Cornell University

CIRTL at Cornell

Conference Program 2019

Connecting Research and Teaching Conference

Friday, May 17, 2019 from 9:00-3:00 pm
423 ILR Conference Center (King-Shaw Hall)

Featuring:

Invited plenary talk

How can we use student data to inform teaching practices?

Claire Meaders, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University

Headshot of Claire Meaders, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

STEM majors experience a transition in instruction when moving from high school to college courses. In this talk, I will explore ways to measure students’ perceptions and concerns related to this transition. I will also discuss how Faculty Learning Communities, small groups of faculty who meet over time to discuss and reflect on common goals, can be a venue for disseminating results and for promoting interdisciplinary communities focused on sharing ideas to improve students’ experiences.

Presenter Biography: Claire Meaders conducts research on the transition in instruction from high school to college STEM classes, along with Cornell Professor Michelle Smith and collaborators from two other universities. A focus of the project is to study predictions and expectations students have about instructional practices upon entering large introductory college STEM classes. Their research team also works with Cornell faculty through the Provost’s Gateway Course Data working group to learn how to help faculty better support students during this key transition time. Dr. Meaders holds a PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University and is currently a postdoctoral associate.

Research talks I

Walking the walk, talking the talk: kinetic learning and the ambulatory classroom

John Wyatt Greenlee, Medieval Studies, Cornell University
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner; CTI Graduate Teaching Fellow

In the Fall of 2018 I taught a First-Year Writing Seminar on the cultural history of walking. One third of the class periods were held in motion, walking around the track and around campus while discussing readings. In this presentation I will explain the principles behind this course before moving on to discuss student outcomes. I will argue that this type of kinetic learning expands on the opportunities offered by more standard, and even active, pedagogical techniques. This study takes aim at a surprising gap in pedagogical thought. The connections between full-body motion and learning have been studied in primary and secondary school students. And sports psychology recognizes the importance of marrying physical action with visualization. But there is almost no work done, and very little practical experimentation, on the issue of kinetic learning at the university level. This study highlights some of the advantages of undergraduate teaching that integrates sustained, low-impact physical activity into the learning process. Participant in the CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Program.

Cross-discipline collaborative learning in environmental engineering and landscape architecture

Christine Georgakakos, Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner

Professional environmental engineers and landscape architects routinely collaborate in practice.  However, rarely do university students pursuing these divergent professions interact collaboratively. This study investigated the impact of cross–discipline, collaborative  service-learning projects between an environmental engineering capstone design course and landscape architecture design studio. Groups of students composed of both environmental engineering and landscape architecture students collaborated on final design projects to address flooding problems for communities near the Hudson River, NY. This study analyzed perspectives from students, teaching assistants, and instructors from both courses using open-ended written survey questions, Likert scale ratings, instructor observations and final project analyses. Despite non-negligible organizational obstacles involved in orchestrating these collaborative projects, ultimately, faculty, students and stakeholders felt that the interaction was beneficial to all parties involved. The instructors felt the collaboration generated higher quality projects compared to those previously  developed by each course independently. Our results encourage further efforts to devise curricula that foster interactions between landscape architectural and environmental engineering students during their university training and to share challenges and successes with colleagues.

Gender differences in student participation in an active learning classroom

Stepfanie M. Aguillon*, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner
Gregor-Fausto Siegmund*, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner
Renee Petipas, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, and Plant Pathology, Washington State University

Abby Grace Drake, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Active Learning Initiative
Sehoya Cotner, Biology Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota
Cissy J. Ballen, Biology Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota, and Biological Sciences, Auburn University, former Active Learning Initiative

*The first two are presenting authors; made equal contributions to this work

Overwhelming evidence demonstrating the benefits of active learning pedagogy has led to a national shift in teaching that requires students to interact more in the classroom. To date, few studies have assessed if there are gender specific differences in participation in active learning STEM courses, and fewer have assessed this across different types of classroom participation. Over two semesters, we observed an introductory biology course at Cornell University and categorized student participation into seven distinct categories to better understand participation by men and women. We paired these observations with an assessment of course grades and surveys on scientific self-efficacy, group work experiences, and the salience of gender identity. We found that men participated more than expected based on the class composition across most participation categories. In particular, men were strongly over-represented in prompted, voluntary responses after small group discussions across both semesters. On the surveys, women in the course reported less scientific self-efficacy and greater salience of gender identity. Our results suggest that active learning in itself is not a panacea for STEM equity; rather, in order to maximize the benefits of active learning pedagogy, instructors should make a concerted effort to use teaching strategies that are inclusive and encourage equitable participation by all students.

