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Undergraduate Biology Education Research Program

The goals of this nine-week summer program are to develop undergraduates' knowledge and skills in biology education research, encourage undergraduates to pursue doctoral study of biology teaching and learning, expand the diversity of the talent pool in biology education research, strengthen and expand collaborations among faculty and students in education and life sciences, and contribute to the development of theory and knowledge about biology education in ways that can inform undergraduate biology instruction.

Award Number: 
1262715
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 - Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The Undergraduate Biology Education Research (UBER) REU Site engages undergraduates in studying important issues specific to the teaching and learning of biology, with mentorship from faculty in the Division of Biological Sciences and the Mathematics and Science Education Department at the University of Georgia. The goals of this nine-week summer program are to develop undergraduates' knowledge and skills in biology education research, encourage undergraduates to pursue doctoral study of biology teaching and learning, expand the diversity of the talent pool in biology education research by strategically recruiting and mentoring underrepresented and disadvantaged students, strengthen and expand collaborations among faculty and students in education and life sciences, and contribute to the development of theory and knowledge about biology education in ways that can inform undergraduate biology instruction.

A programmatic effort to introduce undergraduates to the discipline of biology education research is unprecedented nationwide. Biology education research as a discipline is quite young, and systematic involvement of undergraduates has not been part of the culture or practice in biology or education. UBER aims to promote cultural change that expands the involvement of undergraduates in biology education research and raises awareness among undergraduates that biology teaching and learning are compelling foci for study that can be pursued at the graduate level and via various career paths. UBER utilizes a combined strategy of broad and strategic recruiting to attract underrepresented minority students as well as students who do not have access to biology education research opportunities at their own institutions. Evaluation plans involve tracking UBER participants over time to understand the trajectories of students who complete undergraduate training in biology education research.

Significant co-funding of this project is provided by the Division of Biological Infrastructure in the NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences in recognition of the importance of educational research in the discipline of biology. The Division of Undergraduate Education and the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings also provides co-funding.

Undergraduate Biology Education Research Program

Innovate to Mitigate: A Crowdsourced Carbon Challenge

This project is designing and conducting a crowd-sourced open innovation challenge to young people of ages 13-18 to mitigate levels of greenhouse gases. The goal of the project is to explore the extent to which the challenge will successfully attract, engage and motivate teen participants to conduct sustained and meaningful scientific inquiry across science, technology and engineering disciplines.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316225
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 - Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This project is designing and conducting a crowd-sourced open innovation challenge to young people of ages 13-18 to mitigate levels of greenhouse gases. The goal of the project is to explore the extent to which the challenge will successfully attract, engage and motivate teen participants to conduct sustained and meaningful scientific inquiry across science, technology and engineering disciplines. Areas in which active cutting edge research on greenhouse gas mitigation is currently taking place include, among others, biology (photosynthesis, or biomimicry of photosynthesis to sequester carbon) and chemistry (silicon chemistry for photovoltaics, carbon chemistry for decarbonization of fossil fuels). Collaborating in teams of 2-5, participants engage with the basic science in these areas, and become skilled at applying scientific ideas, principles, and evidence to solve a design problem, while taking into account possible unanticipated effects. They refine their solutions based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

An interactive project website describes specifications for the challenge and provides rubrics to support rigor. It includes a library of relevant scientific resources, and, for inspiration, links to popular articles describing current cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs in mitigation. Graduate students recruited for their current work on mitigation projects provide online mentoring. Social networking tools are used to support teams and mentors in collaborative scientific problem-solving. If teams need help while working on their challenges, they are able to ask questions of a panel of expert scientists and engineers who are available online. At the end of the challenge, teams present and critique multimedia reports in a virtual conference, and the project provides awards for excellence.

The use of open innovation challenges for education provides a vision of a transformative setting for deep learning and creative innovation that at the same time addresses a problem of critical importance to society. Researchers study how this learning environment improves learning and engagement among participants. This approach transcends the informal/formal boundaries that currently exist, both in scientific and educational institutions, and findings are relevant to many areas of research and design in both formal and informal settings. Emerging evidence suggests that open innovation challenges are often successfully solved by participants who do not exhibit the kinds of knowledge, skill or disciplinary background one might expect. In addition, the greater the diversity of solvers is, the greater the innovativeness of challenge solutions tends to be. Therefore, it is expected that the free choice learning environment, the nature of the challenge, the incentives, and the support for collaboration will inspire the success of promising young participants from underserved student populations, as well as resulting in innovative solutions to the challenge given the diversity of teams.

