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About the Center for STEM Learning at CU Boulder


Chancellor's Graduate and Faculty Awards for Excellence in STEM Education

2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014

2013-2014 Faculty Scholars:

Barbara Demmig-Adams, William Adams, and Sara Wise, College of Arts & Sciences - Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Comparing the Impact of Faculty-Provided and Online Review Materials
The objectives of this project are to develop and implement an individualized, early intervention for students who have failed one of the first exams in a large biology class, and compare the impact of faculty- versus online-implemented intervention on subsequent exam performance. The interventions will take the form of a supportive, metacognitively-oriented review of specific exam items, which aims to empower students to find patterns in their exam performance and in turn, generate insights into ways to alter their study strategies towards success.

Teresa Foley, Chris Link, and Molly Welsh, College of Arts & Sciences - Integrative Physiology
Transformation of the Cell Physiology Laboratories in Integrative Physiology
The purpose of the propose research project is to transform the existing Cell Physiology Laboratories in Integrative Physiology (IPHY) to an inquiry-based approach of instruction that better aligns with the lecture material. We are requesting summer salary support for Instructor Molly Welsh to help develop the Cell Physiology Laboratory materials, including learning goals, assessments, inquiry-based labs and surveys. Mrs. Welsh has been involved with the Cell Physiology course for the past 5 years and she has extensive expertise in the laboratory protocols, ordering new instruments, maintaining inventory, staff support, and quality control. Proposal

Katie Hinko, Graduate School - JILA
Characterizing the Development of University Students who Participate in Informal STEM Programming
We seek to investigate the impact on university students who participate in informal STEM programs. While University informal STEM programs geared toward K-12 children or community members often report outcomes in terms of these groups, our work will focus on the university educators (UEs) who participate in these informal programs, providing insight into the less-studied group. These findings will inform university support for and design of informal STEM programming, as well as have broad implications for all types of informal STEM environments. For this project, we will primarily study university physics students who participate in the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) Partnerships for Informal Science Education in the Community (PISEC) programs. PISEC is supported by the CU Boulder Department of Physics and the JILA Physics Frontier Center and whose main programming component consists of weekly, after school physics clubs for underrepresented populations in grades K-8. This program relies on physics undergraduate and graduate UEs to interact with children, teachers and community members as both scientists and educators. For this project, we will design assessments and implement pilot studies of the UEs by building on initial findings from our program that indicate the potential for improvement in the communication and pedagogical skills of UEs, as well as positive shifts in their affect and self-efficacy as scientific communicators and teachers. Proposal

Shaw Ketels, College of Arts & Sciences - Psychology
A New Approach to Teaching General Psychology at CU
This proposal describes a "flipped classroom" approach to teaching General Psychology, with the goal of promoting abstract and critical thinking, and laying the foundations for an evidence-based understanding of the world. Class time will be used for the guided completion of projects contributing to the construction of these cognitive skills. Projects will utilize various software packages that students will then use in many of their other classes in this and other departments, and will involve generating and testing hypotheses about cognition, emotion, and behavior. Students will gain skills in conducting literature reviews and questionnaire-based experiments, and get practice thinking systematically about their own hypotheses. The class will leverage the extensive expertise of faculty in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at CU, as well as professors from other departments who are affiliated with the Institute of Cognitive Science. Curriculum construction will involve creating digital video of these faculty lecturing on or discussing their domains of expertise. In this manner, students in the class will be exposed to a scientific approach to understanding the world from investigators at the forefront of their respective fields. Proposal

Ben Zwickl, College of Arts & Sciences - Physics
A comparative study of different forms of assessment in laboratory settings
Laboratory courses are unique learning environments. Compared to lecture courses, they typically involve more resources per student in terms of expense, equipment, space, contact hours with instructors, and low student/teacher ratios. They are also learning environments that emphasize a broad range of learning goals, going beyond content learning goals to include a range of scientific practices, including written and oral communication, experimental design, data analysis, and others. Despite the abundance of resources and goals that often closely align with scientific practice, laboratory courses often produce unsatisfying or uncertain outcomes of student learning. In addition, national calls have been made for lab courses that engage students in more disciplinary-relevant activities as a mans to improve recruitment and retention of students in STEM. For decades, efforts have been made to transform laboratory environments across the sciences, with "inquiry-based" being one of the more popular approaches. However, even now, it is difficult to compare the efficacy of these innovations, and it is equally difficult for instructors to implement meaningful assessments in their laboratory courses. In spite of the need, the STEM education community has few assessment tools for laboratory teaching environments. Doing robust assessment in these environments has remained a long-standing challenge in laboratory instruction and physics education research. Proposal

