2009 Post-Institute Implementation Awards

NCSCE Awards 20 Grants to Improve Learning, Faculty Development

NCSCE has granted twenty SSI 2009 Post-Institute Implementation Awards to support projects in course design, faculty development, institutional partnerships, and degree program development. Teams that attended SSI 2009 were eligible to submit competitive proposals for two years of implementation award funding. Many interesting and diverse projects will be supported by this year’s implementation awards, and will affect not only undergraduate students, but graduate students, high school students, and community members. The grant recipients estimate that their efforts will affect more than 7200 students during the first year of the two-year grant. Examples of funded projects include:

  • linking a computer science course to a government course,
  • developing a course on mathematics and social justice (predatory lending in this case),
  • implementing an interdisciplinary associate’s degree in environmental science,
  • designing a capstone course for secondary science education majors that focuses on local water issues, and
  • developing a winter intercession on public health issues in conjunction with another university.

Brief summaries of the funded projects are included below.

Beloit College
Britt Scharringhausen, Marion Fass

In 2010, the Beloit College team will bring the SENCER approach to colleagues across campus through a broad discussion about teaching with “Really Big Questions,” facilitated by Ellen Goldey and Byron McCane of Wofford College. Faculty will discuss teaching with controversial topics, and social and natural scientists will participate in planning workshops to develop courses that teach important skills through thorny questions and that incorporate civil engagement. The Beloit team will also sponsor a series of planning workshops for mid-level skills courses in the sciences and social sciences for all interested faculty. These courses will teach the methods and approaches of the disciplines through the investigation of complex problems, and serve as a “stepping stone” between Beloit College’s very successful First Year Initiative seminars and Senior Seminar courses in the major. For example, Sugar, Sugar, Everywhere: Diabetes, a Global Epidemic would bring together students and faculty in biology, health and society, biochemistry and chemistry to discuss the science and the health and social repercussions of the changing diet and health of people worldwide. An interdisciplinary course about global disasters (epidemics, global warming, asteroid impacts) would focus on calculation and modeling with computer tools used in both fields.

Calvin College
Amy Wilstermann, David Koetje

The department of biology at Calvin College recently revised the courses that biology majors take during their first two years of study to better achieve improved concept formation, improved hypothesis-driven thinking and critical evaluation, and enhanced application of scientific knowledge in a societal context. One of the centerpieces of the redesigned introductory sequence is Biology 123, a course that introduces students to the key concepts in biology through the study of complex problems of civic consequence in a problem-based learning format. This course was developed by a team of undergraduate students and faculty members using SENCER strategies introduced to the team at SSI 2009. A team of faculty and students will use the sub-award to develop and implement a second course, Biology 250 – Research Design and Methodology, which will focus on the process by which biological knowledge is developed and tested. Students will be introduced to methodologies that can be employed to study complex problems during two research modules that address topics of civic interest such as restoration ecology, toxicity in Great Lakes birds, mechanisms of action of cancer chemotherapeutics, and biofilm production by antibiotic resistant bacteria. Student learning and feedback will be assessed using the SENCER-SALG and a department based biology major field test (for graduating seniors only). The team plans to share course development and implementation experiences at future symposia.

College of Staten Island CUNY
Herbert Schanker, Donna Scimeca, Sarah Zelikovitz

The College of Staten Island team has initiated a pilot project for a learning community that links a science course, Introduction to Computer Technology (CSC115) with a liberal arts course, United States: Issues, Ideas and Institutions (Core100). CSC115 is an introduction for non-science students to fundamental concepts in computers and technology. Core100 is a required course that introduces students to contemporary America’s constitutional democracy, multiracial society, and market economy. Both courses are primarily taken by first or second year students, and in this project, a cohort of students will take both subjects together at the same time. Three major areas of the government course will be addressed: (1) the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, (2) civil rights, stereotyping and social inequality, and (3) the government’s role in the economy. The learning community will then explore how each is impacted by current computer technologies. An advisory committee of student alumni of these two courses will join with a group of computer science and Core faculty to aid in the formation of assessment procedures, curriculum development and educational improvements.