Going gradeless: a case study of students’ attitudes and motivation

Daniel Houck, Mechanical Engineering, Cornell University
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner

A first-year writing seminar was instructed without any quantitative measure of achievement until the final grade. Students’ attitudes about grades, motivation, work ethic, and other forms of feedback were surveyed three times over the semester.Survey results indicate that, on average, even though they weren’t receiving grades, students increasingly felt as though they knew what was expected of them, how well they were doing, and that they were learning better without grades. They also experienced less anxiety in this class compared to other classes.

How does loss aversion bias affect student motivation and performance in a college class?

Maria Modanu, Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner

Cognitive biases are predictable ways in which people deviate from rational decisions. One such bias is the loss aversion bias, where people value losing something they already have more than they value gaining something they don’t yet have, even when the objective value in both cases is the same. To test whether this is true for grades and whether students compensate by working more, I measure student performance in the discussion sections of a large sophomore class in two conditions: when full points for the section grade were given to students at the start of the semester, and when points were earned as the semester progressed.

Utility of the flipped classroom when teaching clinical nutrition material

Emily Riddle, Human Ecology, SUNY Oneonta
CTI Graduate Teaching Fellow (Alumna)

Nutrition requires professionals to apply scientific principles to patient care. However, students often struggle linking science to nutrition interventions on their own. The flipped classroom may increase student engagement and improve synthesis of complex information. However, its efficacy in improving synthesis of clinical nutrition material has not been evaluated. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the flipped classroom on student engagement and learning outcomes in a medical nutrition therapy course. This study was conducted in an upper level medical nutrition therapy course at Cornell University. In 2015 (n=23 students), the course was traditionally taught, and in 2017 (n=16 students), 50% of the course material was flipped. Student engagement during the traditional and flipped portions of the 2017 course were compared using the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) protocol. The amount of time students spent with flipped online course material was also evaluated over the course of the semester. Student performance was evaluated by comparing the final grades and specific exam questions between the 2017 class and the 2015 class. Student perspectives on the flipped and traditional portions of the class were captured using an end of the year survey. The flipped classroom significantly increased student engagement during class; however, student engagement with online course material decreased over the course of the semester. Use of the flipped classroom improved student final grades, but had no effect on complex essay question performance on the midterm or final exam. The flipped classroom was generally well received and promoted community among the students. However, students noted that the flipped classroom required a larger time commitment and made it easier to fall behind on course material. In conclusion, the flipped classroom is an effective pedagogical technique to increase student engagement in a medical nutrition therapy course. However, caution needs to be taken to manage the higher time requirements this teaching technique requires of students.

Taking time to pause: Learning via Self-Reflexivity and thinking beyond the classroom

Yagna Nag Chowdhuri, Asian Literature, Religion and Culture, Cornell University
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner

This paper presentation looks at the ways in which students of a First Year Writing Seminar were able to make connections with the course content and methodologies, with their lives beyond the classroom space. The title of the FWS was ‘The making of modernity in India’ and it focused on processes of identity formation and state formation in India after its independence. The class had 16 Freshman students from across majors. The term ‘beyond the classroom’ space denotes their other academic endeavors as well as their lives outside the academic realm. The aim of this research study was to understand the impact of FWS, where the primary method of teaching was via a sustained breakdown of assumptions and stereotypes. I call this method as learning by moving from the known to the unknown. This meant inculcating a practice of self-reflexivity, to question concepts and historical ideas. I conducted interviews, after the course had finished and grades had been submitted to understand the impact. Students made themselves available for in-depth interviews and expressed themselves freely. This space of the interview provided an opportunity for reflection on the course, which had not been possible while the course was in progress. Ultimately this paper demonstrates and hopes to show that in fact individual conversations, after the class is over is a powerful and effective pedagogical method. I argue that such a method helps to consolidate the learnings and reflect on the class in a non-threatening environment, which defines the impact of the FWS as a whole.