2013-2014 Graduate Scholars:

Susanna Kohler, College of Arts & Sciences - Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences
Advisor: Seth Hornstein
Can we train scientists to communicate effectively with the public? Proposal

Kyuhan Koh, College of Engineering & Applied Science - Computer Science
Advisor: Alex Repenning
Computing Computational Thinking: Towards the Automatic Recognition of Computational Thinking in Real Time Proposal

Jeffrey LaMarche, College of Engineering & Applied Science - Computer Science
Advisor: Tom Yeh
Developing User Interface and Peer Instruction: Assessing Results on Engagement, Retention, and Failure Rate for CSCI 1300 Introduction to Computer Programming Proposal

Ben Van Dusen, School of Education
Advisor: Valerie Otero
Boundary Objects that Mediate Students' Motivation and Identity Toward Physics Proposal

2012-2013 Faculty Scholars:

Brian Couch, College of Arts & Sciences - Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology
Development of an observation protocol to measure Scientific Teaching
Growing demands for skilled scientists and general science literacy have prompted scientists, educators, and policy leaders to issue several national calls for improving undergraduate science education. In 2003, the National Research Council’s report, BIO2010, recommended several changes to undergraduate biology education in light of the increasingly interdisciplinary and quantitative nature of biomedical research. This report inspired the founding of the National Academies Summer Institute for Undergraduate Education in Biology (SI) by Jo Handelsman (Yale) and Bill Wood (CU-Boulder) under the philosophy that science education ought to reflect the nature of scientific inquiry, incorporate our understanding of how people learn, and ensure equal learning opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds. Proposal

John Gunther, College of Music
Enhancing the Pedagogy of Science, Math, and Technology through Music: Exploring Informal Science Education through the Arts
This proposal seeks to develop methods that enhance the teaching of science, math and technology through music. With the aid of the Boulder Laptop Orchestra (BLOrk), an electronic music ensemble at CU, we hope to expand the possibilities available to pedagogy in math, science, and technology and develop ways to engage in informal science education with students and audiences through the arts. Funds are requested to aid in the development of: 1) Visual and sonic representation of scientific data serving as a means to connect scientific research to a wider audience. 2) Development of computer applications that allow the users to explore interactive simulations of physical phenomena while performing for or with audience members. We believe that informal science education can happen in a variety of settings and mediums and we hope to form a foundation on which future instruction and performance can integrate science as a central component. Proposal

Beth Stade, College of Arts & Sciences - Mathematics
STEM Talking: Aligning and Improving the Mathematical Education of Pre-Service Teachers
This proposal will fund the alignment with the Common Core Standards and redesign of MATH 1110: The Spirit and Uses of Mathematics, the University of Colorado mathematics content course for prospective elementary teachers, and develop an set of teaching assistant resources and professional development to assist systemic continuity and effectiveness in the course. Mathematics is the language of STEM, science, technology, and engineering. Without the fundamental understanding of mathematics, students will struggle to have success in STEM related disciplines. Unfortunately, many elementary teachers are not only ill-prepared in mathematics, but also pass on poor attitudes and math stereotypes to their students. In 2010, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, made newspaper headlines showing that female elementary teachers who share their anxiety about math pass on that anxiety to their students and lower test scores. (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 26, 2010; Beilock, 2010). The need for effective pre-service mathematic content is well documented in “The Impact of Content Courses on Pre-service Elementary Teachers’ Mathematical Content Knowledge” (Matthews, 2010). Proposal