Elgin Community College
Daysi Diaz-Strong, Alison Douglas

If a student can read, write, and do math at the college level, why can’t he or she “do” college level science? This question drives the Alliance for College Readiness STEM Team’s SENCER project, a collaboration between Elgin Community College (ECC) and its surrounding high schools. The Alliance seeks to increase the college readiness and success of students in Illinois Community College District 509 through curricular and instructional alignment. Despite meeting reading, writing, and math prerequisites, only about 63% of freshmen at ECC succeed in their first year biology, chemistry, or physics courses. The STEM Team, comprised of science faculty from ECC and from four feeder high school districts, has set two major goals for the project: (1) identify the behavioral, academic, and critical thinking gaps that contribute to students’ lack of success in college level science courses, and (2) reduce these gaps by incorporation of collaboratively developed modules in existing high school chemistry, biology, earth science, and physics classes. Alliance for College Readiness STEM Team members will identify skills gaps, determine appropriate project applications based on the nature of the skill gap identified, develop the modules, and test the modules in their own classrooms (including pre and post testing of students for identified skills gaps). Once the modules have been assessed and revised as needed, the STEM Team will disseminate them through faculty development workshops and assist their colleagues in deepening their students’ engagement and college readiness by implementing the SENCER approach in their own classrooms.

Georgia College & State University
Caralyn Zehnder, George Cazacu, Kim Cossey, Julia Metzker, Amy Kelley, Karynne Kleine

Every year, approximately 320 undergraduates, largely non-science majors, enroll in Georgia College & State University’s Introduction to Environmental Science (ENSC 1000) course. The ENSC 1000 labs are currently ‘cookbook style’ labs where students follow lab manual instructions and come up with the same results, year after year. In the past, students have described the labs as ‘high school-like’, and ‘full of busy work’. The award team’s goal is to develop and implement a lab-designing workshop for biology graduate students who teach ENSC 1000 labs. Focus groups comprised of ENSC 1000 students will contribute initial suggestions for lab topics. After the graduate students have designed their SENCER labs, students recruited from the Environmental Science club will test run the labs and provide feedback. Labs will also be evaluated by a second focus group comprised of ENSC 1000 students and members of the GCSU SENCER cohort. After the completion of the workshop and introduction of SENCER labs into the course, the team will assess activities by collecting student feedback and analyzing results of the SENCER-SALG.

Harold Washington College
Farahnaz Movahedzadeh, Elisabeth Heard, Marcus Heldt

Members of the English department, the biology department, and the library will collaborate to offer two courses – Biology 114 (General Education Biology) and English 102 (Composition II) – to a cohort of approximately 30 students. The courses will include two library sessions where the students will be instructed on how to do academic research. Students will write research papers in both classes that will focus on issues related to the health theme of the cohort, such as a hereditary disease that exists within the students’ family of origin/ethnicity or public health issues that exist within their community. The units studied in Biology 114 include the scientific method, genetics, biotechnology, evolution, and ecology. In English 102, the students will read Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (chronicles the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s), Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (chronicles a woman’s descent into madness), and portions of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (chronicles the great plague in England in the mid-1600s). In addition to giving students the opportunity to do research and to produce quality research papers, this cohort is designed to foster a learning community and increase interest and retention in science classes for non-science majors. The results of this cohort will be presented at a SENCER symposium or other national conferences.

Jeffrey Swigart

What makes a loan predatory? Are different people treated differently when seeking a loan? These questions are deep and difficult to answer, and they form the big ideas for a course at Harold Washington College in Chicago, Math 144 – Finite Mathematics, Social Justice in Lending. The topics of math modeling, linear programming, finance, probability, and statistics will be studied using applications relating to payday lending, credit card lending, and mortgage lending. Resources will include The Center for Responsible Lending, an organization with a comprehensive website dedicated to fighting all sorts of predatory lending, “Maxed Out,” a documentary about consumer lending in general, and Family Properties, Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, a book by Beryl Satter that includes a history of mortgage lending specifically in Chicago. To make the course content personal and beneficial, students will take part in several projects designed to help them share what they learn with their peers. Students will give presentations on related topics to their classmates, and ideally, to other audiences in their communities. They will also design pamphlets on safe borrowing practices to distribute to fellow students, family members, work colleagues, and neighbors.

Harry S. Truman College
Raymund Torralba, Mahesh Gurung, Pervez Rahman, Wilfredo Rahm Almarzah, Angelito Garcia, Joshua Jones, Bettina Maravolo, Anne Close

The team plans to design and implement an interdisciplinary associate of science degree in Environmental Science with courses that are driven by community-based undergraduate research and the SENCER ideals. In the long-term, the program intends to help fill the need in the growing green economy for well-trained, skilled, and socially responsible workers who are also strong critical thinkers. A couple of the courses that will be incorporated into the program were developed through the Truman Environmental Intervention Program, successfully piloted, and presented at symposia [supported by a prior SENCER-NSF Implementation Award].

