TSEC STEM Education Grants

Inclusive Pedagogy among STEM Faculty: A Professional Development Program for Becoming Aware and Culturally Responsive.

Our aim is to use a faculty learning community (FLC) (Dancy et al., 2019; Pelletreau et al ,2018) to stimulate increased awareness of and responsiveness to best general pedagogy practices (for faculty in the GP Track) and inclusive-pedagogy practices (for faculty in the IP Track). During Fall 2020, participants in each track will read journal articles and book chapters that stimulate discussion regarding general STEM pedagogy (GP Track) and culturally responsive pedagogy (e.g., Mack, Winter, & Soto, 2019; IP Track) and will meet regularly to identify issues and consider strategies and interventions that may address teaching, learning, and various inequities within STEM classrooms. During the initial text-based discussions, faculty participants. 

PI: Dr. Sarah Bleiler-Baxter 

Co-PI(s): Dr. Grant Gardner, and Dr. Gregory Rushton 


Exploring the Impact of Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship Programs on Teacher Retention: The Role of Motivation, Leadership, and School-Work Environment

This project aims to serve the national need to improve the retention and persistence of STEM teachers in high-need schools across the nation. It will do so by studying the retention and persistence of Noyce Master Teacher Fellows compared to a control teacher population. Specifically, this Noyce Track 4 Collaborative Research project will conduct an exploratory study through a collaboration among eight universities: Rice University (lead institution), Middle Tennessee State University, University of Rochester, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, University of Arizona, University of Louisiana-Lafayette, University of California-San Diego, and Kennesaw State University. K-12 education in the U.S. has been suffering from teacher shortages and attrition, particularly in mathematics and science disciplines and particularly in high-need schools. Investigating factors related to teacher retention and persistence is, thus, a crucial first step to increasing the positive effects of teacher retention on K-12 education. By comparing Noyce Master Teaching Fellows with a group of non-Noyce teachers with similar background characteristics, the impact of the Noyce Master Teaching Fellows programs on long-term teacher retention and persistence should become more visible.

Building on existing research and theories related to teacher development and retention including self-efficacy, self-determination, and networks, the project intends to investigate the relation between key teacher constructs and variables (e.g., motivation, leadership skills, diversity dispositions, school-work environment, social networks, and professional background) and teacher retention and persistence. The project aims to compare Noyce Master Teaching Fellows with non-Noyce teachers, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Results of this study have the potential to inform teacher preparation and development programs, as well as stakeholders who are trying to solve the teacher retention and persistence problems facing the nation, particularly in high-need schools and school districts. An external Advisory Board of expert scholars will provide feedback throughout the implementation of the research study. Broad dissemination of the findings is planned through Rice's Digital Scholarship Archive, publications in academic journals, and presentations at professional conferences. To reach the public audience, articles about the project will be sent to local newspapers; and the work and its findings will be disseminated through social media outlets (e.g., website, FaceBook, Twitter). This Track 4: Research project is supported through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program (Noyce). The Noyce program supports talented STEM undergraduate majors and professionals to become effective K-12 STEM teachers and experienced, exemplary K-12 STEM teachers to become STEM master teachers in high-need school districts. It also supports research on the persistence, retention, and effectiveness of K-12 STEM teachers in high-need school districts.

PI: Dr. Gregory Rushton


Supporting K-12 STEM Educators to Develop their Teaching and Leadership Practices

The future STEM success of our nation’s children is largely dependent on the STEM teachers they encounter from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 (Pre-K–12). Teaching STEM effectively requires teachers to be life-long   learners. Professional development provides one avenue to support teachers with this need to continue to learn. This study will conduct design-based research about TSEC’s current professional development opportunities for STEM Teachers. This study will investigate the following research questions:

  • What pedagogies of   enactment   and   investigation   do teachers authentically   engage in during professional development opportunities?
  • How does the design and facilitation of professional development opportunities provide opportunities for  teachers to engage  in pedagogies of enactment and investigation?
  • How do professional development opportunities provide support for and develop teachers’ ability to engage in continuous improvement after PD programs?
  • What role do classroom artifacts, such as student work or classroom video, play in professional development opportunities?

