Icon for: Michael Roberts

MICHAEL ROBERTS

DePauw University
Public Discussion
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    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 06:08 p.m.

    Thanks for checking out our video! In our interdisciplinary approach, four faculty members choose separate topics that they're passionate about. We advertise the course to first year and sophomore students but also allow a small number of juniors and seniors to enroll.   

    We've been conducting pre/post evaluations via the Science Literacy Concept Inventory and a science attitudes instrument, and we're planning to analyze students' subsequent registration and performance in other science and math courses.

    We'd greatly benefit from hearing other assessment suggestions, and we'd love to hear about your interdisciplinary STEM teaching approaches and answer questions about this approach. 

  • Icon for: Deb Cole

    Deb Cole

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 13, 2019 | 12:15 p.m.

    What an interesting and novel apprach! Do you have any preliminary data or outcomes on the pre- and post- survey and STEM retention of the student? 

     
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    Michelle Quirke
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    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 09:50 p.m.

    Thanks for the question!  All of our analyzed data is qualitative so far (students' anonymous feedback for each individual module as well as overall course evaluations at the end of the semester; faculty members' anonymous feedback collected via a grant-supported survey of all science and math faculty who have participated in some of our university science and math reform initiatives over the last few years, so the feedback cannot be traced to individual faculty members). I have collected 3 years of pre-post science attitudes (ACS by Libarkin, 2001) survey data that I will be analyzing this summer. And I'm working with our Registrar's Office to track students' subsequent choices. I don't have the data for that yet, but anecdotally, it has made an impact in some cases.  For example, our Geosciences Dept. is relatively small, but two years ago several of the students from this class subsequently took Geoscience classes (after a great experience in a plate tectonics module) and two became majors.  

  • Icon for: Danielle Watt

    Danielle Watt

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 03:08 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing your project! Given the surprise result on the pedagogical development of faculty, are you/do you plan to extend training for faculty?

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    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 09:55 p.m.

    Thanks for your question! Yes, for each offering of the course, I coordinate a short workshop with the participating faculty.  For instance, we'll meet for two 3-hour mornings in June to begin discussing our module plans for the Fall 2019 offering and potential connections between those modules. Then we meet again at the end of the summer to refresh and finalize those plans as well as discuss details for the first day of class, when we jointly meet with all of the students and introduce the model and purpose of the course.  Our NSF IUSE grant support is ending after this year, but I'll be continuing to offer the course and hold the workshop -- I'd say it's particularly important for faculty who are contributing for the first time, but it also seems to be interesting and worthwhile for faculty who have taught the course before, as they're generally working with at least a partially new set of colleagues, and they feel like they're picking up new pedagogical approaches from each other.    

     
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    Danielle Watt
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    Danielle Watt

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2019 | 02:14 p.m.

    The training workshop is a great idea. Do you plan to develop electronic materials or online resources for faculty to use if you are not able to conduct the training? 

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    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2019 | 03:15 p.m.

    Thanks! After several semesters, I've refined a basic script/outline for each workshop day (I'm happy to share details), and the sessions have become more streamlined. I think the most useful aspect of the first workshop day is probably a simple sequence of pairwise conversations: after everyone gives a brief (2-3 minute) overview of their module idea, pairs of instructors discuss possible connections between their modules (including possible synthesis ideas) for about 15 minutes, then we switch to different pairs for 15 minutes, then the final set of pairs for 15 minutes.  Then, as a group, we discuss some of the take-aways and exciting ideas that emerged, and those help us determine the sequence of modules for the semester and also provide a good starting point for the next day, where we fill-in the table of learning goals that respective modules seek to address and we discuss explicit connections between modules that we'll be able to highlight for students.

  • May 14, 2019 | 09:00 a.m.

    Love this approach. I particularly appreciate the synthesis week that highlights bringing different fields together. 

  • May 14, 2019 | 10:21 a.m.

    Michael:

    Love this idea for making gen-ed science more integrative. We do something similar in our intro biology major (2 instructors for different modules), but get complaints from students about switching from instructor to instructor over a semester. Do you see that, or does the joint synthesis session help students get past that?

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    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 10:40 a.m.

    Thanks for your question!  Overall, our students have positive reactions towards the multiple modules and switching between instructors.  Here's my sense of a few factors that influence this in addition to the synthesis weeks:

    1. Because the individual instructors have chosen their module topics, they're generally very passionate and enthusiastic about the topic -- students' comments often mention the passion of individual instructors for their content.  