Jane Stout, College of Arts & Sciences - Psychology
Connecting with others versus doing science: Exploring how communal goals might explain the gender gap in STEM participation
The proposed research aims to assess the degree to which students’ life goals affect their interest, success and retention in STEM. Although a host of factors contribute to students’ engagement in STEM, one understudied issue is whether and how congruency between students’ life goals and perceptions about their ability to meet those goals in STEM might affect their engagement therein. For example, students may select their academic major based on the belief that the major will lead to a career that facilitates their ability to meet their life goals. Moreover, students might continually evaluate whether their selected major is living up to their expectations of meeting their life goals. If they perceive that it is not, they may feel as though they do not “fit” in the major, fail to see the value of the major, have low expectations for success, and, ultimately, drop out of that major. We propose that this incongruence between life goals and perceptions about a major’s ability to meet those life goals occurs particularly among women in STEM, leading to (a) fewer women in some (but not all) disciplines within STEM and (b) women’s tendency to drop out of certain STEM career paths. We propose two field studies that would test these suppositions in order to glean a stronger understanding of when and why gender disparities occur in STEM disciplines. Importantly, this work would pave the way for the development of empirically-rooted intervention strategies to boost students’ engagement in STEM disciplines they might otherwise perceive to be inconsistent with their life goals (see Impact of Proposed Project section for more details on structuring interventions). Proposal, Final Report

2012-2013 Graduate Scholars:

Ian Her Many Horses, School of Education
Advisor: Valerie Otero
What types of curriculum support do elementary students need to successfully develop computational thinking practices within 2D and 3D environments? Proposal

Alexandra Mass, College of Engineering & Applied Science - Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering
Advisor: Diane McKnight
Enhancing Environmental Literacy and Interest in Polar Sciences for Primary School Children in the Boulder Valley School District and Beyond Proposal

Calvin Pohawpatchoko, College of Engineering & Applied Science - Computer Science
Advisor: Clayton Lewis
An Old Method New Again - Rethinking Nation Building in a Digital Age: Piloting Cognitive Apprenticeship in Indigenous Nation Building Proposal, Final Report

Ian Renga, School of Education
Advisors: Jennie Whitcomb & Erin Furtak
A Study of STEM Teacher Candidates' Learning in a Course Facilitating Collaborative Inquiry into Teaching Practice Proposal, Final Report

2011-2012 Faculty Scholars:

Heidi Bustamante, Janet Casagrand, and Teresa Foley, College of Arts & Sciences - Integrative Physiology
Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Success of Inquiry-Based Laboratories in IPHY
The purpose of this proposal is to request support to evaluate the effectiveness and success of the revised physiology laboratories in Integrative Physiology (IPHY). Under the direction of a formal Physiology Lab Revision Committee, the physiology laboratories in IPHY have been transformed from an expository (“cookbook”) style of instruction to a more inquiry-based approach. These laboratories serve about 500 majors and non-majors each year, and employ a combination of human and animal experimentation to explore basic physiological principles. Specifically, we are requesting support for Eric Homestead to help conduct student interviews, and to analyze pre-post assessment and student attitude data on the revised physiology laboratories. Eric is currently the lead graduate teacher in IPHY and has been a teaching assistant for the physiology laboratories for several semesters. proposal

John Falconer and Garrett Nicodemus, College of Engineering & Applied Science - Chemical and Biological Engineering
Biologically-Focused Screencasts and ConcepTests for Chemical and Biological Engineering Courses
The goal of this proposal is to increase the use of biological engineering topics in three core courses in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department: Material and Energy Balances, Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics, and Fluid Mechanics. We propose to prepare teaching materials that can be readily used by faculty who do not have backgrounds in biological topics. We propose to develop two types of teaching materials that incorporate biological concepts: 1) ConcepTests, which are multiple choice conceptual questions, used in class with clickers to emphasize the important concepts in the course, 2) Screencasts, which are short screen captures of writing and narration on a tablet PC, can be used to solve example problems and provide further explanations. Creating these teaching materials will allow students in these three courses to be exposed to biological concepts earlier in their majors. These courses are taken by both Chemical Engineering majors and Chemical and Biological Engineering majors, and were originally developed for Chemical Engineering majors and thus did not incorporate biological concepts or examples. Proposal and Summary Report

