NC State

STEM Education Initiative

Development of an Online, Interactive Textbook for Introduction to Polymer Science & Engineering (TE 200) – Wendy Krauss


Introduction to Polymer Science & Engineering (TE 200) is a sophomore level course that is required for Textile Engineering, Textile Technology, and Polymer & Color Chemistry undergraduate degrees. This course was designed for students to take during their second year, and the content is tailored to their knowledge level. Unfortunately, most (if not all) polymer textbooks are written for upper level students. TE 200’s current textbook is expensive ($194.50), written for upper level students, does not review/cover needed basic chemistries, and we only cover four chapters completely. Therefore, I am developing an interactive, online “textbook” on the Top Hat platform, thereby providing the 100+ students per academic year an improved experience and a substantial savings. The Top Hat textbook platform allows for the incorporation of games, quizzes, homework, reality check questions, and other interactive experiences directly into the “textbook.” In addition, I plan to integrate short video clips into the text. These videos will be focused on difficult concepts and problem solving. Most will be used to set up a problem and talk through how to solve the problem. All will be short (ca. 2 -3 minutes or less). In addition to offering numerous, solved, example problems, I plan to develop figures that highlight how to strategize solving polymer problems--from the simple to the complex.

Teaching Mathematics with Technology (EMS 580/480) – Robin Anderson

Math class

Teaching Mathematics with Technology (EMS 580/480) is an online course that prepares prospective and practicing mathematics teachers to use technology in their classrooms. In past years, EMS 580/480 used materials based on a Dynamic Geometry Software (DGS) called Geometer’s Sketchpad, which has recently become outdated and is no longer supported by the developer. A recent study of practicing secondary mathematics teachers found that teachers think carefully about how accessible and easy to use a particular technology tool is before they decide to use it to support their mathematics instruction. Further, several teachers in this study specifically discussed needing to use free web-based tools and their preference for tools that can be used on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The goal of this course redesign is to leverage free and mobile-device friendly tools available (e.g., GeoGebra and desmos) and revise several modules used in the course to include tasks that specifically integrate the free technologies. Along with redesigning tasks, short videos will be produced to model best practices with using the technologies. Students in the course will both experience the free technologies as learner and also spend time reflecting on the appropriateness of the technology as a teacher. On successful completion of the course redesign, students in EMS 580/480 will be trained to use the most up-to-date technology available to K-12 teachers.

Quantitative Literacy in Genetics - Justin Post, Whitney Jones, and the Division of Academic & Student Affairs*

HW Principle

Quantitative literacy is one of our General Education Competencies at NC State. Quantitative literacy requires contextualized reasoning with quantities and refers to the ability to interpret data and to reason with numbers within real-world problems. This project aims to develop data investigations, create data visualization modules, and consider alternative presentations of quantitative ideas in GN 311 to augment content delivery and student learning. Understanding the quantitative ideas around basic population genetics is a common area of concern. For instance, students struggle to conceptualize the idea of there being certain frequencies of phenotypes and genotypes in a population and how those frequencies behave over time. We will develop interactive data visualization modules to allow students to see how frequencies change over time under different conditions. We think this model for doing targeted interventions around quantitative literacy can be applied in other courses and disciplines to support learning in this critical General Education Competency area. Collaborators; Whitney Jones (Biological Sciences), Justin Post (Statistics), with advisors: Hollylynne Lee (STEM Ed dept), Gemma Mojica (Friday Institute), Jason Painter (Science House), Stephany Dunstan (DASA), Samantha Rich (DASA), Carrie Zelna (DASA)

Wolfpack Success – Kimberly Bush

Math class

Recent data show an increasing number of students are experiencing unanticipated stress leading to a wide range of health challenges that affect their academic performance, with stress levels higher among students from STEM disciplines. Therefore, there is a need for more proactive approaches to provide students with the tools and skills to manage their stress. The Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management, Wellness & Recreation, and the College of Engineering look to pilot and evaluate a program, Wolfpack Success, that leverages the benefits of physical activity along with a personalized health coaching program focused on stress and time management, sleep optimization and goal setting to improve student success within the STEM disciplines at NC State. Wolfpack Success is designed to provide students with the support and skills needed to develop sustained, academic success strategies through individual, group, and virtual support programs. Wolfpack Success will be the first integrated well-being program between two academic departments and Wellness and Recreation focused on directly impacting student success through physical activity and health coaching.

