructor interventions can help improve group dynamics in the context of a semester-long term project. The focus of this discussion will be on findings from an initial data analysis of data collected during the Spring 2015 semester, plans for further analysis over the summer, and thoughts on improving the next offering of CS 1653 based upong hte findings.
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    June 1, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Pitt-CIRTL opportunities to engage in and learn about scolarly teaching
    • Discussion leader: Dr. Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Associate Professor, Swanson School of Engineering; Director, Engineering Education Research Center (EERC).
    • During this lunch, Dr. Besterfield-Sacre discussed University of Pittsburgh's involvement with the CIRTL Network (Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning) and the kinds of opportunities there are to learn about and engage in scholarly teaching. Anybody affiliated with Pitt can become a CIRTL member and attend their online events. Also, graduate students and post-docs can get teaching certifications for attending a number of online CIRTL Network events focused on pedagogy, taking a course which follows the Alignment Model, attending Learning Community meetings, engaging in a Teaching As Research project, etc. Dr. Besterfield-Sacre also discussed the benefits of engaging in a Teaching As Research project for graduate students and post-docs and ideas to improve participation from students in natural science departments at Pitt. Several graduate students and post-docs who have been involved in scholarly teaching via the Pitt-CIRTL initiative led by Dr. Besterfield-Sacre also attended the lunch and brought their perspective on this initiative.
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    May 11, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Devising Your Dream Course, and Making it a Reality
    • Discussion leader: Dr. Nancy Pfenning, Statistics
    • If you were to team up with somone from another department and create a cross-disciplinary course, what would it be, ideally? Dr. Nancy Pfenning, Senior Lecturer in the Statistics Department, will share her ideas and experiences in developing and teaching an Honors version of the Statistics introductory course, as well as an interdisciplinary course on Statistics in Journalism. Such courses stimulate and engage both students and instructors, making them better learners and us better teachers, with a positive impact that extends well beyond the confines of the course itself. Participants will share ideas for stimulating innovative courses within their own discipline, or in conjunction with others.
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    May 4, 2015: dB-SERC Undergraduate Education Retreat

    • The purpose of this retreat was to get faculty from Pitt's natural science departments to discuss challenges pertaining to teaching that they face in their departments, and identify ways in which dB-SERC can better support innovative teaching at Pitt.

    April 6, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Assessment of a flipped/Just-in-Time Teaching introductory physics course
    • Discussion leader: Dr. Hanna Salman, Physics and Astronomy
    • Dr. Salman received a dB-SERC Course Transformation Award to transform the teaching of an introductory physics course for physics majors and engineers. The design of the course included elements of both flipping and Just-in-Time Teaching. He implemented his transformed course in Fall 2014 and at this lunch will discuss evidence-based strategies used to evaluate the effectiveness of the course and how the qualitative and quantitative data collected can be used to inform future implementations of the course to improve student learning outcomes.​

    March 30, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: The Role of Motivation in Supporting Preparation for Future Learning and Knowledge Transfer
    • Discussion leader: Dr. Timothy Nokes-Malach, Psychology/LRDC
    • Relevant article: D. M. Belenky and T. J. Nokes-Malach, Motivation and Transfer: The Role of Mastery-Approach Goals in Preparation for Future Learning, The Journal of the Learning Sciences 21, 399-432 (2012).
    • The goals of this lunch were to:
      1. ​​Define knowledge transfer
      2. Discuss a type of instruction (scaffolded invention) that has been shown to support transfer
      3. Discuss the role of student achievement goals in transfer
      4. End with a pointer to related literature on instructional techniques to support transfer and motivation
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    March 19, 2015: workshop + reception + seminar

    • 1:15 - 3:15 pm: Workshop: Improving students' problem solving and critical thinking skills
    • 3:15 - 3:45 pm: Reception with refreshments
    • 3:45 - 4:45 pm: Seminar: Using the Flipped Classroom Approach to Teach Large Introductory Classes
    • Registration form

    ​All the events will take place in William Pitt Union, Kurtzmann room.

    Presenter: Dr. Kathleen Harper - The Ohio State University

    Dr. Kathleen A. Harper who is a faculty in the Engineering Education Innovation Center at The Ohio State University and on the staff of Ohio State's University Center for the Advancement of Teaching. Dr. Harper is a national leader in research on improving students' problem solving and critical reasoning skills and has made numerous conference and workshop presentations on issues such as problem solving and critical thinking, cooperative learning, reflective journaling, the Millennial generation, and the high-school science Modeling instructional approach.

    Workshop: Improving students' problem solving and critical thinking skills

    STEM instructors often struggle with getting their students to approach problem solving and critical thinking situations more expertly.  Fortunately, a large body of research on how experts and novices solve problems has inspired many new types of classroom activities to help students develop more expert-like behavior.   In this session, participants will learn about some major results of the expert-novice research and discuss their implications for STEM instruction.  They will also examine several examples of alternative problem types, and explore how their use an aid the development of reasoning and metacognitive skills in students.  There will also be some time to begin creating new activities for use in their own classes.