    2. The instructors participate in a short workshop before the semester so they can coordinate connections between the module and calibrate their expectations regarding workload and grading approaches in the modules (they don't have to agree to identical approaches, but I think the discussion helps us create and subsequently convey similar expectations to the students across modules);

    3. As part of our workshop, we also discuss an "Elements of Science" document (which we've refined across semesters) that we share with students on the first day of class -- it outlines key terminology that we'll use throughout the semester, and all instructors can reference this sheet in their module (as well as reference topics/activities that other instructors did, because each instructor shared plans during the workshop);  

    4. The instructors jointly meet with students on the first day of class and describe the class structure and potential benefits of this approach. Each instructor gives a very short description of their module, and we usually have a small get-to-know-you activity, especially for the instructors who won't be present again until later in the semester.

    5. In most semesters, we also arrange a joint meeting during advising week where the students can ask all four instructors (generally from different disciplines) for advice regarding registration for subsequent science and math courses.

    That said, we do get comments from a smaller subset of students who still feel like they've gotten comfortable with one instructor's style and expectations and then don't like the uncertainty of switching to a new instructor.

  • Icon for: Michelle Quirke

    Michelle Quirke

    Project Manager
    May 14, 2019 | 02:15 p.m.

    What an innovative approach to creating an interdisciplinary team that keeps the learner engaged all year. Do you collect feedback from your instructors on how much experience they have with interdisciplinary teaching prior to this course? I like the concept of using these new approaches to introducing faculty to Interdisciplinary teams and providing introductions to the pedagogy. 

  • Icon for: Michael Roberts

    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 02:52 p.m.

    That's a great idea -- we don't currently collect that information, but that would be an interesting pre/post as well, and I like your idea of using this kind of approach as a formative introduction.  

     
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    Michelle Quirke
  • Icon for: Marcelo Worsley

    Marcelo Worsley

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 05:41 p.m.

    Very neat work. It might be instructive to look at how instructors' perceptions of different disciplines are changing as a result of co-teaching.

    Also, have you thought about what this might look like in a class designed for junior and seniors?

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    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 09:39 p.m.

    Thanks, I think that's a great idea -- admittedly, we might have a smaller effect than for colleagues who are genuinely co-teaching most class sessions, but anecdotally, I still think there's an effect from the workshop discussions/course planning and also from the synthesis week when two colleagues collaborate to build off of their respective modules.

    I've given some thought to a similar class for juniors and seniors: I can imagine a version that's geared towards science and math majors (still bringing them together for interdisciplinary topics, but expecting them to contribute an interesting mix of expertise and perspective from their respective disciplines -- this would be more of a capstone/senior seminar approach).  I can also imagine an alternate version for non-science juniors and seniors that is interdisciplinary but perhaps more intentionally geared towards developing interest and understanding for science topics in the news, e.g., a module on CRISPR, a module on aspects of climate change, etc.  In that scenario, it would obviously be a very limited treatment of those topics and wouldn't likely lead to subsequent science classes (as we ideally hope to encourage when we have mostly first year and sophomore students in the class), but maybe it could still have a positive impact on how those graduates subsequently consume news on those topics.   

  • Icon for: Phillip Eaglin, PhD

    Phillip Eaglin, PhD

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 06:09 p.m.

    Thanks for teaching scientific literacy skills.  We need students to know more than just what's in the book!  Helping them learn how to ask and find answers to questions about everyday experiences is also important.  Question: What are the connections between the literacy skills and the modules topics?  Are there projects students design or problems they solve that integrate the literacy skills and the module topics?

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    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 09:54 p.m.

    Thanks! In recent years, our science and math division at DePauw has roughly agreed to a set of 8 learning goals for our introductory STEM gen ed courses (they're essentially the science literacy skills from Gormally, Brickman, and Lutz, 2012). When we hold the workshop before each semester to coordinate this class, one of our sessions consists of the instructors planning the subset of learning goals that they expect to address in their respective modules.  Instructors don't try to cover every goal within a module, but our intention is to have each learning goal covered by at least 2 modules so that we can encourage students to learn and apply those skills in multiple contexts. As part of that workshop session, we also fill-out a corresponding table of Modules X Learning Goals on a shared Google Sheet with notes so that during the semester, instructors can look back at the table to refresh on their own commitments as well as the ways that colleagues intended to cover those learning goals.  

