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Open Access Publications from the University of California

2022 Proceedings

Aligning course materials to improve student learning in an introductory physics laboratory

(2023)

In an undergraduate introductory physics lab course, it is crucial that students receive an opportunity to acquire laboratory and research skills that they will take with them as they move through academia to the workplace. Lab questions are addressed in each student’s lab notebook. The goals, assignment questions and rubric criteria for a class can be assigned levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, a hierarchical model that describes learning into distinct categories. In this study when the components of the class, lab objectives, questions, and rubric criteria, were not on the same level of Bloom’s this was considered as misalignment. This was done for four different labs from the Fall 2021 semester at UC Merced, two of which were based on app-based data collection and two that were hands on data collection using circuits available to or made by students. For the three components, two were compared at a time for alignment giving three total analyses, objectives to questions, objectives to the rubric criteria and questions compared to the rubric criteria. The goals were (1) to determine if alignment exists between these three components, and (2) where is this misalignment happening as well as if it is independent between the three components. Using this analysis, it was determined that there is misalignment in the course, and that some of the labs are aligned in certain aspects such as between objectives and questions while being misaligned when comparing objectives to the rubric criteria. Out of all the different components the rubric was the one which had the most misalignments, demonstrating the need for changes to ensure students are graded fairly. For future semesters the rubric needs adjustment so that the students can be graded on content they are asked to produce with the notebook content as evidence that they fulfilled these goals.

Jarod Cortez, Teaching Assistant, UC Merced

Power of Guidance: Mentorship Need and Viability for Undocumented Student Populations

(2023)

There are more than two million undocumented individuals living within the state of California (Hayes & Hill, 2017). When attempting to transition to higher education, many undocumented students encounter barriers that inhibit their passage. Undocumented young adults between the ages of 18-24 attend higher education at lower rates than their documented peers (Passel & Cohn, 2008). In order to evaluate the educational resources available to undocumented high school students and their impact on their access to higher education, 3 undocumented college students were interviewed by undocumented college researchers. Interviews lasted between 40 minutes - 60 minutes and were recorded via Zoom. To protect the anonymity and confidentiality of the participants, pseudonyms were used. Questions were about the resources available to them as undocumented students. What we found was that all participants mentioned that having a supportive figure such as a mentor/counselor, was imperative in their transition to higher education. As a result of these findings, the researchers began development of the Rooted in Education Mentorship, a mentorship for undocumented youth from undocumented college students and are conducting further research on the resources available to undocumented high school students.

Nahui Gonzalez Millan, Student Researcher, CSU Stanislaus

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Utilizing COPUS Data to Advance Student Engagement

(2023)

The Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning at UC Merced offers the Students Assessing Teaching and Learning (SATAL) Program as a mechanism to support the community of instructors working to enhance teaching and learning on campus. SATAL involves trained undergraduates in the data collection, analysis, and reporting. Instructors can partner with SATAL to assess the teaching and learning experiences of students in their classes by implementing different protocols such as Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS). The purpose of this poster is to share the rich information instructors can derive from the COPUS implementation to advance student engagement. The SATAL staff share COPUS results as a fruitful mechanism to document active learning practices complemented with guidelines and suggestion notes. Also, SATAL showcases actions taken based on the COPUS data received and impact on the instructors’ experiences as a responsive approach to advance student engagement. Providing wait time, using worksheets, diversifying active learning activities, and adding clicker questions were among the changes introduced by instructors. Moreover, SATAL addresses how the presented assessment practices can be utilized for different purposes apart from classroom assessment, such action research and tenure and promotion.

Riley Whitmer, SATAL Intern, UC Merced

Shaira Vargas, Graduate Student, UC Merced

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Are all labs equal? An investigation of student self-efficacy and its relation to different lab types.

(2023)

Whether or not a student believes they can perform well in STEM is their self-efficacy, and self-efficacy can impact student success in STEM. It has been shown that student self-efficacy can be positively impacted by hands on experience with the scientific method, and this experience can be provided by lab classes. However, lab classes can take many different forms, with different types of activities sometimes within one course, for example: wet labs, discussion sections, and field labs. Whether or not different types of lab classes differentially affects student self-efficacy. To address this question, I sent out surveys to students of an upper-level biology lab class after different lab activities to assess self-efficacy. I found that the wet lab had slightly more positive impact on self-efficacy than the field or discussion labs, but none had a negative impact. Further, I analyzed what students felt were barriers to their success in STEM and found students feel that they are unable to understand, communicate, and apply concepts. These survey results suggest that while lab activities do improve self-efficacy, students still feel overall that they are not being prepared for a career in STEM. A more formal link between lecture, lab, and general science skills may further improve student self-efficacy and aid in the removal of student-perceived barriers to their success in STEM.