PI: Dr. Elizabeth Dyer


Designing Informal STEM Outreach for K-12 Students to Engage Students in Authentic STEM Practices and Develop Positive STEM Identities

Opportunities outside of traditional STEM courses in K-12 schools can provide a valuable way for students to develop knowledge, attitudes, and interest in STEM subjects and careers. Additionally, there is unequal distribution of and access to quality STEM learning experiences for individuals, family, and communities   outside  of  schools. This study  will conduct design-based research about TSEC’s current STEM outreach programming for K-12 students to better understand how they support students’ STEM pathways and how to redesign the programs to have greater impact. This study will investigate the following research questions:

  • What STEM practices do students authentically engage in during STEM outreach programs?
  • What types of STEM identity work do students engage in during STEM outreach programs?
  • How does the design and facilitation of STEM outreach programs support students to authentically engage in  STEM practices and develop positive STEM identities?

PI: Dr. Elizabeth Dyer


The Structure of High School Math Lessons: A focus on visuospatial and acoustic aspects

Developing theory about learning  in STEM  classrooms requires understanding not only learners’ conceptual development, but also how interactive (i.e., social and spatial) aspects of classrooms are integral parts of student learning. For example, aspects such as the nature of collaboration, use of gesture and embodiment, the nuances of discursive tone and prosody, and student positional identities are important for understanding learning in STEM classrooms. In this study, we are developing methods for how to analyze the interactive aspects of videos  of  high school mathematics classrooms, focusing on the visuospatial and acoustic features of the video data. The study will qualitatively and quantitatively analyze videos from different high school mathematics classrooms to investigate the following research questions:

  • How are different participation structures used during mathematics lessons?
  • What forms of  interpersonal  and person-material interactions are present during mathematics lessons?
  • What forms of productive struggle are present during students’ math problem-solving?

PI: Dr. Elizabeth Dyer


Supporting Science Teacher Learning through Capturing and Selecting Video of One’s Own Classroom

Video has been a central part of efforts to support science teacher learning for over twenty years. Previous research has shown that discussions about classroom video, such as analyzing the student thinking shown in a video, has the potential to support science teachers to improve their teaching over time. New technology, such as action cameras, smartphones, and 360-degree cameras allow teachers  to easily   capture video of  their own classroom rather than rely on using video from existing sources. This study investigates how  using  these new  technologies  can  provide  additional opportunities for teacher learning prior to the viewing and discussion of video with colleagues when teachers engage in capturing video from their own classroom and selecting clips to share with others. This study examines science teachers’ discussions and written comments to investigate the following research questions:

  • What practices and ways of thinking do teachers use when (1) prior to, (2) during, and (3) after capturing video of their teaching?
  • How do those practices and ways of thinking show evidence of teacher learning?
  • How are teachers’ practices and ways of thinking connected across the three phases of the capturing process?

PI: Dr. Elizabeth Dyer


Learning through Teaching: Math Teachers' Use of Classroom  Experiences as Feedback

The reform movement in mathematics education, most recently supported by the new Common Core Standards, calls for a new approach where teachers are expected be responsive to student thinking by noticing and building upon students' emerging understanding. Some exemplary teachers undergo   these   changes just through learning  from their classroom experiences to become more responsive. This study uses an innovative method for studying teachers' in-the-moment sense-making when learning from classroom experiences where teachers collect video from their point-of-view using small wearable cameras (e.g. GoPros). The camera records the previous 1 minute of action when the teacher presses a button, such that teachers can save video clips of a notable moment after it has occurred. Shortly after the lesson, the teacher is interviewed about the moments to uncover what they noticed and how they made sense of those moments. This study will analyze the videotaped post-lesson interviews with teachers to investigate the following research questions:

  • What kinds of moments during lessons do math teachers identify as useful to learn from or relevant to how they are trying to improve their teaching?
  • How do teachers use causal reasoning (i.e. understanding what causes events to happen in their classroom) make sense of their classroom experiences?
  • How do teachers learn and improve from both successes and problems they experience in their teaching?
  • What kinds of changes do teachers propose to make to their teaching when they learn through experience?

PI: Dr. Elizabeth Dyer


Collaborative Research: Investigating Classroom Discourse in Active Learning Environments for Large Enrollment Chemistry Courses

With support from the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program: Education and Human Resources (IUSE: EHR), this project aims to serve the national interest by investigating factors that create effective classroom environments for large undergraduate chemistry courses. To accomplish this goal, the project will gather data from large enrollment courses at the University of Iowa, the University of Arizona, Middle Tennessee State University, and Stonybrook University. It will use these data to determine the features of collaborative activities that foster high-quality student engagement and meaningful learning. Special attention will be paid to the participation of diverse student populations, such as first-generation college students and English-language learners. Core findings from this research project will be used to develop and disseminate faculty resources that will support creation and implementation of effective classroom activities.

