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Open Access Publications from the University of California


After 20 years of ISEE's Professional Development Program, we gathered alums to take stock of the work we have done, how it influences the work we do now, and how that work might go forward in the future. We present the resulting collection: See the introduction and/or the "about" page for an outline. The complete collection as a single PDF may be found in the introduction's supplement. Editors: Scott Seagroves, Austin Barnes, Anne J. Metevier, Jason Porter, & Lisa Hunter

Leaders in effective and inclusive STEM: Twenty years of the Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators

There are 35 publications in this collection, published between 2022 and 2022.
Activity Descriptions (9)

Self-guided Inquiry Modules for the Remote Teaching of Undergraduate Physics Labs

We present highlights from a series of hands-on physics lab modules developed for remote teaching. The labs were composed of multiple self-guided inquiry modules. Though the labs were developed from scratch, some modules that were central to the design process were borrowed from previous PDP sessions and the guiding PDP principles of mirroring authentic Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) practices (e.g., allowing students to raise questions and take ownership of decision making). One notable aspect of this work is that by sourcing and assembling low-cost ($25 per student) lab kits that were sent to each student, the majority of the modules were hands-on despite being fully online. Combining online resources and simulation tools with individual hardware kits and small lab groups allowed for a mix of synchronous and asynchronous exploration. This mixed lab mode was successful in promoting both inquiry exploration and community building. One example of a lab design choice aimed at overcoming online barriers was that in lieu of weekly lab write-ups, groups submitted video checkouts in which students were encouraged to reflect on the lab, self-assess their learning outcomes, and highlight unique aspects of their lab experience. This lab was specifically developed in response to the unforeseen challenges of online teaching; however, multiple aspects of the course will seamlessly transfer to an in-person lab setting.

Dose-Response in Context: A Backward Design, Inquiry Activity Workshop for College Transfer Students

The Workshops for Engineering and Science Transfers (WEST) program was designed to foster critical-thinking skills and develop a supportive community for new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) community college transfer students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with the ultimate goal of improving student retention and persistence in STEM. All learners in the program participate in inquiry activities devised to incorporate elements of backward design and equity and inclusion. Here we discuss our 2019 Toxicology WEST workshop activity, an in-depth exploration of dose-response relationships created to provide an overview of the field of toxicology and clarify common misconceptions. To reflect authentic research design, we had learners assume the roles of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists tasked with investigating the effects of environmental toxicants on the model organisms Caenorhabditis elegans and Daphnia magna. Learners were asked to design and conduct experiments to explore the dose-response relationship and report their results in a culminating poster symposium. We assessed learning by evaluating their performance on two tasks: an individual written response and a group poster presentation. Our activity gave learners an opportunity to practice experimental design, data analysis, and science communication before beginning UCSC STEM courses. Practicing these skills early is essential for student retention in STEM, as many students find the experimental process challenging. Here, we describe details of our inquiry workshop activity, reflect on the effectiveness of the activity and our assessment of student learning, and offer suggestions for facilitation and adaptation of our activity to additional educational contexts.

  • 1 supplemental PDF
  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Galaxy-Classification Activity for All Ages

Classification is a general tool of science; it is used to sort and categorize biological organisms, chemical elements, astronomical objects, and many other things. In scientific classification, taxonomy often reflects shared physical properties that, in turn, may indicate shared origins and/or evolution. A “hands-on” galaxy-classification activity developed and implemented by Professional Development Program (PDP) participants, for a high-school summer STEM enrichment program, has been adopted for various age groups and venues, from young (K–3) to college students. We detail the basic tools required, outline the general activity, and describe the modifications to the activity based on learners’ ages and learning objectives. We describe the facilitation strategies learned through PDP training and used when implementing the activity, including prompts to motivate the students. We also discuss how we connected the classification process to astronomy and science more broadly during the concluding remarks.

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Assessment (2)

Developing Inquiry-Based Homework Assignments with Astrobites

The majority of physics and astronomy undergraduate major classes are structured around problem sets, an approach that does not typically make it possible for students to learn in an inquiry-based manner analogous to how scientists conduct research. One of the reasons professors often do not attempt an inquiry approach is the lack of educational tools needed to facilitate this method of learning. In this work, I describe how Astrobites — a website run by astronomy graduate students with the goal of making the latest research more accessible to undergraduates — is ideally suited to serve as an educational tool that can make problem sets more inquiry-based. I discuss how I designed inquiry-based problem sets that make use of Astrobites for several different astronomy classes that target physics and astronomy majors. I also present strategies for implementing such assignments based on assessment from the students, and provide example problem sets that received good student feedback. These assignments are intended to complement traditional problem sets, thereby inclusively providing an alternate way for students to take interest and engage in their homework for the class.