    Seminar: Using the Flipped Classroom Approach to Teach Large Introductory Classes

    The past decade has seen significant growth in the amount of discipline-based educational research taking place in STEM fields.  Many of the elements that have been shown to be effective in STEM classrooms fit well into an inverted, or “flipped” classroom approach.  This seminar will motivate the rationale behind this approach and also discuss strategies for the design and implementation of an inverted classroom approach to teaching a first-year large enrollment course.  Some examples of other research-based curricular elements that can fit well in the inverted framework will also be discussed. Finally, I will share lessons learned from using the flipped approach to teach a fundamentals of engineering sequence at the Ohio State University.


    March 2, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Incorporating authentic learning experiences in a Research Methods course - Assessment
    • Discussion leader: Dr. Ben Rottman, Psychology/LRDC
    • Dr. Rottman received a dB-SERC Course Transformation Award to transform the teaching of the Research Methods course in Psychology. His approach makes heavy use of current psychology research articles for the purposes of introducing psyhcological concepts and research methods. He implemented his transformed course in Fall 2014 and at this lunch will discuss evidence-based strategies used to evaluate the effectiveness of the course and how the qualitative and quantitative data collected can be used to inform future implementations of the course to improve student learning outcomes.
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    March 1, 2015: dB-SERC Course Transformation Award proposals due

    • dB-SERC is currently accepting proposals for Course Transformation Awards from the Natural Science faculty members in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Proposals to transform introductory science foundational courses with large DFW (Drop, Fail, Withdraw) rates are especially encouraged. Funded project directors will be awarded a $2,000 honorarium plus additional funds deemed crucial for the project up to a maximum of $10,000 (including the honorarium). The award period will cover projects undertaken between May 1st 2015 and August 30th 2016.
    • More information about the format of proposal and how to apply available here.​

    February 23, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Strategies for improving diversity in STEM
    • Discussion leader: Ming-Te Wang, School of Education / Psychology / LRDC
    • Relevant articles:
    • Description: Although women comprised the majority of medical and life science degrees and occupations in recent decades, females continue to be underrepresented in math-intensive fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Career pathways encompass the ability to pursue a career as well as the motivation to employ that ability. Individual differences in intellectual capacity and motivation are also influenced by broader sociocultural factors. After reviewing research from the fields of psychology, sociology, economics, genetics, and education over the past 30 years, researchers summarize five explanations for U.S. women’s underrepresentation in math-intensive STEM fields: (1) ability level, (2) ability patterns, (3) occupational interests or preferences, (4) lifestyle values or work-family balance preferences, and (5) gender-related stereotypes and biases. We will discuss if these explanations make sense to you and if there are other possible explanations not taken into account appropriately.
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    February 16, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Designing self-diagnostic tools for students in large introductory classes
    • Discussion leader: Dr. Matteo Broccio, Physics and Astronomy, Pitt
    • Student population in introductory science classes is very diverse, therefore, the "zone of proximal development" might actually be quite different for different students. This makes it really challenging for the instructor to give meaning feeback to all students. However, with proper framing, all students may be prompted to frequently self-evaluate through online tools that revolve around specific competencies. The design of these tools must take into account common student difficulties (an example from introductory mechanics will be discussed). These tools turn out to be moderately good predictors of student behavior, and could be used to inform future instruction and/or selection of remedial activities.
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    February 9, 2015: Workshop: "Using Conceptual Models as the Basis for Science Education"

    • Workshop leader: Dr. Eric Brewe, Florida International University.

      • Dr. Brewe is a professor of science education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at FIU. He is a national leader in science education research and teacher preparation and has conducted many workshops centered on Modeling Instruction, a pedagogical approach with which he has extensive experience

    • Workshop description: One perspective on scientific methods is that science is a modeling endeavour. The common feature of all sciences is the iterative process of model development, testing, validation, deployment and revision. Effective science instruction should promote modeling skills by engaging students in the practice of modeling. Modeling instruction is a curriculum and pedagogical approach that has model development and testing as the core features of instruction. This workshop presents video examples of Modeling Instruction curriculum and pedagogy drawn from introductory science. Participants will engage in inquiry activities that focus on building qualitative and quantitative models in their own discipline. Participants will be encouraged to consider how the context of their science courses can be organized around models and the course activities can be focused on modeling. Participants are encouraged to bring laptop computers to this workshop.


    February 4, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch


    January 26, 2015: dB-SERC pizza lunch

    • Topic: Assessment of a flipped large enrollment introductory physics course
    • Discussion leader: Dr. David Nero, Physics and Astronomy, Pitt
    • For more information, and a discussion summary visit the What We Do - Journal Club page.

    January 23, 2015: UTA workshop organized by dB-SERC

    • Time: 3-5 pm followed by a reception with free food from 5-6 pm
    • Place: Thaw Hall, Room 102
    • Workshop description: ​This workshop is beneficial for undergraduate students who will serve as UTAs and it is focused on discipline-specific issues in teaching and learning. During the workshop, participants engage in various discussions related to effective teaching strategies in concrete contexts. Participants get a front row view of how they can design teaching activities in their own concrete instructional settings (e.g., engaging students in discussions, building on students’ prior knowledge etc.) because the workshop is designed to exemplify teaching strategies found effective via research.