klymkowsky and nobel laureate at dber related eventDBER is a weekly Seminar Series that emphasizes discipline-based STEM education research. It is a forum for faculty, staff, researchers, and students interested in education research and course transformation to share their ideas and get feedback on their work.

DBER is multi-disciplinary. These seminars bring together faculty and graduate students from roughly 45 different programs and departments across four schools/colleges. The average attendance is more than 20 people. In addition to being intellectually rich, these meetings also serve to create community among the many STEM education researchers on campus. All are welcome to attend.


For the Spring, 2019 semester, DBER will be held on Mondays from 3-4 pm in Porter Bio 121.


For questions about DBER, to suggest a speaker, or to inquire about presenting yourself, please contact Mike Klymkowsky at: michael.klymkowsky@colorado.edu, or Valerie Otero at: valerie.otero@colorado.edu.


To receive notifications of DBER events and emails from the DBER community, you can:

Self-Subscribe online

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Request subscription via email by sending an email to: csl@colorado.edu


2019 Spring DBER Schedule:

Feb 11 Ali Oran, Rob Stubbs (Institutional Research @ CU)
Why do undergraduates leave?

Identifying and assessing multiple academic factors that contribute to a student's decisions ot leave CU Boulder.
At CU Boulder, approximately 15% of an entering fall term freshman cohort are not enrolled the next fall term. During this session we'll look at percent DFW grades for undergraduate courses as a possible factor for students leaving the institutions. We'll also iterate on other possible academic factors that are contributing to undergraduates leaving the institution. Your suggestions on other possible academic factors will serve discussion topics for future DBER sessions.
Feb 18 Welcome back Dick McCray
An informal meet and greet with Dick McCray - one of the founders of the LA program @ CU Boulder  
Feb 25 Kirk Ambrose (Teaching and Learning Center)
Meet Kirk Ambrose from the new Teaching and Learning Center!
Alternate meeting location:
A1B60 (next to MCDB office - Ground floor)
Kirk Ambrose, the Founding Faculty Director for the Teaching and Learning Center will be joining DBER on Monday, February 25. This will give us a chance to share our individual projects and commitments to student learning, faculty development, and how these are manifest in our content areas. This will be an excellent opportunity to ask any questions about the future of the Teaching and Learning Center and how we can participate.
Mar 4 Open


Mar 11 Kristy Duran (Biology, Adams State)
Class research projects and independent research: a positive feedback loop.
Undergraduate research has been shown to be a high impact practice, however getting students involved in research isn't always easy. In this talk, I will discuss how I use whole class and group research projects in upperdivision plant courses to drive independent research questions and recruit undergraduate students to explore these questions outside of the classroom. I will also discuss how student feedback and independent research informs future course projects.
Mar 18 Andy Martin (EBIO/ASSETT)

Practicing scientific teaching.

Location : Gold A1B60

PDF of presentation PowerPoint

Scientific teaching involves enacting scientific practices in a manner enabling data-driven revision of curricula and teaching strategies. As with the pursuit of science for making sense of the world, scientific teaching begins with potentially falsifiable claims. When we teach, we enact a simple claim that what we do—how we teach and what we teach—leads to student learning and improves their knowledge and understanding of the world. This is a potentially falsifiable claim because we can test whether learning happens. If educators do not frame teaching in a scientific framework, the approach become a belief system and we believe, rather than have evidence, that teaching is effective. We believe we are good educators, and that our students become better, more critical, and more capable thinkers as a consequence of enacting particular educational practices. Yet, because each of us has a stake in our own teaching, confirmation bias is inevitable, and we end up fooling ourselves that our teaching is effective. Like all good science, enacting scientific teaching requires we make the process explicit and potentially repeatable. The first step is elucidation of what you want to know. Arguably, the key outcome variable is how much learning happens, usually described as learning gain. What variables predict learning? And what are the relevant parameters governing how much learning happens? At the end of the day the focus is how much students learned and why some students may have learned more or less than others. In this session we will focus on simple and productive approaches towards collecting objective evidence about teaching effectiveness.
Mar 25 Spring Break
Apr 1 Laken Top 
What do LAs do when they interact with students? 
A number of studies have demonstrated positive outcomes of the Learning Assistant (LA) program on student learning, retention, and graduation rates, yet much remains unknown about the mechanisms that lead to these outcomes. We observed LAs in action and interviewed students about their interactions with LAs and TAs. We identified vast differences in the ways students viewed LAs and TAs as well as three critical elements that LAs bring to their interactions with students. First, LAs contribute valuable course, content, and institutional knowledge. Second, LAs bring an oft-missing relational component into the classroom, and finally, LAs demonstrate pedagogical practices when working with students. These findings also lead to inferences about how LAs facilitate both academic and social integration for students on campus. These findings and inferences will be discussed.
Apr 8 Janet Tsai & Derek Reamon (CEAS)
Transforming GEEN1400 and starting an Engineering Math course