Incorporating Model-Based Learning in Large Enrollment Biology Classrooms - Miriam Ferzli and Grace Carroll


The use of model-based teaching facilitates conceptual understanding of complex and abstract biological processes. In this project, we plan to promote model development and refinement by students to help them understand processes across the cell membrane. We plan to compare the effectiveness of “technology-based” models as compared to traditional physical models. Our goal is to implement model development, model deployment, and model evaluation within two different classroom settings of BIO 183: a fully active learning classroom (SCALE-UP) and a traditional lecture classroom (auditorium-style seating) with integrated active learning. By comparing students’ performance gains between these two learning environments, we may be able to determine whether tech-based models are as effective, or more effective, than physical ones. We expect that tech-based models would be a successful alternative to traditional models, which would aid model-based learning in large enrollment courses.

Thinking Beyond the Box - An Education-Engineering Integrated Project – Nathalie Lavoine


PSE370 Pulp and Paper Products and Markets is a new 3-credit hour course offered by the Paper Science and Engineering Program in the Department of Forest Biomaterials (College of Natural Resources). This course is designed to increase students' understanding of major growth sectors in the pulp and paper industry and to put their engineering problem solving skills into practice. The corrugated board industry, in particular, is omnipresent in the U.S. and with the growing E-commerce market, sustainable alternatives to corrugated boxes are needed. With support from the STEM initiative, the lab sessions will be designed to mirror real-world problems in the packaging industry through an integrated educational-engineering project, where the students will take an active role as problem-solvers confronted with a structured problem by applying the theoretical knowledge learned in class. Specifically, the students will develop engineering strategies and novel designs that address particular customer specifications, such as improving the reusability of the box, reducing cost and amount of waste, or minimizing weight while maintaining structural integrity. The students will also learn how to create a box prototype using computer-aided-design software and cutting table. In addition, students will participate in a two-day visit of packaging converting facilities in North Carolina.

Connecting weather concepts to actual daily and storm passage air temperature and humidity changes – Sandra Yuter


Expected daily high and low air temperatures are a common feature of weather forecasts. Students often struggle to explain why on a clear day the daily low temperature is often just after sunrise and the daily high temperature is in late afternoon rather than at noon when the sun is highest in the sky. They also struggle to connect the patterns on weather maps to changes in air temperature and humidity that they directly experience during weather front and storm passage. We propose to connect abstract concepts of shortwave and longwave energy balance and rates of change of temperature and relative humidity to local weather data that students will collect and analyze as part of several new exercises created for an introductory atmospheric science course. To obtain weather observations for these activities, we will deploy several low cost sensors on campus and around Raleigh, NC.

Hands-on Neurobiology-John Meitzen


This STEM initiative grant enables active learning of neuroscience by providing students with the opportunity to work with real human materials. Neuroscience is one of the most challenging STEM disciplines, given the interdisciplinary approach and immense detail with fundamental consequences for both normal function and neurological disorders. While it is possible to learn neuroanatomy from a textbook or plastic model, the privilege of handling real human tissue provides a powerful learning opportunity. Indeed, multiple studies have demonstrated that using tangible materials as teaching tools, especially real-life materials, provides students a physical and multisensory experience of complex brain anatomy. Handling real data, both generated and in this case organic, are goals of Vision and Change and other calls for reformed STEM education. Specific for this case, the use of the human materials helps students successfully reach course learning objectives, and provides the necessary foundation for accessing neuroanatomy in both clinical and research settings.