In the first year of this project, the team will develop three new courses, including an independent research course in environmental science. They will also identify a core set of course to revise with the SENCER ideals in mind, and prepare the program for a first cohort of 15-30 students in the fall of 2010. Truman is a Hispanic-Serving Institution that serves one of the most diverse student bodies in Illinois, and so students will be recruited from high schools with particular attention to groups that are underrepresented in environmental science. Truman will also work with local universities to cement articulation agreements for students taking the courses as a degree program or as part of other requirements. Longer term goals for this sub-award project include (1) building sustainable partnerships between Truman College, community-based organizations, and local government agencies that focus on civic engagement, service learning, and social and environmental justice, and (2) building a program that will eventually lead to outreach and partnerships to K-12 institutions that seek to train their students in the sciences and introduce them early in their academic careers to civic and social engagement and responsibility.

Indiana State University
James Speer, Sue Berta, Liz Metzger, Heather Mizlozek, Kay Harmless, and Emily Pugh

The Indiana State team will pursue an ambitions plan with two main components – to disseminate the SENCER approach across campus, and to continue to develop courses focused on civic issues. To address the first goal, the team will both give talks to departments on campus and hold a series of formal professional development sessions for faculty, graduate students, and pre-service teachers on the SENCER approach using data on student interest, engagement, and success garnered from the assessment of SENCER pilot courses. The University has indicated strong support for continued dissemination of the SENCER approach and its application to courses across campus. New faculty will be introduced to SENCER as part of their orientation to campus, and they will also take part in a special professional development series. Team members will serve as resources for their peers as they continue to develop courses. Four courses are already being offered this semester and many more are planned. The team has included students input in the development of courses and will continue to solicit their involvement for new courses. In the near future, team members will add Introduction to Environmental Science (geology) and Conservation and Sustainability (geography) to their portfolio of SENCER courses. Next fall, they will introduce four additional laboratory science courses and/or upper-level electives to course offerings.

Kansas State University
Saugata Datta (Kansas State), Arthur Kney (Lafayette College), Joseph Liddicoat (New York University), Traci Shoemaker (Spring Cove School District, Martinsburg Elementary School), Peter Bower (Barnard College)

This inter-institutional team bridges elementary, high school, undergraduate, and graduate education settings. Traci Shoemaker will introduce Brownfield Action (BA) in her third grade class at Martinsburg Elementary in Spring Cove School District (SCSD). Arthur Kney (civil and environmental engineering), Saugata Datta (geological sciences), and Peter Bower (environmental science), will develop modeling of new contaminant plumes in conjunction with the two existing plumes in the BA simulation. An advanced undergraduate engineering student with Kney (Katie Merriam) and a hydrology graduate student with Datta (Mathew Crawford) will work together in developing and testing two different groundwater and surface water models. Joe Liddicoat plans to write two SENCER model courses in the coming year, including New York Harbor. This course that will include instruction and laboratory activities about the geology and ecology of the New York Harbor and their importance to the NYC metropolitan region not only at the present time but in the history of the United States since the Hudson Valley was first settled. Arthur Kney, Saugata Datta, and Peter Bower will collaborate with a new team member, Johnson Olanrewaju at Gannon College. In terms of external collaborations, Datta will also work with EPA and Kansas Department of Health, Peter Bower and Joseph Liddicoat will continue to collaborate with the Teagle Foundation, and Kney will collaborate with Traci Shoemaker as she develops her course.

Lipscomb University
Ben Hutchinson, Alan Bradshaw, Autumn Marshall, Jim Arnett, Marcia Stewart, Candice McQueen, Deborah Boyd

This three-year project involves the development and implementation of a two-course sequence that fulfills the six hour university general education science requirement. The course, developed by a multi-disciplinary faculty team consisting science and education faculty, seeks to meld civic engagement and service-learning with hands-on science to enhance the science learning and attitudes. This trans-disciplinary course sequence, now in its second year, teaches biology, physics, and chemistry topics through community-based case-studies. These include connecting with a local watershed protection organization to perform botanical and water analysis, and with the Tennessee Health Authority to develop, distribute and analyze an H1N1 flu campus survey. Students present their results through oral and poster presentations. The team-taught course-sequence is now used as part of the science requirement for elementary education majors. Assessment instruments are based in part on state and national science standards as well as through comparison with traditional discipline-based science courses.