    I'd say that instructors vary substantially in how they integrate those literacy skills in their modules. For example, sometimes they're addressed via short labs/demos/simulations during class time; in other cases, assignments require students to answer questions pertinent to the literacy skills as part of a homework assignment (e.g., I've taught a "complex systems" module where, for one assignment, students choose from a set of agent-based models in Netlogo, experiment with the model and its key variables, and answer a variety of questions relevant to our literacy skills).   

     
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    Phillip Eaglin, PhD
  • Icon for: Aileen Huang-Saad

    Aileen Huang-Saad

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 14, 2019 | 11:20 p.m.

    I really liked the purposeful approach to helping students synthesize the information—I actually have a question operationally —Are team taught classes common at your universities?  How do people get “credit” for teaching in a team taught class? 

  • Icon for: Michael Roberts

    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 05:47 p.m.

    Thanks for your question!  Team-taught classes are very rare at my university, but this model works pretty well from a crediting perspective.  Our usual teaching load is 3 courses per semester, but in most science departments, a lab class is credited as 1.5 courses. With this course, two faculty are "on" for the first half of the semester (the two modules + synthesis week basically take us to fall/spring break), and then the other two faculty are "on for the second half of the semester.  Each faculty member earns .5 teaching credit for that half-semester commitment, and it can potentially pair well with teaching a lab during the semester (or another .5 credit obligation).

  • Icon for: Mark Mort

    Mark Mort

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2019 | 11:37 p.m.

     This is very interesting work and thank you for sharing it.  I'm curious if you might be Abel to shred's your numbers on how many of the students do decide to take another science course?  Is their a particular major that dominates the enrollment in your course?

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    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2019 | 03:19 p.m.

    Thanks for your question! Unfortunately, I don't have those numbers yet, but I hope to have them later in the summer -- I'm working with the Registrar's Office to see what classes students have subsequently taken (and what majors they have declared). For that particular question, I'm especially interested in students who took the class during their first year.  

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    Kevin Fleming

    Graduate Student
    May 17, 2019 | 01:54 p.m.

    This is an interesting project and I'm glad you are trying to continue it after the grant is concluded. Have your or will you assess the instructors' attitudes and perceptions of teaching general science education courses and/or teaching in the integrated modular configuration?

  • Icon for: Michael Roberts

    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2019 | 03:48 p.m.

    Thanks for your question! As part of our IUSE grant (which covers an approach to science and math general education reform at our institution, with this class as one significant piece), we've worked with an external assessor to survey all of our science and math faculty.  Only a subset (about 20) have taught in this class, but among that subset who anonymously responded to the survey, everyone seemed to believe that this course was effective for our grant's intention of improving science and math general education at DePauw. The external evaluator also collected anonymous quotes from instructors (I'll paste one below), but we don't have clear data (other than some quotes that touch on it) on whether the class impacts instructors' approaches to their other general education courses. I think it's a great idea to collect information specifically on that question.  

    Here's a sample anonymous quote from a course instructor:"Any time you bring faculty together to talk about their teaching, the synergistic value to both faculty and students is multiplicative rather than additive. Feeling like I'm not doing this work alone, working with a community rather than in a silo, is re-energizing and makes it harder to think that no one else thinks like I do"

  • Icon for: Andrea Greenhoot

    Andrea Greenhoot

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 20, 2019 | 10:56 a.m.

    Very interesting project! Do you have any courses in which math is one of the modules? Seems like a great opportunity to promote better transfer/application of math skills in other areas of science. In fact, I am wondering if an approach like this could be used to foster mathematics transfer among science majors. Some of my colleagues at the University of Kansas have been wanting to do develop something like that.  

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    Michael Roberts

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 12:00 p.m.

    Thanks for your question! We've had a three modules from mathematics colleagues so far: One looked at mathematical models, including creating and testing the predictive accuracy of functions for financial decisions and phenomena such as the rate of disease or informations speed under threshold conditions; another introduced aspects of graph theory; another looked at patterns in nature and largely focused on golden ratio, logistic and exponential growth, and fractals. These were all offered in separate semesters, and the instructors paired their modules with colleagues from science disciplines to create a synthesis. For instance, for the module on patterns in nature, my module on complex systems was paired with the colleague, and we had synthesis activities that focused on models of population growth, including a Netlogo model (as I had been introducing students to complex systems via Netlogo models).  

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.