Learning STEM in Informal Contexts-K. C. Busch


Many people associate learning with school; however, the average American spends less than 5% of their lifetime in school. In contrast, the landscape of informal STEM learning opportunities is expansive, including museums, zoos and aquaria, special-interest clubs and hobbies, and everyday contexts such as mass and social media. To engage NC State students in the processes and practices of STEM learning that happens outside of school, this project will support the development of a Learning STEM in Informal Contexts course (EMS 594/794) offered in the spring semester of the 2018-19 academic year and developed further as a Graduate School certificate. The main focus of the coursework will involve collaborative, community-engaged projects working with community partners who offer informal learning programs. These projects will encourage and support students to apply directly and immediately what they have learned from course activities about learning theory, research, and evaluation. We have several committed community partners: the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, NC Museum of Art, NC Museum of History, Museum of Life & Science—Durham, NCSU Libraries, NC Gregg Museum of Art & Design, the Citizen Science Association, and NC State Farmers Market.

Online Math Teaching Specialists-Karen Hollebrands


There are many ways teacher educators prepare mathematics teachers to implement effective teaching practices. Teacher educators can model the effecting teaching practice for teachers. Afterwards they can engage in discussions about the decisions that were made at various points in the lesson. Teacher educators can also use representations, decompositions, and approximations of practice to allow teachers to focus on and practice a particular pedagogical skill with their colleagues. How can we provide similar types of experiences in an online course when teachers are separated by miles and perhaps time zones?

Funding from the STEM Education Initiative will support the development of engaging online tasks that utilize videos of mathematics teaching and the latest technology platforms to enable teachers to learn how to implement effective mathematics teaching practices. Mathematics teachers can be asked to watch a video clip and identify important classroom moments. They can describe those moments in terms of the pedagogical moves that were made by the teacher or characterize important features of students' mathematical thinking. After analyzing carefully selected video clips, teachers can enact, video record, and share examples from their own practice that illustrate effective teaching practices.

With support from the STEM Ed Initiative, we are looking forward to creating these video-based examples, embedding them in our online courses, and providing support to teachers to enroll in these courses.

Chemistry Concept Maps-Ghada Rabah


The STEM initiative grant will be used to develop activities for the general chemistry class designed to improve the students understanding and retention of fundamental chemistry concepts and to increase their appreciation of the role of these concepts in their everyday life. The activities will involve a dual approach that includes instructor and student-created concept maps and real-world scenarios. The aim is to reproduce student excitement about applying knowledge to a real-world event observed during a previous semester, but without significantly increasing workload in an already content-heavy class. Developed activities will be incorporated into an archive that future general chemistry students can use and build on.

Titration Robots-Claire Gordy & Carlos Goller

RobotsAutomation facilitates testing numerous conditions or samples reproducibly and emphasizes the importance of accuracy and precision in liquid handling and best practices in data management. Recent introduction of automation into teaching labs in the NCSU Biotechnology Teaching Program (BIT) has facilitated student-driven course-based high-throughput research in the High-Throughput Discovery course (BIT 479/579); however, the use of automation in additional classes has been limited by the high cost of liquid handlers. To expand the scope of this technology beyond this course, we will use this grant to acquire two affordable and accessible Opentrons liquid handling robots for use in GN 312, (Elementary Genetics Laboratory), BIT 479/579 (High-Throughput Discovery), BIT 480/580 (Yeast Metabolic Engineering), and BIT 477/577 (Metagenomics). This grant will not only result in exposure of more students to automation in the biological sciences, but also improve the accessibility of our teaching labs to students with disabilities and open new avenues for course-based undergraduate research experiences.

To be described soon

Student-Talk Effects on Learning in Active Learning Biology Courses-Miriam Ferzli & Michelle Nugent


This project will be part of an ongoing research effort that focuses on student perspectives of active learning in classrooms, such as SCALE-UP, to determine which aspects of active learning are most beneficial to student learning, particularly for underrepresented students. We are interested in capturing how students reason through problems in real time as well as how students interact with the instructors when asking and answering questions. The investigation of “student talk” while learning about science is crucial to understanding the underlying cognitive constructs of meaning-making. We aim to investigate how students use oral communication to make meaning for themselves and facilitate meaning-making for their peers during in-class active learning tasks by using audio-recording devices and point-of-view cameras. We will also collect student data on task-value and changes in higher order thinking.