Loyola Marymount University
Carolyn Viviano, Maria Alderete, Sara Laimon, Meredith McCarthy

The LMU team plans to create the capstone course for secondary science education majors to be piloted during the spring 2010 semester. This course, Workshop Biology/Chemistry, will be a project based course that revolves around water and the environment, and focuses on issues particular to the Santa Monica Bay and Los Angeles River watersheds. Students will create high school science curricula that will be used by the Heal the Bay Education Program, as well as by high school teachers and their students. Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, safe, healthy and clean. Student background and interests, and the particular needs of the Heal the Bay Education Program and high school teachers will play a significant role in defining each project. Individual projects may be as broad as the health and future of the Oceans, or as precise as the pollutants traveling through the Santa Monica watershed and their impact on human health. LMU students will create, test and evaluate lessons for high school students that cover basic science concepts as well as questions of social justice and responsibility. As they work on these lessons they will have to address not only the relevant science, but the role that science plays in influencing civic decisions. The environment provides an excellent context for work that integrates science content, encourages learning through exploration and experimentation, raises environmental awareness, and instills a sense of place, community and an understanding of the importance of environmental stewardship.

Malcolm X College
Helen Doss, Hope Essien, Gail Grabczynski, Carole Heath, Tracie Hudson

The Malcolm X team will identify and SENCERize eight courses from the general education curriculum with both high enrollment and moderate to low success and retention rates. The courses will be linked through the theme of public health and address one of the following sub-themes: climate change, world hunger, extreme poverty, and assisted reproductive technology. As courses are selected, full-time and part-time faculty will be invited and recommended to participate in the initiative. MXC’s SENCER team will also hold a faculty development retreat to introduce the SENCER principles to their peers and to develop course-level assessments. Moreover, the team will collaborate with student affairs to market the courses. Assessment data will be collected through surveys, student focus groups, student success and retention data, and SALG evaluation data. In spring 2010, more courses will be identified for modification or development by fall 2010, expanding to include a SENCER learning community course model. During summer 2010, the collected data will be reviewed and analyzed allowing for revision and re-tooling of SENCER implementation process. In subsequent semesters, MXC’s group will continue to move toward a fuller, more nuanced SENCER curriculum.

Merrimack College
Marcia Walsh, Kathleen FitzPatrick, Jay Campisi, Kevin Finn

The purpose of this initiative is to develop an innovative, interdisciplinary, intensive winter intersession course that exposes undergraduate students to all aspects of community public health, primary health care and research within an urban setting, using a “total immersion”field study model. This endeavor involves collaboration with the medical students, residents and faculty at the University of Miami Leonard Miller School of Medicine, and aims to reveal thechallenges of providing access to healthcare and services in a diverse urban setting. The twelve junior/senior students will take part in one week of intense classroom study during winter intersession that focuses on public health and healthcare delivery systems in Miami, considering the demographics, culture, history, socioeconomics and diversity of the area, public health challenges in the Miami community, and the legal, political, and financial issues affecting public health programs and practices. They will then travel to Miami to observe and understand the challenges faced by healthcare providers to protect and promote health, and to prevent illness in urban communities, facilitated by the students, residents and faculty of the University of Miami Medical College staff. The third week back in the classroom involves reflection, analysis and synthesis of information gathered during the field component, with emphasis on the importance of primary care in keeping communities healthy. Students will be asked to apply lessons learned in the field component in Miami to improve health care services in their local community and to make a formal presentation of their work to the College community.

Mount Saint Mary College
Maureen Markel, Amanda Maynard, Suparna Bhalla

The Mount Saint Mary College team plan to link two courses, Applying Mathematics & Technology to Individual Sustainability and Environmental Sustainability. All full-time freshmen and sophomores will participate in these courses, and the team will work not only to increase math and science skills but also to create a lasting engagement with these topics. Since the math-IT course is a prerequisite for the science course, there are several ways in which to link the courses. Science faculty requested that students have experience in organizing and analyzing data, creating and interpreting charts and graphs, applying functions in Excel, accessing and assessing online information, and applying the principles of statistics. In turn, the math-IT faculty are implementing a carbon footprint project and a green home-building project into their course. Students in the math-IT course will perform a cost analysis of energy-saving devices such as solar panels and thermo-nuclear heating systems and the same students will explore the science behind solar cells and heating systems. Students in both classes will participate in civic engagement activities on the personal, institutional, and political levels. All full-time faculty in math and IT and in natural science will teach at least one section of the common course of their division. Pods of three will be developed (ideally two-full time and one part-time) to create a support system and to facilitate team-teaching when appropriate. Training will be required and provided for all full-time and adjunct faculty involved in the project.