  • 1 supplemental PDF

Using Pre-/Post-Quizzes Intentionally in Curriculum Development and Evaluation

Developing the final summative assessment of a course at the start of curriculum development is an implementation of “backward design,” whereby learning objectives are identified first and the curriculum is engineered end-to-beginning to achieve them. We trained in backward design through the Professional Development Program (PDP) and adapted PDP assessment ideas for evaluation of curriculum designs and teaching efficacy. A pre‑/post-quiz is an assessment administered the first and last day of a course; a learner’s scores are used to measure normalized gain: the ratio of what a student learned during a course relative to what they knew entering it. The intentional process of developing a pre‑/post-quiz for every course focuses the educator on the essential understanding desired of the learners exiting the course. The normalized-gain statistics for the course can then be used to evaluate the course’s efficacy, and improvements to the curriculum can be monitored by tracking the normalized gains over time, using the same pre‑/post-quiz. Moreover, an individual instructor may self-evaluate their teaching efficacy by tracking normalized gains from all courses over time. Here we discuss applying the practice of backward curriculum design starting with a custom pre‑/post-quiz and utilizing it for immediate and longitudinal evaluation, focusing primarily on designing an entire undergraduate science course.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (2)

Utilizing Equitable and Inclusive Design Principles to Promote STEM Identity of Community College Transfer Students

Research suggests that developing an identity as a person in STEM is necessary for learners from marginalized groups to persist in STEM education and careers. These learners may perceive that their race, gender, or other characteristics make it difficult for their peers and supervisors to recognize them as scientists or engineers, thus disrupting their ability to maintain successful degree progress and to pursue their STEM career aspirations. Here we discuss the specific ways we designed inquiry workshops to not only clarify difficult core STEM content, but to also promote learners’ competence, performance, and targeted recognition as scientists. Our workshops were designed for students interested in chemistry, climate science, physics, and toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), Workshops for Engineering & Science Transfers (WEST) 2019 program. In designing our workshops, we focused on promoting the scientific identities of our learners by incorporating authentic ways for students to receive recognition from both peers and instructional facilitators, as well as allowing students to tap into their own personal interests and values. Insights from our designed assessments for learners’ understanding of our content demonstrate the success of our initiatives and provide further areas of improvement. Our goals are to create inclusive workshops to support students from all backgrounds, with emphasis on underrepresented backgrounds (community college, first generation, students of color, women, and LGBTQ+ students, etc.) as well as support them in other contexts, such as when mentoring STEM students in academic laboratory settings.

Culturally Relevant and Responsive Education: A Re-Examination of the ISEE Equity & Inclusion Theme

The lack of diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a complex problem, and one dimension is the experiences that students from marginalized groups often have in classroom environments. Students cite their struggles to negotiate between their own cultures and STEM’s cultures as a reason for why they do not feel a sense of belonging and identity as a person in STEM. To address these challenges, educators and researchers have proposed various frameworks to transform education. In this article, I re-examine the ISEE Equity & Inclusion (E&I) Theme in comparison to culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching models. While these frameworks have many common elements, including their emphasis on students’ achievements, building on students’ cultural assets, and providing scaffolding for content and practices, they differ in their focus on cultural pride and identities of critical consciousness. Drawing on these differences, I suggest directions for instructors who are familiar with the ISEE E&I Theme on how to make their approach to equity and inclusion more robust.

Impacts and Future Directions (12)

Applying Principles of the PDP Towards Mentoring

In this paper, we explore how core principles of the mentoring training offered by the Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators (ISEE) Professional Development Program (PDP) have been adopted by PDP alumni and applied in different contexts. The core themes of the mentoring work conducted by ISEE, which are Inquiry, Equity & Inclusion, and Assessment, form an extensible basis for PDP participants to use as they develop their own mentoring programs. The panel/paper is structured to briefly identify core components of mentoring in the PDP model and then discuss how former PDP participants have applied these in a variety of other venues. With the goal of broadening access & persistence in STEM, the PDP emphasized: the role of ownership and agency, the practice of explanations, the creation of opportunities for recognition, providing formative assessment, and a recognition of and introduction to STEM culture. The PDP has had a unique way of “staying with” participants and provided a framework for mentoring in other modalities including: peer-to-peer, informal, and in the development of new formal programs. These offshoots include key PDP ideas such as: providing support for belonging in STEM, placing value on teaching, promoting adaptability and cultural relevance, and a “training the trainers” modality of mentorship. The panelists will provide examples from programs for undergraduate students, graduate students, teaching professionals, and faculty. The session also provided opportunities for attendees to share their experiences and take-away lessons from the PDP model of mentoring and some of the panel feedback is included in this paper. The ISEE community has a shared vocabulary, toolset, and ethos that continues to inform alumni mentoring since the inception of the PDP.