Math Specialists-Temple Walkowiak


Teachers in elementary school are typically faced with the challenge of teaching all subjects. This challenge can be overwhelming and demanding without the support of colleagues who are high-quality, discipline-specific teacher leaders. This STEM Education initiative grant contributes to the development of these high-quality teacher leaders in mathematics, often called mathematics specialists. Specifically, professional learning experiences through graduate-level coursework will prepare a cohort of practicing elementary teachers to serve as leaders at their elementary schools in mathematics teaching and learning. Aligned with research on teacher learning and the benefits of collaboration, the teacher-participants will reap the benefits from participating as a cohort, establishing a professional network and community. While collaborating with their colleagues in the cohort, the teacher-participants will develop their mathematical knowledge for teaching in combination with the pedagogical practices that are necessary to facilitate conceptual understanding of mathematics among elementary-aged children. Additionally, there will be experiences focused explicitly on developing their roles as teacher-leaders including attention to dispositions, beliefs, and implicit biases related to mathematics teaching and learning. The collective, and carefully intertwined, focus on knowledge, pedagogy, beliefs, and dispositions has been shown to have a positive impact on the development of mathematics teacher leaders for elementary schools. With support from the STEM Education initiative, we look forward to preparing the next set of mathematics teacher leaders for North Carolina elementary schools.

Flipping Biology Instructional Videos-Paciulli


Inverting or “flipping” a classroom involves making the lecture portion of class material available to students electronically outside of the classroom. A handful of N.C. State faculty who previously flipped their classrooms flipped them back after just a semester or two due to students not learning material as well as initially expected and/or because students had negative perceptions about “teaching themselves.” Thus, many faculty have moved from a flipped class to using “flippable moments.” Instead of flipping an entire lecture, just one or two components can be assigned outside of the classroom. The funding for this grant will be used to create more “flippable moment” materials for BIO 181: Introductory Biology I: Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity. Ten-minute multi-media videos and podcasts will be made for difficult to comprehend introductory biology topics such as how to use life tables and how plants reproduce using alternation of generations. Data will be collected comparing learning for students who had access to the new materials and those who did not.

Medical Microbiology-Melissa Ramirez


MB 412 Medical Microbiology Laboratory is a 1-credit hour laboratory experience to complement MB 411 Medical Microbiology. These courses explore diagnosis, prevention, and therapy of common human diseases of microbial origin. The laboratory focuses on techniques of detection, growth and identification of bacteria and viruses relevant in clinical microbiology laboratories. With support from the STEM Initiative, the focus of this course redesign will be the creation of a laboratory module with an authentic research component. Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) are an area of intense focus due to the richness of experiences provided to students as they participate in the process of authentic experimental science. Specifically, this proposal will expand the MB 412 laboratory module on mammalian cell culture by incorporating an authentic research component in which students design experiments using the bacterium Mycobacterium smegmatis. Currently, students gain proficiency in maintaining and passaging mammalian cell lines, how to determine viral titers, and how to perform infections of cell lines. This module will be expanded by having students design their own experiment to determine effects of various antibiotic treatments on the infection of mammalian cells lines by the bacterium Mycobacterium smegmatis. M. smegmatis is a biosafety level 2 bacterium that is used as a non-virulent alternative for the bacterium that causes tuberculosis in humans. Not only will this redesigned module give students a more authentic research experience, it will provide ample material and data for students to use in the scientific writing and oral presentation components already present in the course. Instead of students presenting on already published scientific papers, students will be able to work with their own experimental design and data. Students will learn to write protocols, learn about the various ways to represent data, prepare visual representations of their data, and participate in peer-review along the way.


Genetics via Posters-Claire Gordy & Joy Little

Gordy & Little

GN 312 (Elementary Genetics Laboratory) was recently redesigned to incorporate a yeast genetics course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE). This grant will support an added emphasis on digital literacy within this course. Using the STEM Education Initiative funds, we will hire an undergraduate research student to create online resources demonstrating the use of Microsoft Excel to analyze data and Microsoft Powerpoint and Adobe Illustrator to create figures and arrange them into a coherent narrative. To provide students with an opportunity to assemble their data into a presentable visual narrative, we will replace the current “Data Portfolio” assignment with research posters. This will be facilitated through the purchase of a large format printer, which will also be available for use by other CUREs in Biological Sciences.

