2nd Conference on Transforming Research in Undergraduate STEM Education (TRUSE)

2012 Archive

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Date: June 3 - 7, 2012

Location: Univeristy of St. Thomas, Minnesota 2115 Summit Avenue St. Paul, Minnesota 55105, USA

Conference Organizers

Warren Christensen
North Dakota State University

Chris Rasmussen
San Diego State University

John Thompson
Univeristy of Maine

Marcy Towns
Purdue University
(email) Conference Schedule

Conference Participants List

Conference Evaluation Sheet

Cool Happenings

Venus in Transit

On Tuesday, June 5, in the late afternoon and evening, the Transit of Venus 2012 will occur. While you are attending the conference, you will be able to veiw this event at the University of Minnesota. For additional information and to view a scheduled of events for this stellar event can be found at Venus Transit.

TRUSE 2012 Conference Themes

Theoretical foundations and methodologies: Conceptualizing work in research on undergraduate discipline-based STEM education

This conference will bring together researchers in undergraduate mathematics, physics, and chemistry education to transform and integrate research across disciplines. In addition to plenary sessions there will be poster sessions, working groups to interact and plan with new colleagues, and interactive free time. This is your chance to be part of an emerging community of scholars collaborating across disciplinary lines!

NFS This conference is generously sponsored by the National Science Foundation through grants DUE-CCLI # 0941515 and 0941191.


2012 Schedule

TRUSE 2012 Conference Speakers

Dr. Myles Boylan, Program Director, National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education

Dr. David Bressoud, Macalester College, Dept. of Mathematics and Computer Science

Dr. Stacey Lowery Bretz, Miami University, Ohio, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Dr. Melanie Cooper, Clemson University, Dept. of Chemistry

Dr. Melissa Dancy, University of Colorado-Boulder, Dept. of Physics

Dr. Noah Finkelstein, Univeristy of Boulder, Colorado, Dept. of Physics

Dr. Mike Klymkowsky, University of Colorado-Boulder, Dept. of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Dr. Vilma Mesa, University of Michigan, School of Education

Dr. Joe Redish, University of Maryland, Dept. of Physics

Dr. Finbarr Sloane, Arizona State University, Educational Leadership and Innovation

Dr. Keith Weber, Rutgers University, Graduate School of Education

Dr. Michael Wittmann, University of Maine, Dept. of Physics

Dr. Michelle Zandieh, Arizona State University, Dept. of Applied Sciences & Mathematics 


Characteristics of Successful Programs in College Calculus: Preliminary Findings

Dr. David Bressoud, Macalester College,
Dept. of Mathematics and Computer Science

In the fall term of 2010, the Mathematical Association of America undertook a large-scale survey of instruction of mainstream Calculus I in two- and four-year undergraduate programs. The surveys of course coordinators, instructors, and students involved 168 colleges and universities, 660 instructors representing almost 900 Calculus I classes, and 34,000 students, 12,000 of whom answered the initial student survey. This will be a preliminary report of some of the findings.

A Report from the National Research Council Board on Science Education Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Direction of Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER)

Dr. Stacey Lowery Bretz, Miami University, Ohio,
Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The National Science Foundation has funded a synthesis study on the status, contributions, and future direction of discipline-based education research (DBER) in physics, biological sciences, geosciences, and chemistry. DBER combines knowledge of teaching and learning with deep knowledge of discipline-specific science content. It describes the discipline-specific difficulties learners face and the specialized intellectual and instructional resources that can facilitate student understanding. The committee was charged to investigate questions essential to advancing DBER and broadening its impact on undergraduate science teaching and learning, synthesize empirical research on undergraduate teaching and learning in the science, explore the extent to which this research currently influences undergraduate instruction, and identify the intellectual and material resources required to further develop DBER. This presentation will discuss the consensus report and its guidance for future DBER research.


Dr. Melanie Cooper, Clemson University,
Dept. of Chemistry

BeSocratic, is a web-based formative assessment system that can recognize and respond to free-form student input in the form of representations including graphs, simple diagrams, chemical structures. It consists of three components: an interface on which students can draw, input text and some gestures (on an iPad or touchscreen computer), an authoring tool for development of activities, and a set of analysis tools that allow researchers to mine student response data. A range of BeSocratic activities will be discussed in the context of curriculum reform efforts to improve student understanding of core concepts, the development of representational competence, and the ability to answer questions scientifically. Results of implementation efforts and visualizations of student performance data will be presented.

Educational Transformation in STEM:  
Why has it been limited and how can it be accelerated?

Dr. Melissa Dancy, University of Colorado-Boulder,
Dept. of Physics

We have engaged in multiple projects over many years designed to understand how and why research-based teaching innovations have had limited impact on mainstream college level teaching.  We have found substantial evidence that the typical “dissemination” model of change has been effective at increasing knowledge of innovations and motivation to change among individual faculty, but fails as an overall educational transformation model because it does not account for the complexity of change.  Specifically, it fails to acknowledge the often substantial environmental barriers to change, it fails to support the ongoing, organic, often difficult nature of real change, and it does not recognize the importance of and subsequently utilize social dynamics in the change process.  In this talk we will summarize our findings, as well as others, and offer recommendations for bringing about impactful and sustained educational transformation through a more robust change model.

