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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Creating Academic Community for First-Generation College Students: A Graduate Student Instructor Guidebook

Thanks to a two-year $295,484 grant from the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, CRTE graduate fellows conduct classroom research and publish their findings in our guidebook project paper series.

Cover page of Immigrants’ Success in Science Education and Careers

Immigrants’ Success in Science Education and Careers

(2011)

The contribution of immigrants to the scientific and technological innovation and progress of the United States is significant. Beyond the existing statistics describing their status, this study explored the factors driving such immigrants’ success in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers, focusing on their learning and career growth environments. The goal of this study was to seek and expose qualitative information for the development of a pro-active STEM curriculum of education and career enhancement, in addition to fostering such academic policy guidelines for STEM students and scholars in multicultural and diverse settings. The study targeted first generation students and scholars in terms of immigration status as well as university education, while also intentionally including all STEM field people, regardless of immigration status, in an effort to offer a more comprehensive view of success factors and needs in STEM, and also to seek non-immigrants’ view points on their immigrant peers’ issues. Anonymous survey responses were collected from 156 STEM individuals in North America, Asia, Europe and Africa, all of whom had higher education and/or career experiences in the United States. The survey revealed that the success of immigrants and non-immigrants alike in STEM education and careers is enhanced by a variety of factors including past education, institutional environment for mental and professional growth and active mentorship. Their success cannot be defined by grades, graduation rates, publications or patents alone. Other metrics of success identified by this study include the acquisition of respect from supervisors, peers, and community; the knowledge and skills for work and life gained within and beyond the university; and opportunities to provide significant measurable contribution in STEM fields throughout one’s career, regardless of immigration status. Considering the shifting US diversity and economic landscape mirrored by the changing definitions, roles and potential of minority and immigrant groups in US STEM fields, corresponding policies should be formulated, implemented and enforced from institutional to federal levels with the incorporation of such findings and continuous input from all stakeholders.

Cover page of Relationship of Time-Management Behaviors to the Effectiveness of Chemistry Pre-Laboratory Assignments

Relationship of Time-Management Behaviors to the Effectiveness of Chemistry Pre-Laboratory Assignments

(2011)

Inadequate writing skills are a common problem in science classes. Writing scientific papers require a different skill type than writing prose and often learning the terminology is similar to learning a second language. Research has shown that activities such as group projects and peer review are helpful in addressing this challenge in other contexts. This project will use three sections of upper division physiology university students; one section is the experimental group and the other two are control groups. All students write five lab reports with a partner during the semester, which are used to practice peer review. The class is trained on how to review a paper and a rubric in the form of a feedback worksheet is provided. The class anonymously exchanges papers and review prior to turning them in for grading. The reports with the attached feedback worksheet and additional comments from the instructor are returned to the students and common problems are discussed in class. The students also write three formal manuscripts in teams of four with students from all three sections. The first manuscript grade will be used as the baseline to measure improvement in the scores on the remaining two manuscripts. I hypothesize that the students participating in the peer reviewing influence their manuscript team and receive better outcomes on their grades. The results indicate improvement in the manuscript grades, suggesting that peer review has a positive effect in a scientific laboratory setting.

Cover page of Grasping the Materiality of the Past: Digital Archaeology in Lower-Division Courses

Grasping the Materiality of the Past: Digital Archaeology in Lower-Division Courses

(2010)

Archaeology is a material, embodied discipline; communicating this experience is critical to student success in lower-division courses. This article presents an overview and case study of how a digital approach to laboratory work can positively affect student learning. Virtual reconstruction serves, then, as an important bridge from traditional coursework to fieldwork. Highlighted curriculum samples include ill-defined problem sets, which help to scaffold students towards this fieldwork laboratory experience.

Cover page of Pulling Back the Curtain on College-Level Literacy Skills

Pulling Back the Curtain on College-Level Literacy Skills

(2010)

This article outlines the benefits of self-reflection and skill-building exercises in freshman-intensive courses, with particular focus on reading assessment activities. As literacy practices are critical to one’s sense of academic community, all instructors have a responsibility to address writing style, organization and reading skills applicable to a given discipline. This is of particular importance to freshman, first-generation and transfer students who are making the most intensive transition to university life. Prior knowledge assessment benefits instructors in determining skills needs, with students also gaining voice and confidence. Part of the “pulling back the curtain” concept is explaining expectations (via rubrics) and modeling successful practices. This article concludes with an affective reading survey and best practices list.

Cover page of Developing Critical Thinking Skills in an Introductory Calculus-Based Physics Class with the Aid of Peer Review

Developing Critical Thinking Skills in an Introductory Calculus-Based Physics Class with the Aid of Peer Review

(2010)

College coursework requires students to use their critical thinking skills in order to succeed in classes. Current culture in higher education assumes that students arrive to college with a well developed set of critical thinking skills or that they are able to develop the necessary skills on their own. This assumption is especially evident in science coursework, where the students are asked to use their critical thinking on everyday basis (doing lab work, solving the problems), but are rarely taught how. The lack of these skills puts students at a great disadvantage. First generation students are especially at a disadvantage because they usually arrive to college less prepared than their peers from families where parents have had some college education. We propose that the absence of critical thinking manifests itself in low test scores. We investigate this connection by observing the relationship between student test scores before and after the set of exercises developed to develop critical thinking and scientific expression in the introductory physics class environment.

Cover page of Peer Review Improves Undergraduate Science Writing Skills

Peer Review Improves Undergraduate Science Writing Skills

(2010)

Inadequate writing skills are a common problem in science classes. Writing scientific papers require a different skill type than writing prose and often learning the terminology is similar to learning a second language. Research has shown that activities such as group projects and peer review are helpful in addressing this challenge in other contexts. This project will use three sections of upper division physiology university students; one section is the experimental group and the other two are control groups. All students write five lab reports with a partner during the semester, which are used to practice peer review. The class is trained on how to review a paper and a rubric in the form of a feedback worksheet is provided. The class anonymously exchanges papers and review prior to turning them in for grading. The reports with the attached feedback worksheet and additional comments from the instructor are returned to the students and common problems are discussed in class. The students also write three formal manuscripts in teams of four with students from all three sections. The first manuscript grade will be used as the baseline to measure improvement in the scores on the remaining two manuscripts. I hypothesize that the students participating in the peer reviewing influence their manuscript team and receive better outcomes on their grades. The results indicate improvement in the manuscript grades, suggesting that peer review has a positive effect in a scientific laboratory setting.