Zero-G Mechanics Videos-Karen Daniels


This project capitalizes on the opportunity presented by a NASA-funded project to examine strategies for digging and anchoring on asteroids, in which experiments will be conducted on parabolic flights. We will use videos and data collected during this process do create an educational component for use in teaching introductory physics. The primary audience for the materials prepared will be PY201/205/211 students at NC State, but less-quantitative versions will also be used for outreach events. Two physics majors who participated in designing and running the zero-gravity experiments will examine the video footage of both the experiments, the experimenters, and some small demos brought along to find (1) illustrations of fundamental physics principles for use in lecture classes; (2) identify videos suitable for use in video analysis lab exercises; and (3) make connections between basic science and its applications in space exploration. We will develop lesson plans to go along with each item, test them during Spring 2019, and disseminate them over Summer 2019.

A JupyterHub server for ready integration of computing into science courses--Lex Kemper


These days science and scientific computing go hand in hand; we've gone from a time where equations can be solved by hand to the point where numerical tools have become an integral part of the scientific process. As such, it's important to have computing be a part of STEM courses. However, the typically available methods for doing so have a high barrier to entry, or a high learning curve. We propose to deploy a JupyterHub server, which runs easy-to-use computational notebooks in an online setting. This server removes the high barrier to entry since everyone has a web browser and can easily access the server. The JupyterHub infrastructure itself allows for the easy development, deploying, and collection of assignments, making life for the instructor much easier. Finally, the Jupyter notebooks themselves may be tailored to students of any level of numerical/programming background.n.

Student-Generated Problem-Solving Strategies Archive for Introductory Organic Chemistry--Maria T. Gallardo-Williams


Motivating students to participate and engage in an organic chemistry class requires the use of every pedagogical technique in an instructor’s toolbox; when the class is a large section, one-semester course geared towards non-majors, the challenge is magnified by the many diverse interests of the large student population, and the abundance of material that needs to be covered. One way to enhance student engagement is to introduce a class project that allows each student to choose the topic that they want to focus on, which increases student buy-in and leads to sustained interest. We are pioneering a new approach to the class project idea, in which students in the class are allowed to choose a particular topic of interest and are challenged to create shareable problem-solving schemes that can be applied by other students in the class (or in future classes). These strategies, which could be classified as educational objects, are peer-reviewed and revised during the semester. The problem-solving resources that will be developed by students could take many different forms. From written step-by-step instructions to infographics, generation of 3D printed materials, or video tutorials, the assignment would be open in nature, but assessed using a common rubric to ensure consistency across different media and varied representations. These non-disposable assignments would then be incorporated into an archive of strategies that can be used by other students. Following cohorts of students could create new educational objects or take on the task of curating and revising the existing objects. The proposed outcome of this work would be the creation of an open access archive of problem-solving strategies for use in organic chemistry classes at NC State and elsewhere.

Elementary Education MEd Program: Science Leaders Cohort--Sarah Carrier


The award for the department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences will support the Science Leader Cohort in the Elementary Education M.Ed. Program. In summer 2018 the faculty in elementary science education will be offering courses that the North Carolina State Board of Education approved for the Elementary Science Specialist Add-on License as part of the M.Ed. program. NC State is the first and currently the only university in North Carolina to offer this advanced degree in elementary science identifying them as Elementary Science Leaders. This science program was developed in response to emerging knowledge about the importance of teacher leaders in elementary classrooms and to address the dearth of elementary science instruction and elementary teachers’ low self-efficacy in teaching. Outcomes of the NC State program area of study address the following North Carolina Teaching standards: Teacher leadership, Respectful educational environments, Content and curriculum expertise, Student learning, Reflection, and 21st Century knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

Markerspaces for Learning Biology--Miriam Ferzli and Kimberly Pigford


The STEM Initiative grant will be used to continue designing innovative, active learning opportunities for students enrolled in the introductory biology courses for majors, Bio 181. We plan to use a combination of Makerspaces 3-D printed models of cellular components to encourage students to fully interact and engage with course material. The use of tangible models has been shown to increase student learning gains and motivation within the classroom. Our project will work to expand on current successes of incorporating and researching the effectiveness of creative student-centered approaches to instruction in the first year biology courses. This past summer and fall semesters, we used Makerspaces 3-D models of horse teeth and leg bones to teach students about evolutionary changes throughout geological time. We assessed student learning and motivation.