Physics Education Research:
A Resource for Educational Transformation at a Critical Time

Dr. Noah Finkelstein, University of Colorado-Boulder,
Dept. of Physics

Currently, unprecedented national attention is now being paid to the outcomes of and needs for Discipline-Based Education Research.  After framing the national scale scene of physics education, and how physics education research (PER) is positioned to contribute to the national dialog, I will review the growth of our own program at CU, and particularly my own research that examines several of the critical scales of focus in physics education.  This work develops a new theoretical line of inquiry in PER through experimental work on student reasoning in physics at the individual, the course, and the departmental scales. I will present samples of these scales reviewing:  course transformation at the introductory to advanced level in physics, research on how subtle faculty choices that influence the impacts of these course transformations, and the development of a framework for understanding (and effecting?) sustained change in undergraduate STEM Education.

Toward a Coherent and Interactive Curriculum in the Sciences

Dr. Mike Klymkowsky, University of Colorado-Boulder,
Dept. of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Disciplinary mastery is critical, not only for scientists, but for effective K12 teachers. Unfortunately, many undergraduate science degree programs fall short of this goal. Moreover, intentionally or not, many serve to discourage rather than encourage students to pursue an understanding of science. A necessary step toward improving science literacy and mastery, as well as K12 science education, is a careful examination and (where necessary) the redesign of degree programs, courses, and course materials. This involves the generation of coherent curricula based on a critical reflection of the importance, scope of applicability, inherent difficulty of the materials presented, the order of their presentation, and how they are reinforced and mastered. Together with my colleagues, I have been working on these issues. These projects, Biofundamentals (1), Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything (CLUE) with Melanie Cooper)(2), and Calculus, Stochastics, and Modeling (CSM) developed by Eric Stade, will be described. They use a range of strategies, including socially-interactive web text and graphic (BeSocratic) formative assessments to present foundational concepts in biology, chemistry, and mathematics. I describe systems by which to specify a curriculum’s scope and resolution and to visualize the effects of instruction on student thinking.  

1. http://virtuallaboratory.colorado.edu/Biofundamentals/
2. http://besocratic.colorado.edu/CLUE-Chemistry/

Investigating the Rationality of Teacher Decisions:
Mathematics in Community Colleges

Dr. Vilma Mesa, University of Michigan,
School of Education

Vilma Mesa and the Teaching Mathematics in Community Colleges Research Group at the U-Michigan:

Community colleges can play a significant role as a pathway to STEM fields, because of their open access policies. Community colleges educate about 50% of all undergraduates in the U.S. and nearly 49% of all undergraduate mathematics students at U.S. colleges and universities. These institutions fulfill five functions: (1) academic transfer preparation, (2) terminal vocational certification, (3) general education leading to an associate’s degree, (4) community education, and (5) re-training of workers for a changing economy. National attention on community colleges has increased thanks to the rising costs of higher education and to President Obama’s emphasis on college enrollment and graduation. This context provides us with an excellent setting to investigate instruction, in particular the reasons teachers have to conduct instruction in the ways they do. Using the idea of a breaching experiment, and modeling instructional situations with animated characters, we investigate how faculty respond to breaches of the norms that regulate their classrooms and test hypothesis about the conditions in which suggestions for reforming teaching can work. In this talk I will illustrate how we use the animations with faculty, what have we gained with this methodology, and preliminary results regarding differences between part-time and full-time faculty.

Adding Value through Interdisciplinary Conversation

Dr. Joe Redish, University of Maryland,
Dept. of Physics

While our majors are important, the primary teaching in most STEM departments are for students in other STEM disciplines. Chemistry teaches classes for biologists, mathematicians teach everyone, and physicists teach physics for pre-meds and biologists, chemists, and engineers. Traditionally, we each deliver these service courses firmly footed in our own disciplines, and each course reflects what we see as what's important to learn, rather than what our clients might find valuable. Conversations with faculty in the departments we serve tend to be limited and often have little impact on our instruction. Recently, I have been interacting extensively with biologists, chemists, and mathematicians in HHMI's Project NEXUS to begin to create a new undergraduate science program for pre-meds and biologists that reflects development of appropriate content, skills, and competencies.* These interdisciplinary conversations have been eye-opening - and sometimes startling. Different STEM disciplines epistemologically frame introductory university science instruction differently. These diverse goals and approaches make it difficult for students taking courses in many STEM departments to make the connections between what they are learning in different classes. In this talk, I will discuss some of the things I have learned, some of our successes and failures, and what we have learned about our students' responses to interdisciplinary STEM teaching and learning.
* Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians (AAMC, 2009). (pdf);
NEXUS UMCP [http://umdberg.pbworks.com/w/page/44091483/Project%20NEXUS%20UMCP

Measuring and Modeling Student Growth in Early
Grades Mathematics

Dr. Finbarr Sloane, Arizona State University,
Educational Leadership and Innovation

In this paper, I present a model for developing and validating measures of students’ mathematical knowledge and how it develops over time. I then present a framework for understanding and testing student development qualitatively and statistically.  Data are drawn from students in inner city settings and contrasted with national norms.  Next, the individual growth that occurs within the sampled classrooms is considered.  Finally, between-classroom models of this development are generated and examined. 