Kris Gutierrez, School of Education
When Scientific and Everyday Knowledge Grow into One Another: Designing for Robust Science Learning for Students from Non-dominant Communities
This project joins CU professors, PhD and undergraduate students, and a local school in an interdisciplinary effort to create and study an innovative technology-based after-school program called El Pueblo Mágico (EPM). Joining students from CU and Alicia Sanchez Elementary, a school with low-income and Emerging Bilingual student populations, EPM engages students collaboratively in computer, science, and health science based activities to engage students in multi modal forms of learning about science. In fall of 2010, we launched EPM, piloting new technology and science-oriented activities, supported by our CU collaborators in Computer Science: design software by Alex Repenning & Andri Ioannidou (AgentSheets); and a computer-mediated fabrication curriculum by Michael Eisenberg & Jane Meyers (Craftopolis). We aim to examine how multi-age groups learn together in technology-mediated activity as designers who will also gain valuable forms of multi modal expertise within a vibrant, technology-rich learning community. An overarching goal of this design experiment is to introduce undergraduates and children to high status knowledge about digital design, energy-use, science, and health in ways that helps them leverage their everyday understandings to develop robust science concepts, practices, and dispositions. pdf

Victoria Hand, School of Education
Examination of shifts in content understanding and imagined trajectories for underrepresented high school students serving as mentors for Science Explorers
The proposed grant will support a research study that investigates a mentoring opportunity for high school students from underrepresented backgrounds who excel in mathematics and science. The STEMsation mentoring program represents a collaboration between the School of Education, the CUTeach program, Science Explorers, and several STEM-focused high schools in Colorado. The program will train underrepresented high school students as mentors for the Science Explorers workshop in their district. We hypothesize that participation in STEMsation will provide the mentors with: (1) a deeper and more connected understanding of STEM domains; (2) an ability to distinguish between higher- and lower-level scientific and mathematical reasoning, and (3) an opportunity to reflect on and potentially overcome negative stereotypes and structural barriers faced by underrepresented groups of individuals in STEM fields. proposal

Tiffany Ito, College of Arts & Sciences - Psychology
A Classroom Intervention to Reduce the Gender Achievement Gap in College Science
The proposed research focuses on the effectiveness and dissemination of a classroom intervention designed to reduce the gender gap in the achievement of women in STEM disciplines. We have conducted an initial test at CU of the effectiveness of a writing exercise that affirms self-worth, finding that it raises the grades and conceptual mastery of women in introductory physics (Miyake et al., 2010). These initial findings are very promising, but we currently lack any funding to explore them further. Funds are requested to extend our findings through studies both at CU and elsewhere. This will allow us to (1) better understand the mechanisms through which women’s STEM performance can be improved, focusing specifically on the psychological changes that are produced by self-affirmation which in turn improve performance. Knowing this is important theoretically and can also be used to refine and sharpen our intervention. The proposed research will also (2) test the effectiveness of our intervention in other contexts (e.g., courses with different content, professors with different teaching styles, students of various demographics), (3) provide necessary data for a larger grant focusing on dissemination of the intervention, and (4) bring psychological perspectives more explicitly into CU’s work on STEM education. proposal and final report

2011-2012 Graduate Scholars:

Lindsay Anderson, College of Arts & Sciences - Psychology
Advisor: Alice Healy
Understanding the Components of the iClicker System that Promote Learning, Retention, and Generalization of Classroom Knowledge pdf

Nathan Canney, College of Engineering & Applied Science - Civil and Environmental Engineering
Advisor: Angela Bielefeldt
An assessment for teaching methodologies for instilling social responsibility in undergraduate civil engineering students proposal

Corrie Colvin Williams, College of Architecture & Planning
Advisor: Louise Chawla
Significant Life Experiences: Exploring the lifelong influence of environmental and science education in program participants proposal and Final Report