We will describe two initiatives to support first-year engineering students and assessment data related to these initiatives. In GEEN1400, First-Year Engineering Projects, students collaborate within teams of 5 on a 4-week introductory project before progressing to an 11-week main project that is presented at a celebratory public Design Expo at the end of the semester. About 60% of all engineering students take GEEN1400, and it has been offered in this basic format for over 20 years supported by evidence that taking the course in the first year improves student retention in engineering. Beginning in Fall 2017, we revamped the course to include a greater focus on individual and team growth rather than the physical projects/products presented at the Design Expo. Starting in Fall 2018 we formalized this Team Growth concept across all course activities and conducted more formal assessment of Individual and Team Growth outcomes, supported by an award from TRESTLE.


Engineering Math (GEEN3830) is a one-semester course that covers topics from Pre-Calc, Calc 1, 2, and Differential Equations through hands-on laboratory exercises and engineering applications – a math class where every problem has units and authentic engineering context. The curriculum for the course was initially created by engineers at Wright State University, where the course is required for all engineering students and has been shown to improve persistence through the required undergraduate math sequence and ultimately engineering degrees. Here at CU, we piloted Engineering Math in Fall 2017 with 22 students, growing to 102 students in Fall 2018. We will discuss our early assessment data and implementation challenges as we are currently deciding how we can tailor the course from both administrative and instructional perspectives to make Fall 2019 the best yet.

Apr 15 Lee Frankel-Goldwater (Environmental Studies & Design)
The Transformative Potential of Peer Leadership: A Case of Educational Innovation in Design Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder
The question of innovation in design studies education is an ongoing one. Content is one area commonly addressed, but few studies consider the role of the administrative and learning infrastructure that guides the teaching of content and skills to students. Beginning with this observation, this study shares the results of a three year examination of a program of Peer Leadership at the University of Colorado in Boulder. "Peer Leaders" are advanced undergraduates in the CU Environmental Design program who lead recitation sections and support content development for fellow undergraduates in the freshman course, Introduction to Environmental Design Theory. A key innovation of this model is the use of community of practice-based, peer-to-peer learning alongside a vertical integration of course faculty, peer leaders, and students. To examine the Peer Leadership program, this study draws upon a novel framework drawing the learning sciences together with theories from the planning and systems thinking disciplines. Data for the case draws upon a mixed-methods approach including interviews, surveys, and action research memos gathered across six semesters. Results point to the transformative potential latent within peer-to-peer learning models. Specifically, the underlying feedback loops along this model's vertical chain of communication appear to have allowed for valuable shifts in student outcomes when compared with typical course leadership formats. Overall, this study aims to advance applied theories of educational administration and to serve as a practical example informing the development of related programs towards the goals of transformative learning and educational innovation.
Apr 22 Stephanie Chasteen (SEI / CSL)

Embedded expert models: Implementing change initiatives which support departments from within.

Slides and Handouts

The SEI lasted almost 10 years here at CU, from 2006-2014, and at our sister institution U. British Columbia. The SEI has influenced the teaching of 120 courses at UBC and 50 at CU, and has sparked numerous “copycat” programs which use the embedded expert model espoused by the SEI: Hiring postdocs or instructors into departments to partner directly with faculty on making changes to their courses. Carl Wieman wrote a book in 2017, “Improving how Universities Teach Science”, documenting what happened in the SEI. However, myself and the associate director at UBC (Warren Code) often find ourselves trying to advise others using the model, without a clear set of guiding materials.

This led us to write the SEI Handbook to document the lessons learned for campus leaders, departmental leaders, and the embedded experts who lead change within departments. Read or download the SEI Handbook for free online at https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/seihandbook/. Printed copies are also available on Amazon.com.

Why should you come to this DBER? If you are leading a change initiative, we have many transportable “lessons learned” for how to bring adequate attention to the initiative and engage faculty. If you are an instructor or faculty member working with department faculty on course modifications, we have lessons for you. And more broadly, I will share some of the impacts the SEI has had on the national landscape.

Apr 29 Anne Dougherty, Silva Chang (Applied Mathematics)

Why do undergraduates leave? Part-2: Analytical insights into Student's Grades at CU Boulder

Location: A1B60 in Gold/MCDB



Archive of Past DBER Seminars