The research design for this project is based on the understanding that collective activity is a sociological construct that fosters the construction of ideas through different patterns of interaction. Productive ways of reasoning emerge as learners solve problems, explain their thinking, and represent their ideas when engaged in well-designed and relevant tasks that are properly facilitated. Thus, at the center of the research design is the observation, recording, and analysis of student-student as well as student-facilitator conversations to: a) characterize critical characteristics of collaborative task facilitation that most strongly support productive engagement; b) explore how different features of task design (e.g., structure; focus; cognitive demand; opportunities for knowledge integration; co-construction of knowledge) affect students' modes of reasoning and productive engagement in argumentation and explanation; and c) characterize the interaction of task design and facilitation with student discourse in large chemistry classes and determine how those interactions hinder or facilitate the productive engagement of diverse students by reducing barriers to their equal participation in and contribution to group work. 

PI: Dr. Gregory Rushton


 PDConnect: A Scalable Community Approach to Improving Instruction in AP Chemistry Nationwide

In this project, researchers propose to develop an online teacher-professional development community (PDConnect) that leverages social processes hypothesized to be central to the diffusion of teaching reform. Students need to be better prepared to participate in a workforce which evolves as rapidly as the technological advances that drive the U.S. economy. Consequently, educators are faced with the task of both fostering student proficiency on the current state of knowledge, and preparing them to remain proficient in the future. To adopt reforms in practice, teachers need to be aware of practices informed by evidence-based research and know other teachers in other schools who have adopted new practices. The intervention consists primarily of a comprehensive collection of resources and an online professional development community for AP Chemistry teachers. Researchers will utilize web-based small-group peer discussion system (Talkabout) to refine the site and to maximize the mechanisms used to create peer discussion groups. This project will run from September 2018 to August 2021.

PI:  Dr. Gregory Rushton
Co-PI's: Chinmay Kulkarni and David J.Yaron


 Collaborative Research: Teacher Leadership: Investigating the Persistence and Trajectories of Noyce Master Teaching Fellows

The overarching goal of this collaborative Noyce Track 4 Research project is to contribute to the currently-limited understanding of STEM teacher leadership by examining the influences of teacher leadership development on the persistence and professional trajectories of Noyce Master Teaching Fellows (MTFs). The Teacher Leadership (T-Lead) project plans to gather data related to the nature and structure of seven currently active Noyce MTF projects, the professional trajectories of participating MTFs, the school contexts in which the MTFs teach, and the leadership activities in which they engage. This data set will allow the project team to address two main research objectives. The first is to determine the impact of the professional learning models used in the various Noyce projects on the professional identities and trajectories of participating MTFs, and look for patterns in the features of those models that may be correlated with teacher persistence. The second is to explore how different contextual factors (e.g. STEM teaching responsibilities, school culture), professional networks, and leadership opportunities shape the decisions of MTFs to remain in classroom roles during and/or after the Noyce program. This project is estimated to run June 2018 to May 2021.

PI:  Dr. Gregory Rushton


Collaborative Research: A Research Study of Teacher Retention and Network Formation in Noyce Communities of Practice

This Noyce Track 4 Research project is a collaborative endeavor to examine teacher induction as an aspect of teacher preparation that affects the way teachers become embedded within their professional community. It will look at how being a member of a specific Community of Practice (CoP) influences teacher identity, belief in their personal teaching abilities, and desire to remain in the profession related to teacher retention. The universities in this study span the U.S. and represent successful Noyce teacher preparation programs with a variety of recruitment strategies (e.g., career changers), induction support structures (e.g., online), and teacher placements (e.g., rural vs. urban). These six sites will also allow for a comparison of Noyce and non-Noyce teachers emerging from the different teacher preparation programs. The goal is to determine whether a core set of program features contributes to the success of each induction program, or if distinct program features are useful for unique populations (e.g., periodic face-to-face meetings for career changers, or online support for urban teachers). The project also seeks to determine which program features lead to different community structures (e.g., collaborating mainly with teachers inside or outside the school), and how that community affects a teacher's perception of the profession (e.g., teacher is connected to professionals across the state and wants to remain in the profession as a career). This project is running from April 2017 to March 2020.