Lightning talks

Helping students be successful in calculus

Steve Bennoun, Mathematics, Cornell University
Active Learning Initiative

It is known that many students are turned away from science and technology careers because of their calculus requirement. To help remedy this situation, our research intends to identify early on which students are likely to struggle in calculus and what will be the main causes of this struggle. We then want to provide them with appropriate support to be successful in calculus.

See associated poster

Active learning strategies for organismal biology courses

Nicole Chodkowski, Plant Science, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Entomology, Cornell University
Active Learning Initiative

Rapid changes in technologies and computational methods used to investigate scientific questions have direct consequences for university curriculum. For example, advances in DNA sequencing and computational biology have generated a need for classes focused on genetic techniques and statistics, with less emphasis on organismal biology. However, organismal courses are inherently integrative, incorporating concepts from genetics, physiology, morphology, and other disciplines. Focal taxa are used as a lens through which students can view and understand the major concepts in ecology and evolution. We integrate five common threads (phylogenetic inference, biogeography, biodiversity, evo-devo, and trait evolution) across entomology, plant sciences and herpetology.  Incorporating active learning strategies and activities with an inclusive approach to engage students from diverse backgrounds will facilitate mastery and retention of these core biological concepts and enable their application to further investigation into both basic and applied sciences.

Ready Student One: Exploring student characteristics for learning in virtual reality

Jack Madden, Astronomy and Space Sciences; Communication, Cornell University
Cornell Physics Education Research Lab

Immersive virtual reality (VR) has enormous potential for education, but classroom resources are limited. Thus, it is important to identify whether and when VR provides sufficient advantages over other modes of learning to justify its deployment. In a between-subjects experiment, we compared three methods of teaching Moon phases (a hands-on activity, VR, and a desktop simulation) and measured student improvement on existing learning and attitudinal measures. While a substantial majority of students preferred the VR experience, we found no significant differences in learning between conditions. However, we found differences between conditions based on gender, which was highly correlated with experience with videogames. These differences may indicate certain groups have an advantage in the VR setting. 

See associated poster

Lunchtime panel discussion

Collaboration, service learning, and Teaching as Research in course project reflections

Christine Georgakakos*, Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University
Josh Cerra*, Landscape Architecture, Cornell University
M. Todd Walter*, Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University
Kimberly Williams*, CIRTL at Cornell, Cornell University
Shorna B. Allred, Natural Resources, Cornell University

*Presenting authors

The members of this panel have worked collaboratively for over three years collecting and analyzing data on this project, and will be discussing challenges and lessons learned. This objective of this project was to apply our students’ creativity, technical expertise, and design training to the specific problem of increasing regional flood risks. We created interdisciplinary groups composed of senior environmental engineers and landscape architects to develop flood mitigation designs for communities along the Hudson River Estuary. This project specifically analyzed the effectiveness of: 1) interdisciplinary student design groups, 2) student engagement with communities, and 3) integration with external efforts such as those of the Hudson River Estuary Program. We also analyzed faculty benefits in terms of pedagogy and research, i.e., effectiveness of cross-course and single-course engaged experiences for enhancing teaching, research and community benefits.

This Engaged Cornell work was supported in part by an Engaged Curriculum Grant.

Roundtable presentations

Teaching students how to critically read the primary literature

Kacie Armstrong, Psychology, Cornell University, and
Lauren Genova, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University
CTI Graduate Teaching Fellows

In this roundtable, we will present an overview of our spring GET SET workshop: teaching undergraduates how to critically read primary literature. As a result of participating in our workshop, we hoped our participants would be able to: 1.) Describe different strategies for critically reading primary literature across disciplines (spanning from the sciences to the arts and humanities) and 2.) Engage with primary literature via active questioning. We invite you to join us to learn about the strategies that we introduced at our workshop and to share your own experiences with introducing students to primary literature.

Gender gap in performance in science classes

Daria Bottan, Economics, Cornell University
Active Learning Initiative

In this roundtable, we will first document the gender gap in performance on exams in science classes. Then we will discuss potential explanations for this gap and what can be done to close it.

Digital storytelling

John Wyatt Greenlee, Medieval Studies, Cornell University, and
Krithika Vachali, English, Cornell University
CTI Graduate Teaching Fellows

Digital storytelling projects in an undergraduate classroom helps students learn, process, and present knowledge in innovative, public-facing ways. Highly adaptable to various classroom settings and learning outcomes, digital storytelling teaches students how to manage projects, and work effectively with peers in addition to course material. In this roundtable, we’ll look at when and how to use digital storytelling projects in undergraduate courses.