Visualization of the Movements of Air that Underlie Weather-–Sandra Yuter


The ever-changing 3D air flows in the atmosphere are both complex and essential for understanding day to day weather. Traditional conceptual models used in atmospheric science are often static representations of dynamic systems and typically do not reproduce the noisy reality of authentic weather. Studies have shown that the educational value of conceptual models is maximized when students are able to compare and contrast the model with real data and identify weaknesses in the simplified model. This STEM Initiative Education Grant will refine an open source weather visualization tool for use at the college level. The modifications will focus on making sequences of archived weather data readily accessible with user customization of the display to facilitate quantitative analysis. The software will be used by students as part of activities and by instructors to construct short educational videos from real weather data on concepts including air pressure and winds, global wind systems, air masses and fronts, mid-latitude cyclones, and hurricanes. We anticipate that these new applications will have wide utility for students and educators in introductory atmospheric science courses across the US.

MB352 General Microbiology Laboratory Lab Redesign--Alice Lee and Michael Taveirne


General Microbiology Lab (MB352) is an introductory, critical-path course that is taught year-round. It is currently designed to teach basic principles in bacteriology using classic protocol-based labs, with nominal critical thinking and inquiry-based learning practices. A main goal of this course redesign is to incorporate new discovery-driven labs that will help develop students into engaged problem solvers. To accomplish our goals, we are proposing a lab redesign based on a series of interconnected experiments focused on the science of food fermentation. Our redesigned labs will investigate authentic research questions relevant to the vegetable fermentation industry. Students will be tasked with investigating the effects of salt concentration on the die-off of Enterobacteriaceae, and its impact on shifting populations of Lactic Acid Bacteria during fermentation. Due to the nature of authentic experimental questions, the student generated data would contribute to our understanding of microbial ecology and answer fundamental questions relevant to food safety. The student generated data will also benefit North Carolina’s vegetable fermentation industry. Mt. Olive, the largest privately held pickle company in the U.S., is based in North Carolina with distribution in all 50 States. Knowledge of brining requirements may help inform their fermentation practices to reduce the amount of salts used while maintaining food safety. This lab redesign will enable students to work on real-world applications and engage in the creative process of scientific inquiry. Students will acquire the skills necessary for success in modern research laboratories, and foster both critical and creative thinking required in scientific disciplines. A positive redesign will affect a significant number of students and help keep them on their academic trajectories in STEM majors, while also preparing them for scientific careers.

Use of Tablets and Instructional Videos in Undergraduate Microbiology Laboratories--Mike Taveirne


The STEM Initiative grant will be used to integrate tablet computer technology into MB 413542 (Inquiry-Guided Microbiology Laboratory) with the goal of expanding this initiative to other undergraduate microbiology teaching laboratory courses, and to the greater NC State community. Principally, tablets will be used as electronic, cloud-based, laboratory notebooks that allow for handwriting recognition. This technology will also allow for the inclusion of data visualization exercises to educate students on proper and effective presentation of scientific data. Additionally, students will be involved in creating educational videos demonstrating lab exercises, enabling better preparation before class, and an accessible resource during the lab. Moreover, this initiative will allow for increased biosafety by decreasing the number of personal materials that enter and exit the laboratory, in addition to eliminating textbook (lab manual) costs in accordance with the UNC system’s initiative to lower student textbook costs.

Increasing Student-Centered Learning in Introductory Biology through Innovative Technologies: Makerspace--Miriam Ferzli & Lisa Paciulli


This project aims to enhance student-centered learning by providing students with the opportunity to build biological models using Makerspace. It will integrate existing student projects/activities done as part of the TH!NK program with the opportunity for Makerspace development at D.H. Hill and James B. Hunt libraries. Makerspace will give students another avenue for expressing science concepts in creative ways. Students could build electronic prototypes of molecules, print cells in three dimensions (3D), make 3D digital models of multicellular organisms, etc., to enhance their creative and critical thinking skills and be part of the STEM to STEAM movement.