The paper highlights modern tools for examining individual growth curves.  The initial examination of data is conducted graphically and then related to qualitative interviews of students as a check of the validity of the posited growth trajectories and the quantification processes.  When the validation checks are in place the modeling of the data begins in earnest.  The intertwining roles of theory are data examined throughout the modeling process.

Reading and Comprehending Mathematical Arguments

Dr. Keith Weber, Rutgers University,
Graduate School of Education

In undergraduate science and mathematics courses, students spend a substantial amount of time reading arguments that support facts and theories. Yet research suggests that students often learn little from reading these arguments. In this presentation, I address three questions about students’ reading of mathematical proof, the primary genre of argumentation used in undergraduates’ mathematics classes: (1) What does it mean to understand a proof and how can this understanding be assessed? (2) What strategies should students use when reading a proof to facilitate comprehension? (3) What do students perceive their role and responsibility to be when reading a proof? These questions are addressed using qualitative and quantitative data. Initially task-based interviews with students and interviews with mathematicians were used to generate hypotheses about what students should do, but do not do, when reading a proof. A survey was then used to demonstrate statistically reliable differences in mathematics majors’ approaches to proof reading and the approaches that mathematicians would like them to take. Although the results of this study might not generalize to the STEM disciplines, it is hoped that the questions and research methods described in this presentation may be useful to other science educators.

Epistemological Framing as a Lens on Students, Teachers,
and Researchers

Dr. Michael Wittmann, University of Maine,
Dept. of Physics

How we listen to our students is often determined by what we want to know. In this talk, I will describe several ongoing projects at the University of Maine, each dedicated to a particular perspective on how to listen to students and teachers in the classroom. In one project, we ask sets of seemingly identical questions to gather a richer picture of an introductory physics class's content understanding of a given topic.  In another study, we carefully listen for the words that sophomore level mechanics students use as they solve problems while working in groups. Particular words indicate their expectations about the practices of doing physics. In a third project, we are watching teachers in a middle school physical science classroom interact with new materials that ask that they pay attention to the disciplinary substance of their students' thinking in new ways, balancing both content knowledge and scientific practices. In each situation, we use the lens of epistemological framing to make sense of our observations. We apply our approach not just to students and teachers but also to our own work as researchers.

How we think mathematically: A cognitive linguistics approach to understanding mathematical concepts and practices

Dr. Michelle Zandieh, Arizona State University,
Dept. of Applied Sciences & Mathematics

A segment of my research over the past 15 years has focused on the use of the tools of cognitive linguistics to describe and explain student thinking.  This work encompasses student understanding of particular mathematical concepts such as function, derivative and linear transformation, as well as students engaging in the practices of the discipline of mathematics such as defining and proving.  In this presentation I will provide three examples of work my colleagues and I have done that illustrate a range of results using these tools. (1) The use of conceptual metaphor and metonymy to describe what the mathematical community means by derivative at the freshman calculus level, while also giving us a way to measure student understanding in comparison with this structure. (2) The use of conceptual blending to describe the evolution of student thinking as they engage in the mathematical practice of proving.  This practice includes the creation of key ideas for the proof as well as the structuring of a mathematical argument. (3) The use of conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending to understand how students determine whether, or to what extent, two mathematical constructs are the same or different.  

Presentations from 2010 Truse Minigrant Recipients

Tackling Teaching: Understanding Commonalities among Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics Classroom Practices

Warren Christensen, NDSU; Karen Marrongelle, OSU; Sam Pazicni, UNH

Investigating the transfer of mathematical knowledge using physicsless physics questions

John Thompson, U. Maine; Joe Wagner, Xavier U.; Tom Wemyss, U. Maine

Using Gesture Analysis to Explore Embodied Cognition in Chemistry

François Amar, U. Maine; Ricardo Nemirovsky, SDSU; Mitchell Bruce, U. Maine; Michael Wittmann, U. Maine; Tom Wemyss, U. Maine

How Small is Small? – Student Reasoning with 'Neglected Quantities' in Introductory Calculus and Physics

Danielle, Champney, UC Berkeley; Eric Kuo, U. Maryland, College Park; Angie Little, UC Berkeley

Information from Truse Targeted Sessions

Participant contact list from embodied cognition targeted session

Poster Abstracts

Poster Session #1 - Monday, June 4, 8:00 PM
Odd numbers at your poster 8:00-8:45 PM
Even numbers at your poster 8:45-9:30 PM

For full abstract listing of Poster Session #1, click here.

Poster Session #2 - Wednesday, June 6, 8:00 PM
Odd numbers at your poster 8:00-8:45 PM
Even numbers at your poster 8:45-9:30 PM

For full abstract listing of Poster Session #2, click here.