Impact of PDP on Training for Astronomical Instrumentation

The Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators (ISEE) Professional Development Program (PDP) has led to the generation of several activities geared toward training in astronomical instrumentation. These include activities developed for the Center for Adaptive Optics summer school and the AstroTech Instrumentation Summer School. The goal of these activities has been to provide the participants with hands-on experience to convey challenging concepts in instrumentation. The inclusion of practices from PDP led to activities that prioritized inquiry-based approaches over the more traditional formulaic lab-based training and activities. Our panel will review the design of these activities and discuss approaches that increase the likelihood of achieving the learning goals. We will also discuss ways in which these activities can help encourage students with little previous experience in instrumentation to consider additional studies in instrumentation. Finally, we will reflect on the importance of facilitators for these activities and the role PDP plays in training facilitators.

Recommendations from 20 Years of Professional Development of Early-Career Scientists and Engineers

The Professional Development Program (PDP) was a highly impactful and innovative program that was run by the Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators for twenty years, from 2001–2020. The program trained early-career scientists and engineers to teach effectively and inclusively, while also developing participants’ skills in leadership, collaboration, and teamwork. In this paper, we summarize important aspects of the PDP and some of the program’s major outcomes, describe legacies of the program, and share recommendations based on two decades of experience. A large section of this paper details aspects of the PDP that we consider essential to the program but that might not be apparent from other documentation of the program. Recommendations for others interested in professional development of STEM graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are: 1) invest in establishing program culture; 2) prepare participants pursuing all STEM career paths for inclusive teaching; 3) focus on teaching and learning authentic STEM practices of participants’ fields; 4) provide authentic and challenging contexts for practicing professional skills; 5) model all aspects of what participants are expected to do; and 6) provide opportunities for growth and becoming a collaborator within the community.

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International Perspectives (2)

Rediscovering Practice and Inquiry in Academic Education: Experiences in a European University Environment

I describe the design and implementation of a series of university MSc courses in Switzerland and in Italy on the topic of “Cosmic Structure Formation” whose goal has been to provide to the stu-dents a formative experience using interwoven research practice and fundamental scientific con-tent. The course educational framework, which is based on the ISEE Inquiry Framework, empha-sizes science, as much in teaching as in research, as a set of practices, re-discovering and actualiz-ing in modern terms the original pivotal role which these practices had in education in ancient times. In particular, the courses focus on formative, intuitive, student-centered and dialogic learn-ing in opposition to the informative, mnemonic, teacher-centered and monologic teaching of frontal lecture-based instruction, which is still the dominant teaching framework in university edu-cation, at least in Europe. I describe how course activities are designed in such a way as to mirror authentic research, including all aspects which are usually not practiced in lecture-based courses and “standard” laboratories (e.g., generating and refining questions; making and testing assump-tions; developing one’s own research path; and sharing, explaining and justifying ideas and results with peers). Finally, I discuss the major outcomes of the courses and the main challenges which were faced in order to provide to the students a truly transformative experience which could allow them to improve both as learners and future scientific researchers, as well as members of a larger community.

Aspects of Inquiry Applied in Japan and Australia

The author reflects on his experience as a participant in the Professional Development Program (PDP) in 2005 and 2006 and how he has implemented elements of inquiry learning in his curricu-lum. He taught courses in Japan and Australia and touches on his perception of how the students in his units learned, and what the effects of (learning) culture are on inquiry learning. Through his experiences, the author found that in the first stages of a learning process, inquiry learning can help to engage and motivate students. In the end stage of learning, inquiry learning can help stu-dents to demonstrate their ability to think and work independently. One should carefully consider the learning background of students before implementing aspects of inquiry learning, as it can be affected by the culture in which they grew up.

Internships (3)

Strategies for Building an Inclusive Community within a STEM Internship Program

ISEE Professional Development Program Teaching Teams, Akamai interns, and Akamai staff all participate in a multi-day Preparation for Research Experiences and Projects (PREP) course at the start of the annual Akamai Internship Program. One of the goals for the PREP course is to establish an inclusive, collaborative community amongst the varied participants. Integrated with the inquiry activities taught by Teaching Teams are several Akamai-designed and facilitated activities whose purpose is to build community as well as an understanding of and sensitivity towards an inclusive work environment. These activities include an opening icebreaker, a career pathways discussion, workplace integration role-plays, a workplace inclusion discussion, and a closing celebration dinner. This paper highlights specific connections between the Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators’ Equity & Inclusion strand and the collaborative activities that engage Teaching Teams, interns, and staff during the Akamai PREP course.