Innovate to Mitigate: A Crowdsourced Carbon Challenge

CAREER: Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT)—Exploring the Development of Computational Algorithmic Thinking Capabilities in African-American Middle School Girls

The project at Spelman College includes activities that develop computational thinking and encourage middle school, African-American girls to consider careers in computer science. Over a three-year period, the girls attend summer camp sessions of two weeks where they learn to design interactive games. Experts in Computational Algorithmic Thinking as well as undergraduate, computer science majors at Spelman College guide the middle-school students in their design of games and exploration of related STEM careers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1150098
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2012 - Fri, 06/30/2017
Full Description: 

The Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT) project at Spelman College includes activities that develop computational thinking and encourage middle school, African-American girls to consider careers in computer science. Over a three-year period, the girls attend summer camp sessions of two weeks where they learn to design interactive games. They participate in workshops, field trips, and game-design competitions. Experts in Computational Algorithmic Thinking as well as undergraduate, computer science majors at Spelman College guide the middle-school students in their design of games and exploration of related STEM careers.

Research on the development of Computational Algorithmic Thinking is an integral part of the project. The researcher is investigating how middle-school girls develop computational thinking and problem solving skills. Game design has been shown to be an area that is attractive to adolescents and it requires extensive problem solving and computational algorithmic thinking. Within the context of designing games individually and within groups, the researcher is assessing how the girls develop computational algorithmic thinking, and what difficulties they experience. Researchers are also assessing how the project experiences influence the students' self-perceptions of themselves as problem solvers. At the same time, the girls engaged in educational experiences where they are expected to gain knowledge in mathematics, programming, and reasoning, as well as game design. Research data consists of artifacts that the students have created, observations, participant journals, and interviews.

Computational Algorithmic Thinking is an essential skill for most STEM careers. African-American women are underrepresented in many STEM fields and especially in computer science. The goals of the project are to prepare girls with these essential skills and to increase their confidence in participating in STEM education. The project is also exposing participating girls to a wide variety of STEM careers. In addition, the materials, lesson plans, and activities generated in the project are available to be used, without charge, by other groups interested in designing similar programs.

CAREER: Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT)—Exploring the Development of Computational Algorithmic Thinking Capabilities in African-American Middle School Girls

SciJourner Volume 2, Issue 2

Author(s): 
SciJourners
Contact Info: 
Publication Type: 
Other
Publication Date: 
In Press

The second print edition from academic year 2010-11 of our student written science news publication, in pdf format. This is meant to be printed on large format paper, and folded, but it can be viewed online.

SciJourner Volume 2, Issue 1

Author(s): 
SciJourners
Contact Info: 
Publication Type: 
Other
Publication Date: 
In Press

The first print edition from academic year 2010-11 of our student written science news publication, in pdf format. This is meant to be printed on large format paper, and folded, but it can be viewed online.

SciJourner Volume 1, Issue 4

Author(s): 
SciJourners
Contact Info: 
Publication Type: 
Other
Publication Date: 
In Press

The fourth print edition from summer 2009 of our science news publication, in pdf format. The articles in this edition, unlike the others, are written by high school teachers who participated in our summer PD.

SciJourner Volume 1, Issue 3

Author(s): 
SciJourners
Contact Info: 
Publication Type: 
Other
Publication Date: 
In Press

The third print edition from summer 2009 of the student science news publication, in pdf format.

SciJourner Volume 1, Issue 2

Author(s): 
SciJourners
Publication Type: 
Other
Publication Date: 
In Press

The second print issue from summer 2009 of the student science news publication, in pdf format.

SciJourner Volume 1, Issue 1

Author(s): 
SciJourners
Publication Type: 
Other
Publication Date: 
In Press

The first print edition from summer 2009 of the student science news publication, in pdf format.

A cognitive apprenticeship for science literacy based on journalism

Author(s): 
Polman, Joseph L.
Saul, E. Wendy
Newman, Alan
Farrar, Cathy
Singer, Nancy
Turley, Eric
Pearce, Laura
Hope, Jennifer
McCarty, Glenda
Graville, Cynthia
Contact Info: 
Publication Type: 
Proceedings
Publication Date: 
In Press

Abstract: The Science Literacy through Science Journalism (SciJourn) project aims to reframe the discussion of science literacy for citizenship, and explore how science journalism practices can be used to inform a cognitive apprenticeship that increases the science literacy of participants. This symposium features four paper presentations that report on the progress of the SciJourn project. We report on the development of standards for science content literacy based on the expertise exhibited by science journalists, assessment measures for science literacy, and assessment measures for engagement with science and technology. Finally, we describe our efforts aimed at apprenticing high-school aged learners into a science journalism community of practice spanning multiple schools and a community-based organization

Citation for the paper is: Polman, J. L., Saul, E. W., Newman, A., Farrar, C., Singer, N., Turley, E., Pearce, L.,Hope, J., McCarty, G., and Graville, C. (2010). A cognitive apprenticeship for science literacy based on journalism. In K. Gomez, Lyons, L., & Radinsky, J. (Ed.), Learning in the Disciplines: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2010) - Volume 2, Short Papers, Symposia, and Selected Abstracts (pp. 61-68). Chicago, IL: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

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