Integrating Yeast Genetics into Undergraduate Genetics Labs--Claire Gordy and Joy Little


This STEM Initiative Grant will be used for the redesign of GN 312 (Elementary Genetics Laboratory), a one-credit hour course that enrolls approximately 120 students/semester in fall and spring. In the first half of the semester, students cross Drosophila melanogaster to evaluate concepts in meiosis, linkage, sex-linkage, and population genetics. In the second half of the course, students perform a series of molecular techniques that are meant to demonstrate PCR, molecular cloning, restriction enzyme digestion, and DNA fingerprinting. The funds provided through this grant will be used to purchase the equipment and supplies necessary to replace the current molecular genetics experiments with an inquiry-based yeast genetics module that moves beyond just teaching students techniques by allowing them to design their own experiments. This module will introduce students to a second model organism – the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae – and allow them to design their own hypothesis-driven research projects.

Creation & Integration of Tactile Teaching Tools to Enhance Inclusivity in Microbiology Learning--Melissa Ramirez


General Microbiology (MB 351), like other courses in the biological sciences, is heavily reliant on two-dimensional visual representation of information. Our representations are simplified for clarity and often do not reflect the complexity of biological systems. Regrettably, these traditional approaches ignore the needs of students with visual impairments and those who process visual-spatial information differently. The advent of affordable and accessible 3D printing technology has made it possible for instructors to create tactile models that represent molecules, cells, and entire organisms more accurately than traditional visual representations. The goal of this project is to translate the complex process of gene expression into a set of tactile tools that students can manipulate in order to gain insight into how 3D form impacts biological function. This STEM Initiative Grant will be used to design a 3D lac operon puzzle with integrated electronics to produce auditory feedback based on the arrangement of the components to help students understand how multiple molecules come together to turn genes on or off. These funds will also support an undergraduate assistant to participate in the research behind the design, creation, and classroom implementation of the tools.

Assessment of Student Learning in Redesigned General Microbiology--Alice Lee and Melissa Ramirez


A large course redesign of General Microbiology (MB 351), a large-enrollment (1000+ students/year), critical path course taught year-round was undertaken during 2013-2015. Prior to the onset of the redesign process, MB 351 had been offered as a mixture of traditional lecture sections and fully-online (DE) sections that utilized video-recorded lectures. The redesign project was conceived as a major renovation of all aspects of MB 351 to improve the student classroom experience, reduce course drift and drop/failure/withdrawal (DFW) rates. The intention of the redesign is to ultimately improve student engagement and learning outcomes by moving students into a learner-centered model of instruction. The redesign of the course in its three formats (online, SCALE-UP, and traditional lecture) has been substantially completed. This upcoming year, we will focus specifically on the assessment of student learning in each of these formats. Assessment will include evaluation of student understanding of a difficult microbiological concept, the use of a survey instrument to capture student perceptions of the learning environment, and student focus groups will be used to obtain qualitative data about students’ experiences in the course. Once data collection and analysis is complete, we anticipate preparing the results of the study for wider dissemination, ideally through publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Testing the use of an Augmented Reality Sandbox in the Undergraduate Classroom-- Karen S. McNeal and Rachel Atkins


We plan to construct an Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox for use in several undergraduate courses in the Dept. of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences. The AR Sandbox is an interactive tool that can be used in the classroom to teach essential concepts in the geoscience classroom through collaborative learning. It allows teams of students to build physical models using the sand in the box where the interactive overhead projector responds to the students’ activity through displaying terrain, landscape and hydrologic changes through color and topographic mapping features. As such, this tool provides an engaging and real-time response for students as they explore concepts such as topographic mapping, surface water run-off, groundwater flow, pollutants, weathering, and the impact of human developed structures on landscapes. Our goal is to incorporate and test the impacts of this interactive tool on student conceptual understanding, engagement, and geoscience attitude. For a video demonstration of some features of the AR Sandbox, see here.