Backward-Designing the Perfect User Experience Internships for Deep Space Network Operations

“How do you imagine people will operate the Deep Space Network in ten years?” After introducing some problems of operating the global collection of space-leaning telecommunications equipment, this prompt was one of the first questions we asked students to set the stage of their 8- or 10-week internships. While inquiry methods are typically applied to classroom learning, we applied similar strategies to designing custom internships that would be meaningful to the student and beneficial to the project, drawing on students’ unique background and experiences. Inquiry methods have the benefits to the student of giving them a scaffolded space to choose an investigation and deliverable which complements their strengths, or one that stretches them to learn new skills. Working backwards from initial project goals, we scoped the initial question-forming phase of inquiry design to those open issues the project needed addressing. The Deep Space Network was undergoing a major transformation in Follow-the-Sun, transitioning to daylight-only operation from 24/7 work. This resulted in many open questions requiring contributions in the fields of user research, design, and software development. We identified other objectives in the areas of leadership; teamwork; disability, equity, inclusion; and validation and iteration. This chapter describes the methods we used to design the internship project, how we facilitated it, prepared for each intern’s arrival, and measured progress in the students’ 8- to 10-week internships. This method has been used for all 18 interns over seven years to positive outcomes, resulting in four internal hires.

Inquiries and Frameworks: Synergistic Support for STEM Student Interns

Participants of the Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators’ (ISEE) Professional Development Program (PDP) work in Design Teams to create inquiry activities that foster student learning of relevant STEM content and practices. These teams implement the inquiry activities in one or more teaching venues (i.e., a context in which Design Team members act as instructors or facilitators with actual learners or students). One such venue is the Akamai Internship Program’s PREP Course. Concurrent with running the PDP, ISEE supported the development of frameworks to help Akamai interns understand the projects they undertake during their internship. Two frameworks were developed: one focused on scientific explanations and the other on engineering solutions. This paper describes how PDP inquiry activities and the ISEE Frameworks come together in a mutually supportive manner during the Akamai PREP Course. This synergy becomes apparent as we examine the sequential placement of PREP sessions whereby the frameworks both push interns to make sense of their experiences with such activities (e.g., revisiting the explanation framework after a science-oriented inquiry) and prepare interns for effective engagement in upcoming inquiry activities (e.g., using the solution framework before an engineering-oriented inquiry). Recommendations include using a similar pairing of inquiry activities and frameworks in other teaching venues.

Professional Development (5)

Facilitating Learning in the Professional Development Program

In teaching for experiential learning, we measure our success not by how well we presented the material or designed an activity but by how well our students learned. Facilitation, the moment-to-moment twists and turns of live interactions between educators and learners, is a critical tool for student learning. Over the 20 years of the Professional Development Program (PDP), we have refined our articulation of the desired learning outcomes and have developed a set of strategies and “moves” that contribute to attaining those outcomes. Here, we examine these as well as describe materials and training developed in the PDP to build the skills of novice facilitators.

Applying The Transformation Trifecta Model to an Organizational Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assessment

We describe how to facilitate an organizational Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) cultural trans-formation utilizing The Transformation Trifecta (TTT) leadership model which includes three steps: learn, integrate, act. The differentiator of this model is the integration step which is often left out of DEI education yet necessary since the majority of behaviors that propagate oppression are unconscious and manifest through implicit bias or microaggressions that are subtle yet impact-ful. It is necessary to engage an approach that goes beyond the thinking mind in order to shift un-derlying beliefs through rewiring neural pathways that inform the creation of new behaviors in re-sponse to embodying new information. This exploration applies the Transformation Trifecta model to the first phase of an organizational DEI cultural shift meant to increase inclusivity and belong-ing. Additionally, the exploration will include the research-backed education tool of backward de-sign included in the Institute for Science and Engineer Educators (ISEE)’s Professional Develop-ment Program (PDP), which was an instrumental aspect in multiple authors’ training and devel-opment. The Transformation Trifecta utilizes backward design in the assessment creation process in order to clearly articulate the desired outcomes and goals for behavior change. There will be a discussion of the top areas of assessment and benchmarks including: belonging, psychological safety, inclusion, growth mindset, equity, and equitable leadership development.

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