Assessment tools for the classroom

Kathleen Hefferon, Microbiology, Cornell University
Active Learning Initiative

How do we evaluate students’ progress in the classroom? Formative and summative assessment tools help instructors gather information about the student learning process. This roundtable explores an assortment of assessment strategies available for a broad range of instructional experiences.

Mentoring undergraduate researchers

Eugene P. Law, Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University
CTI Graduate Teaching Fellow

The mentoring relationship is an essential aspect of successful undergraduate research experiences, and yet the faculty, post-docs, and graduate students that are expected to provide mentoring often have little to no formal training in mentorship.  In this round-table we will share experiences as mentors and mentees and discuss strategies used by successful mentors including communication, managing expectations, advocating for mentees, and navigating mentorship across difference.

Invention activities in the classroom

George Orlov, Economics, Cornell University
Doug McKee, Economics, Cornell University
Active Learning Initiative

An invention activity is a teaching technique that involves giving students a difficult substantive problem that cannot be readily solved with any methods they have already learned. The work of Dan Schwartz and colleagues (Schwartz & Bransford, 1998; Schwartz & Martin, 2004), suggests that such activities prepare students to learn the “expert’s solution” better than starting directly with a lecture on that solution. We will discuss the creation and use of new invention activities in the context of a college econometrics course.

Implementing active learning

Justin St. Juliana, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University
Active Learning Initiative

I will discuss the structure of, and implementation of active learning in, a 250-student mixed majors / non-majors course “Ecology and the Environment.”

Research talks II

Inquiry in oral communication

Andrew St. James, Microbiology, Cornell University (Cancelled due to illness)
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner

An important job skill for STEM professionals is the ability to critically evaluate research studies that are orally presented. In this case study of oral examinations in an introductory biology course, we describe an explanatory feedback intervention used to train students to critically analyze orally-presented scientific research. We show students improve their ability to analyze results, draw conclusions, and discuss the broader implications of data as a result of the intervention, though they struggle with generating hypotheses and constraining discussions of methodological limitations. We show that low-performing students especially benefit from the feedback intervention. Finally, we provide suggestions for training teaching assistants to administer and assess student inquiry abilities within the context of oral communication.

Teaching written argumentation in the ecological sciences: a case study

Erin Larson, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University (remote presenter)
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner; CTI Graduate Teaching Fellow

Making data-based claims and supporting them clearly with evidence is one important component of the scientific process. The idea of teaching science as a process of argument and knowledge-building rather than a collection of facts is not a new idea, but is one with gaining momentum (Kuhn, 1993). One commonly used tool for teaching argumentation is Toulmin’s model of argumentation (Toulmin, 1958) and its derivatives. Toulmin’s model has been extended to include lengthier forms of writing (Kelly & Takao, 2002), since its original applications were for short statements and verbal discussions (Erduran, Simon, & Osborne, 2004). We further adapt Toulmin’s model to extend it to be used for evaluating long-form science writing. This case study is a mixed-methods effort to evaluate how students’ ability to use argumentation in their written work is related to their own perceived ability and to their ability to evaluate their peers’ argumentation skills and how their argumentation skills develop over the course of the semester. All students in this study were enrolled in an introductory ecology lecture course at a large Ivy League institution. Specifically, study participants were enrolled in an optional discussion section for an additional credit focused on learning scientific writing. Overall, we found that students’ ability to use argumentation in an ecological context improved throughout the semester and identified key areas that were challenging for students. Specifically, students struggled with using data as supporting evidence for a claim. This was evident both in their self-reporting and in the first drafts of their research papers, where many of them did not include adequate statistical information in their results sections. This finding coincides with literature on the middle school learning of the scientific process (Lovett & Shah, 2007).

Alignments and misalignments between learning perception by students and class learning objectives in an undergraduate level introductory laboratory-based biology class

Maria Sol Lisboa*, Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University
CIRTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Practitioner
Mark Sarvary, Investigative Biology Labs, Cornell University
Kimberly Williams, CIRTL at Cornell, Cornell University

This study aims to analyze student’s learning perception in an introductory laboratory-based biology class, and its alignment with the course learning objectives. In order to understand students’ perception, we analyzed class reflection paragraphs which were collected at the end of each of the main course modules following the prompt: “What have you learnt during the last module?”, The coding categories were developed using an integrative approach. The initial code categories emerged from the class learning objectives, and were later refined by analyzing a subset of 15 reflections in order to incorporate additional categories that did not emerge from the class objectives alone. The final code categories were applied to the reflections done by 34 students during the 2018 Fall class. The preliminary results suggest that the level of alignment between student’s perception and class objectives differ by modules, and may be related to the type of assignment and assessments done during each module. The methodology applied in this study is a quick approach to identify learning outcomes, and can be used as a complement to traditional assessments tools.