PI: Dr. Gregory Rushton 
Co-PI's: Gillian Roehrig, Brandon Ofem, and Michael Beeth


NSF Noyce Scholarship Pre-Science: Scholarships for Chemistry, Geoscience, and Biology Prescience

The NSF Scholarship Prescience grant responds to the critical need for K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by encouraging talented STEM students and professionals to pursue teaching careers in elementary and secondary schools. The program provides one million dollars of funding to institutions of higher education to provide scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers. The grant has been active since 2014 and will run through 2019. 

PI: Dr. Amy Phelps
Co-PI's: Dr. P. Gregory Van Patten and Leigh McNeil


Student Engagement in Statistics Using Technology: Making Data Based Decisions 

 Middle Tennessee State University's Dr. Ginger Holmes Rowell serves as a Statistics Education Consultant for the “Student Engagement in Statistics Using Technology: Making Data Based Decisions” NSF IUSE proposal at Grinnell University (#DUE-1712475), which is a project to develop realistic video games to help students learn statistics and instruments to assess their ability to help students learn important statistical concepts.  Dr. Rowell assists in the following:

  •  The development of a new assessment tool in collaboration with Dr. David Lopatto,
  • Test early drafts of games and corresponding lab activities in her own statistics classes,
  • Coordinate class testing at MTSU of the games and corresponding lab activities; and
  • Help organize and host a one-day workshop at MTSU for MTSU intro statistics teachers.

The grant is expected to run from June 1, 2017 to May 3, 2021.    

PI: Dr. Ginger Holmes Rowell


Tools for Assessment in Genetics (TAG)

Dr. Rebecca Seipelt-Thiemann leads an important genetics learning assessment project to improve how biological sciences are taught in college to meet the nation's need for more and better educated graduates in the biological sciences. When completed,the project will provide tools, called concept inventories (CI), needed for educators to determine the level of student understanding and misunderstanding of several core genetics concepts, such as the nature of mutations and how genes interact in a living system. This grant is active from Fall 2017 to Fall 2020. 

PI: Dr. Rebecca Seipelt-Thiemann


 Collaborative Research: Preparing to Teach Mathematics with Technology- Examining Student Practice

PTMT-ESP is a collaborative project across four institutions that will build on the theoretical foundations of technological pedagogical content knowledge, video case pedagogies, and professional noticing, along with the success of previous PTMT projects (DUE ​0442319, 0817253, 1123001)​ to engage students in meaningful mathematical tasks and capitalizing on available technological tools has been shown to improve attitudes towards mathematics and increase learning. This project is expected to run from October 2018 through September 2023. To learn more CLICK HERE

PI: Dr. Jennifer N. Lovett
Co-PI's: Allison McCulloch, Charity Cayton, and Hollylynne Lee


OTHER STEM EDUCATION GRANTS AT MTSU

Collaborative Research: Mathematics of Doing, Understanding, Learning and Educating for Secondary Schools

The Mathematics of Doing, Understanding, Learning and Educating for Secondary Schools (MODULE(S2)) project will create course materials that will be used to develop preservice teachers' mathematical knowledge as it relates specifically to the work of teaching geometry, statistics, algebra, and modeling. These modules will be used in university mathematics courses and piloted with faculty at universities and colleges of all types across the United States. The project will promote effective instruction by offering professional development activities for faculty using the modules during the summers and the school year. Additionally, the project will investigate the impact of instruction with the modules on preservice teachers' knowledge and inform nationwide efforts in teacher education. This five year project will build on efforts by the Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership (MTE-P) to create a gold standard for the preparation of secondary mathematics teachers across its 90 member universities. This project is estimated to run through August 2022. 

PI: Dr. Jeremy Strayer
Co-PI: Dr. Alyson E. Lischka


Biology Teaching Assistant Project (BioTAP 2.0): Advancing Research, Synthesizing Evidence

The PI team from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, the University of Maryland College Park, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Georgia, and Ohio State University have collaborated on a project to build a sustainable collaborative network to support, synthesize, and disseminate biology Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) Teaching Professional Development (TPD) research results and to advocate for community TPD standards with the potential to increase the effectiveness of GTA TPD nationwide. BioTAP 2.0 is improving undergraduate biology education by expanding the network of 80 institutions developed during their RCN-UBE Incubator project. In that way the project is increasing the number and diversity of institutions involved in GTA TPD, both practice and research. This project is estimated to run through August 2020. 

Co-PI: Dr. Grant E. Gardner

Tennessee STEM Education Center

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MTSU PO Box 82
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tsec@mtsu.edu