Gamified Learning Platforms Study--Miriam Ferzli, Betty Black, Kim Pigford


The implementation of the blended learning model has proved to be efficient for facilitating the expansion of student-centered approaches to traditional biology classroom settings. In line with this we currently teach our introductory biology for majors in a format known as SCALE-UP (Student Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies). Instructors using this pedagogical approach check student understanding by giving them benchmarks for progress during class, foster a collaborative approach to learning, provide opportunities for student self-assessment, and provide summation. This approach allows students to manipulate concepts in a very active manner while the instructor is present for clarifying and answering questions. We hypothesize that increased student motivation plays a major role in the resulting high student performance observed in active-learning environments. According to the self-determination theory (SDT) of motivation, individuals are inherently drawn to grow, master challenges, and integrate new experiences as they continually develop and refine their own sense of self. Based on these findings, we propose to develop interactive web-based materials with game-like features and correlated active-learning activities for Introductory Biology, and to assess the impact of this learning model on student motivation and overall learning gains. We plan to design a digital educational experience where players take on a persona and enter a scientific themed mansion where they are given a series of quests as they move from room to room in order to solve a “mystery” while simultaneously gathering scientific knowledge. The game will be developed and implemented in our Introductory Biology-II course in spring 2016. We plan to use the game in both a SCALE-UP section and Lecture section. Pre and post test scores from concept inventories in biology and the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory will be used to assess learning gains and motivation, respectively. Focus groups with students and Likert style surveys will be used to explore student perceptions of the game, including their opinions on its usefulness and their willingness to play the game as a means of studying course material. Funds from the grant will be used to pay for the development and testing of the game. This includes time spent developing, coding, and adding instructional material to the game; as well as time spent analyzing data and conducting focus groups. The project is intended to take the entire semester, with game development taking up the first half and testing taking up the second half.

Student Confidence Calibration Tool Proposal--David McConnell


Developing the skill to accurately predict what we know and what we don’t know is a necessary part of learning. We propose to create a Student Confidence Calibration Tool to help improve students’ ability to accurately determine their metacognitive monitoring accuracy, i.e., to help them figure out if they know as much as they think they do in introductory geoscience courses. Our goal is to develop a dynamic, network-based application that operates as an assessment tool to automatically calculate calibration values and assess predictions of performance on content quizzes. Students will be prompted to answer quiz questions and to enter their relative confidence judgements on a continuous sliding scale ranging from “Not at all confident” to “Very confident”. The software system will automatically calculate calibration values and provide students important feedback on the accuracy of their confidence judgements as measured against their performance. Further, the application should also provide a template for instructors to generate quizzes where individual questions will be linked with student confidence measures and course learning objectives.

Converting Intro Biology Lab into an Undergrad Research Experience--Jason Flores, Benoit Jacquet, and Lisa Parks


The STEM Initiative grant will provide funds for BIO 183 instructors to collaborate with faculty from Virginia Tech, Emory, and the University of Tennessee, as well as NCSU, in order to gain insight in how to convert an introductory biology lab into a course-based undergraduate research experience. With guidance from Vision and Change 2015, the National Academies Summer Institute, the results from a recent external departmental review, and a collaboration with the campus-wide TH!NK initiative, Biological Sciences introductory course faculty will collaborate and revise the BIO183 lab activities and assessments using a module-based guided and active inquiry approach for implementation in Fall 2016.

Elementary Education M.Ed. Program: Mathematics Specialist Cohort--Paola Sztajn


The award for the department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences will support the Mathematics Specialist Cohort in the Elementary Education M.Ed. Program. Since 2012, faculty in elementary mathematics education have been offering the courses the North Carolina State Board of Education approved for the Elementary Mathematics Specialist Add-on License as part of the M.Ed. program. These courses address recent findings that show the contributions of these specialists to student learning. Currently, the second cohort of elementary teachers is going through the program, and a third cohort will start in Summer 2016. Graduates of the program have demonstrated significant increases in their mathematics knowledge for teaching numbers and operation as well as geometry. Changes in teachers’ knowledge of algebra and probability were also positive but not significant. Qualitative data also shows that graduates from the program came to understand mathematics differently, attend to their students’ thinking in more purposeful ways, and teach mathematics in ways that “make students think.” Many of the graduates have taken leadership roles as mathematics specialists at their schools.