Krista Marshall, School of Education
Advisors: Alexander Repenning and David Webb
Targeting the Technology Gender Gap: Making Computer Science Engaging and Accessible for All Students proposal

Jane Meyers, College of Engineering & Applied Science - Computer Science
Advisor: Michael Eisenberg
Learning Computer Science the Craftopolis Way proposal

Michael Ross, School of Education
Advisor: Valerie Otero
Transforming the Classroom Power Structure to Impact Physics Learning pdf

Kim Trenbath, College of Arts & Sciences – Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences
Advisor: Linnea Avallone
Undergraduate Students’ Climate Change Conceptions pdf

Ben Van Dusen, School of Education
Advisor: Valerie Otero
Empowering Students through the Use of iPad Technology proposal and final report

2010-2011 Faculty Scholars:

John Basey, College of Arts & Sciences - Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Variation in Working Memory and the Optimal Design of STEM Labs
Our ultimate goal is to research how cognitive load imposed on students in the form of different designs of inquiry-oriented labs interacts with individual variations in working memory among students to influence learning. As a beginning step, I am re-designing the traditional and guided, diversity-survey-labs in biology (i.e. teacher-centered with guided procedures and a guided write-up) to mirror constructs advocated by science education reform (i.e. student-centered without guided procedures and an open-ended write-up). In addition, the new survey labs begin with “the learning cycle” and are more inquiry-oriented (hypothesis-driven). I will develop and finalize a working model of this new survey lab during summer 2010 and do a test-run in the classroom with an assessment in spring 2011. Proposal, Year-end Report

Virginia Ferguson, College of Engineering & Applied Sciences – Mechanical Engineering
Assessing YOU’RE@CU: A New Program to Promote Diversity in Engineering

This proposal seeks to improve training and academic preparation of engineering students, who are interested in the combined study of engineering and biology. The PI, along with the BOLD Center, will achieve this by developing a new program that targets women and minority students at the undergraduate and graduate levels: “Your Own Undergraduate Research Experience at the University of Colorado: YOU’RE@CU”. We seek to establish a vibrant and diverse research community that increases the accessibility of studying biological materials and medicine from an engineering perspective. Our educational vision is that merging bioengineering research with teaching and providing a range of research opportunities will enhance new student recruitment, improve retention of engineering lower classmen – and particularly target retention of underrepresented minorities and women, encourage undergraduates to seek graduate degrees, and provide mentoring training for graduate students.

Jenny Knight, College of Arts & Sciences – Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology
Development of a Capstone Concept Assessment to measure integrated content retention in biology

The intent of this proposal is to begin developing a Capstone Molecular Biology Concept Assessment (Capstone MBCA) to evaluate how well graduating seniors in Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology (MCDB) can integrate and apply concepts from all their coursework. Such an assessment tool will have widespread impact in supporting the transformation of undergraduate education and providing a resource to evaluate meaningful student learning. Some of the expected uses of this tool are: 1. To measure the level of conceptual learning in graduating biology majors, 2. To measure conceptual learning gains between beginning and end of final year of coursework, 3. To measure the level of content retention after graduation, 4. To help determine which different models of pedagogy can help to promote long-term content retention and integrative abilities. The Capstone MBCA can be used not only at CU, but at any college or university department that teaches genetics, molecular biology, and cell biology, across the nation and internationally. It may also be valuable to science educators in other disciples, as well as to science teachers at the secondary school level. Proposal, Year-End Report

Heather Lewandowski & Charles Rogers, College of Arts & Sciences – Physics
Learning Goals and Course Materials for Advanced Undergraduate Physics Laboratories
In Physics, we recognize and teach that experiment is an extraordinarily powerful method for judging and differentiating competing ideas. Although most physics majors are required to take an upper-level laboratory course, these courses are seldom effective at teaching students the necessary skills to carry out independent research beyond the classroom setting. We are requesting support for the development of learning goals, coordinated course materials, and a preliminary online evaluation survey for the upper-level “advanced laboratory” courses, PHYS3340, PHYS4430, and PHYS5430.
Year-end Report

2010-2011 Graduate Scholars:

Lindsay Anderson, College of Arts & Sciences - Psychology
Advisor: Alice Healy
Understanding the Components of the iClicker System that Promote Learning, Retention, and Generalization of Classroom Knowledge Proposal, Year-end Report

Heidi Iverson, School of Education
Advisor: Erin Furtak
What Works in Undergraduate Physics Education? A Research Synthesis pdf

Seyitriza Tigrek, College of Engineering & Applied Science - Electrical Engineering
Advisor: Frank Barnes and Melinda Piket-May
Developing an Adaptive Method for Teaching Mobile (Phones) Programming to Freshman Engineering Students pdf

Colin Wallace, College of Arts & Sciences – Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences
Advisor: Doug Duncan
Understanding Students' Difficulties with Cosmology pdf

2009-2010 Faculty Scholars:

Clayton H. Lewis, Computer Science with Profs. Dirk Grunwald and Ken Anderson
Video Resources for Lower Division Computer Science Curriculum

This project aims to improve the effectiveness of Computer Science pedagogy by developing, evaluating, and sharing the practice of providing short video modules that students can view before class and review after class. This two-year study will develop and evaluate materials for four lower division courses, and assess the costs of creating and using these materials. In the longer term, the project aims to extend this approach to the remaining curriculum, while at the same time providing a model for creating and sharing such materials that can be widely adopted elsewhere. Proposal, Year-end Report

Eric Frew, Aerospace Engineering
The Sky's the Limit: An Unmanned Aircraft Laboratory Model

The goal of the Sky’s the Limit project is to create, evaluate, and then disseminate new learning material that reflects advances both in unmanned aerospace systems and in what is known about the impact of active learning on engineering education. The centerpiece of the proposed effort is the creation of a complete unmanned aircraft laboratory module. This module will reflect the current state of the art in embedded systems, wireless communication, automatic control, and unmanned systems. Proposal, Year-end Report

Erin Furtak, School of Education
Teaching and Learning Biology at CU: Course Evaluation and Revision Project

The proposed research supports a collaboration between two CU STEM faculty members; fosters research into the design and evaluation of instructional strategies and novel course design, and promises to promote a uniquely effective type of course/instruction with great potential to positively impact STEM education, both at CU and nationally. The proposed research will support: a) the completion of the evaluation of the TALB course, its effectiveness as a teacher education and educational research recruitment tool; b) suggest revisions of the course to be implemented when it is offered again in the fall of 2010. Proposal, Year-end Report

Steven Pollock, Physics
Development of Pre-Post Tests for Upper Division Electricity and Magnetism Tutorials
This research study is part of a broader effort to move beyond research and development of curricular reforms at the introductory level, in order to better address the specialized needs of students in upper-division physics courses. Proposal, Year-end Report

2009-2010 Graduate Scholars:

Kim Trenbath, Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences
Advisor: Linnea Avallone
AY appointment to support Undergraduate Climate Change Curriculum Development and Validation Proposal, Year-end Report, CCLI Poster

Sarah Roberts, School of Education
Advisor: Erin Furtak
Summer appointment to support Reforming Undergraduate Biology Teaching Through Formative Assessment Proposal, Year-end Report

Ryan Grover and Louisa Harris, School of Education
Advisors: David Webb and Victoria Hand
AY appointments to support a Longitudinal Study of the Implementation and Impact of LAs on Teaching in Undergraduate Mathematics Proposal, Year-end Report

David Cheeseman, Computer Science
Advisor: Michael Main
AY year appointment to support a Tablet Teaching Pilot Program Proposal, Year-end Report

Colin Wallace, Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences
Advisor: Doug Duncan
AY year appointment to support Student's Difficulties with Cosmology Proposal, Year-end Report

Lauren Kost, Physics
Advisor: Steven Pollock
AY year appointment to support Investigating the Gender Gap in Undergraduate Physics Courses Proposal, Year-end Report

Benjamin Spike, Physics
Advisor Noah Finkelstein
AY appointment to support An Examination of Conceptions of Teaching and Learning Physics in Graduate TAs and Undergraduate LAs Proposal

Current Scholars