Lillie Pennington, Graduate Student, UC Merced

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Shifting to a checklist rubric increased alignment between assignment learning objectives, assignment prompts, and the rubric criteria in a 2nd semester introductory physics lab

(2023)

Investigating alignment between learning objectives, question prompts, and rubric criteria in a second-semester introductory physics lab. We investigated alignment between course learning objectives, learning objectives for specific labs, prompts within those labs, and rubric criteria for a second-semester introductory physics lab course at UC Merced. Starting in spring 2020, the first- and second-semester labs were redesigned based on the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) recommendations for instructional labs. The course learning objectives align with the AAPT recommendations and learning objectives for the physics major and campus’ general education program. However, an explicit check for alignment between the course learning objectives, objectives for specific labs, lab prompts, and rubric criteria was left undone due to the shift to emergency remote instruction. Returning to in-person labs, Jarrod investigated alignment between lab objectives, prompts, and rubric criteria for four second-semester introductory physics lab manuals by applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to Fall 2021 materials. We continue this work with Spring 2022 materials, which had been significantly edited.

Carrie Menke, Associate Teaching Professor, UC Merced

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Efficacy of CALM Application for Improving High School Students' Subjective Wellbeing

(2023)

The purpose of this quasi-experimental, single-group, pretest-posttest study is to share the difference that existed in the subjective wellbeing of high school students before and after listening to a guided mindfulness meditation from an online application. The theoretical foundation was positive psychology and the PERMA model. The sample consisted of 83 students (67 females, 15 males, one unidentified). Students participated via ZOOM and completed the EPOCH Measure on days one and five. A repeated measures MANOVA was used to address the research question. The overall MANOVA was statistically significant, Roy's Largest Root = 1.07, F (5, 78) = 16.64, p < .001, partial ƞ2 = .52. Therefore, a series of repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted to examine each dimension of the EPOCH Measure of Adolescent Wellbeing (engagement, perseverance, optimism, connectedness, and happiness). There was a significant difference in each dimension, so the null hypothesis was rejected.

Ana York, Assistant Professor, CSU Stanislaus

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Inclusive teaching practices and culturally responsive science teaching in graduate teaching assistants: A qualitative analysis

(2023)

One way to mitigate the effect of sociostructural disparity and systemic oppression on historically marginalized students in science classrooms is through culturally responsive science teaching (CRST; Barron et al., 2021), a pedagogical approach based on student empowerment, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness (Ladson-Billings, 1995). Although CRST and other culturally-centered pedagogies have been linked with improved student outcomes as measured through student empowerment, self-efficacy, and ethnic and academic identity (Aronson & Laughter, 2016), more research assessing whether graduate teaching assistants (TAs) in college science are familiar with and prepared to engage in CRST is needed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted two training sessions for inclusive teaching practices and CRST adapted from Barron and colleagues (2021) during a graduate course focused on teaching and learning in the sciences at UC Merced, a large, research-intensive Minority-Serving Institution. Before and after the relevant training, we collected surveys and written teaching reflections from five graduate teaching assistants who participated in the training and consented to participate in the study. We used inductive, open-coding (Saldaña, 2015) to generate a preliminary picture of how graduate teaching assistants described their experiences with inclusive teaching and CRST. Preliminary themes indicate that prior to the intervention, graduate TAs felt they lacked training in inclusive practices and CRST, but still were intentional in providing their students individualized attention and tried to connect class material with current events. After the intervention, graduate TAs reported using inclusive practices and CRST through encouraging shared student experiences and promoting growth mindsets, while a lack of time and training remained a barrier to implementation. These findings may inform future graduate teaching assistant training which aim to bolster graduate TAs beliefs and behaviors regarding inclusive teaching practices and CRST with the goal of refining science higher education to be equitable for all.