*Presenting author

Poster presentations

Predicting final exam grades in Calculus using early-semester data

Steve Bennoun, Mathematics, Cornell University
Active Learning Initiative

The aim of our research is to identify early in the semester which students are at risk of failing in calculus. We also want to identify possible reasons why students fail or struggle. To this end we have built multi-linear models predicting final exam grades in calculus using only data that can be easily collected at the beginning of the semester.

Ready Student One: Exploring student characteristics for learning in virtual reality

Jack Madden, Astronomy and Space Sciences; Communication, Cornell University
Cornell Physics Education Research Lab

Immersive virtual reality (VR) has enormous potential for education, but classroom resources are limited. Thus, it is important to identify whether and when VR provides sufficient advantages over other modes of learning to justify its deployment. In a between-subjects experiment, we compared three methods of teaching Moon phases (a hands-on activity, VR, and a desktop simulation) and measured student improvement on existing learning and attitudinal measures. While a substantial majority of students preferred the VR experience, we found no significant differences in learning between conditions. However, we found differences between conditions based on gender, which was highly correlated with experience with videogames. These differences may indicate certain groups have an advantage in the VR setting. 

How expectations of confirmation influence students’ experimentation decisions in introductory physics labs

Emily Smith*, Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, Cornell University
Active Learning Initiative, Cornell Physics Education Research Lab
Martin M. Stein, Physics, Cornell University; Cornell Physics Education Research Lab
N.G. Holmes, Physics, Cornell University; Cornell Physics Education Research Lab

*Presenting author

Students’ expectations about a class affect how they interpret, approach, and accomplish tasks. However, little is known about how students’ expectations about instructional labs influence their decision-making. During the first lab of a sequence designed to teach students about modeling and critical thinking with data, students test a model that breaks down with improved measurements. Using in-lab video and follow-up interviews, we identified students’ model confirming expectations that substantially interfered with the instructional goals of the activity. We present an analysis of two students who approach the lab with these expectations and later accommodate goals aligned with instructional intention. As instructors transition labs to open-inquiry experiences, an activity that directly challenges model confirming expectations may be productive for shifting students’ expectations to support their engagement in authentic experimentation.

Changes in conceptual understanding revealed through patterns in CSEM responses

Ryan Tapping*, Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, Cornell University
Active Learning Initiative, Cornell Physics Education Research Lab
G.P. Lepage, Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, Cornell University
N.G. Holmes, Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, Cornell University
Cornell Physics Education Research Lab

*Presenting author

The Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism (CSEM), a 32-item multiple-choice assessment, has been utilized to measure learning gains in electricity and magnetism (E&M) physics courses where students’ overall scores on the CSEM are typically used for analysis. However, such comparisons do not identify particular content or concepts that are learned or misunderstood by students from the course. To address this issue, we have generated network-like graphs for each question, where responses at pretest and posttest are represented by nodes connected with edges to display how student answers changed before and after instruction.  We visualize and quantify response patterns from E&M physics classes to better diagnose student reasoning and potential misconceptions which may be prevalent even after instruction.  Unique quantitative methods can also be used to compare class performance on individual questions.

Assessment of critical thinking in physics labs

Cole Walsh*, Physics, Cornell University

Cornell Physics Education Research Lab
Katherine N. Quinn, Physics, Cornell University
N.G. Holmes, Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, Cornell University
Cornell Physics Education Research Lab

*Presenting author

Despite the significant amount of time undergraduate students spend in introductory physics labs, there is little consensus on instructional goals and accepted diagnostic assessments for these labs. In response to these issues, we have developed the Physics Lab Inventory of Critical thinking (PLIC) to assess students’ proficiency in critical thinking in a physics lab context. Specifically, the PLIC aims to evaluate students’ skills in making sense of data, variability, models, and experimental methods and to assess the effectiveness of lab courses at developing these skills.

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