Kaylyn McAnally, Graduate Student, UC Merced

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Metacognitive Strategies for Gateway STEM Courses

(2023)

Metacognition refers to the awareness of one’s own thinking processes. The benefits of metacognition on student performance are well documented and a recent study suggests that the infusion of metacognitive instruction with active learning in General Chemistry has a significant effect on student performance. General Chemistry is required as a prerequisite for STEM majors at UCM and poor performance in these gateway courses is one reason students leave STEM programs. Accurate and efficient metacognitive monitoring is critical to performance because it encourages people to reflect on their abilities relative to the demands of a task. Thus, implementing effective metacognitive strategies in gateway courses at UCM may enhance student performance and increase the retention of STEM majors. The proposed project analyzes two existing metacognitive strategies through the framework of cue-utilization. Two new potential strategies are explored: in one, metacognitive prompts are interspersed at regular intervals in a Jupyter notebook assignment; in the other, metacognitive prompts are presented after completion of the Jupyter notebook tasks. Comparing the efficacy of these two strategies may provide insight into best practices for early and more advanced college learners in STEM, driving future development of combined metacognitive and active learning activities for college chemistry.

Brittany Harding, Graduate Student, UC Merced

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The Gene Editing Research Lab — a new classroom-based research experience at UC Merced

(2023)

The ability to directly edit genetic sequences with technology like CRISPR/Cas has revolutionized the biological sciences. We have developed a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) that will give students hands-on experience with gene editing techniques that, in a short time, have become standard in biology and biomedical research. Our course introduces students to discovery-based research. Students will learn how to design, execute, and assess gene editing strategies and create unique, user-defined changes in target genes. We recruited 6 undergraduate students for our research team for a trial run in the fall semester of 2021. Each student was assigned one gene and designed and executed a CRISPR-based knock-in strategy for each gene. To accommodate their experience level, we held lectures covering fundamental concepts related to the project such as CRISPR/Cas9, DNA repair, and recombinant DNA technology. We also held structured training demonstrations of the protocols to be used in their research — with surprising success: we are currently in the process of identifying germline transmission for 4 of the initially targeted 6 genes. In addition to their lab work, the students were also encouraged to develop their presentation and scientific communication skills; all 6 students presented their work at an end-of-semester symposium attended by members of the Woo and Materna labs and others in our department. Two students presented posters on their work at the annual SACNAS conference in October 2021, and two students presented a poster describing this project at the annual Quantitative and Systems Biology retreat at UC Merced. We hope to provide more opportunities for research participation especially for underrepresented minorities and help increase scientific literacy and critical thinking — in line with the "Vision and Change" (AAAS) recommendations for biology education. Our new course proposal was recently approved by UC Merced and will be offered starting Fall semester 2023.

Gloria Denise Ligunas, Graduate Student, UC Merced

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Morning, midday, or night: Learning time-of-day affects student expereience- but not performance- in upper division genetics course

(2023)

Research on K-12th grade students shows reduced performance in classes scheduled early in the morning if the student prefers to learn and work later in the day. Not much research has been done on undergraduate learners in the morning, nor research at either level on learning in the late evening-- like the Spring 2022 UC Merced Genetics course where some sections were scheduled to end as late as 9:20 pm. To understand the experiences and effects on performance for students in these courses, we compiled 143 survey responses querying student time-of-day learning preference, including free response questions about student experience at different times of day and with different course modalities (in-person vs remote instruction), from the 167-student Genetics course. We found that although students do have different time-of-day learning preferences, their overall exam grades were not affected by whether these preferences aligned with scheduled class time. However, asking open ended questions about the experiences that come with late evening classes elucidated important health, safety, and equity concerns that would be missed by looking at student performance alone. For example, students shared concerns about not having time to eat before the dining hall closes, being expected to wait on campus for several hours for their scheduled class time, being worried about late-night transportation accessibility, and with fear of being assaulted walking home past sunset. Additionally, students expressed that changing the course modality can offset some of the downsides of learning late at night, and students were significantly more likely to prefer sections in the early morning or late night if the courses were instructed remotely. Taken together, the responses indicate that these quality-of-life concerns might not be visible in their grade performance, but still represent an area in need of consideration and improvement for the sake of student's well-being.

Kris Troy, Graduate Student, UC Merced

  • 1 supplemental PDF