New York City College of Technology CUNY
Pamela Brown, Arnavaz Taraporevala, Urmi Ghosh-Dastidar, Liana Tsenova

The NYC College of Technology project is multi-tiered. In addition to disseminating the SENCER approach to faculty across campus, the group plans to: (1) build a biology-mathematics connection between New York City College of Technology students taking statistics and microbiology. Students will perform an epidemiologic study based on the literature and data on the spread of nosocomial infections in New York City and compare the data with the rest of the US. nosocomial infections (NI) are infections that are usually contracted at a hospital, nursing home, or health care units. (2) They will create a structure for expansion of the SENCER ideals into other disciplines and courses on campus through mini-awards to adjunct faculty for incorporating their real-world experiences into the development of case studies and other assignments. For example, one math adjunct at the college formerly conducted research for the Albanian military and is author of the book, Exterior Ballistics with Application – Skydiving, Parachute Falls, Flying Fragments. He has also created software to predict radiation exposure as a function of distance from the blast and weather conditions after detonation of a nuclear bomb. These experiences could lead to interesting classroom examples and promote discussion on the role of a society in protecting its citizens against aggressive military action.

Oglethorpe University
John Nardo, Michael Rulison, Lynn Geiger, John Cramer, Keith Aufderheide

The team will create an elective one credit hour special topics course to be offered during the spring 2010 semester that will be cross-listed in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Participants will involve students who have taken a prior SENCER course, and new students who might be selected through their enrollment in introductory courses. The first phase of the course will involve the analysis of the data sets already collected by Oglethorpe students. Statistical analyses (longitudinal at a given location, between locations at a given collection site, between sites, correlations with rainfall data, etc.) will be followed by hypothesis formation and experimental design which will be used to inform the second phase of the proposed project. This second phase will consist of a second iteration of data collection modified and/or extended by the data analysis described above. The results of the data analysis may suggest modifications of collection locations, specific data to be collected, and data collection protocols, among other things. In particular, faculty plan to include collection of data on levels of metal and certain ion and compound contaminants. The team will also offer a series of colloquia focused on filling in areas of perceived need by faculty and actual requested need by students, such as seminars that discuss how to use computer algebra systems and statistical software. Further colloquia about ecology, water quality, and pollution would involve non-SENCER faculty in biology, scientists working on boards for community organizations, and guest speakers from other entities.

Roosevelt University
Barbara Gonzalez, Melanie Pivarski, Christian Greer (Shedd Aquarium)

The goal of this project is to redesign Integral Calculus, a course primarily taken by science and math majors. After successfully completing this course, students will be able to apply integral calculus concepts and methods to model real-world problems that have a social impact in their community or in the world at large. Beyond the capacity to solve mathematical problems, they will be able to communicate their findings clearly, both verbally and in writing, and to explain the mathematical reasoning behind their conclusions. For the first offering of the re-designed course, faculty plan to have students model an epidemic. By looking at a project on disease spread, the students will see where a relevant scientific model comes from. Future teachers will also learn how advanced mathematics helps solve practical world issues. This should give them an active understanding of how models are developed, as well as an understanding of some of the difficulties and limitations in developing an effective model. The calculus needed for this project includes: separable differential equations, exponential and logarithmic functions, integral as a limit of Riemann sums, integration by partial fractions, improper integrals. For projects, students will have to complete a literature review of the specific disease and possible modes, draft models, collect data from an outside source (potentially a community partner), revise model and literature review drafts, and share their final report with an outside party/organization. Assessments will be conducted using the SENCER-SALG, weekly online homework, journals, and university evaluations.

Texas Woman’s University
Richard Jones, Richard Sheardy, Lynda Peebles, Cynthia Maguire

Texas Woman’s University, specifically the department of chemistry and physics, is in its second phase of SENCERizing a core group of six courses with the goal of establishing a Science and Civic Engagement Certificate (12 credit hours), followed by an academic minor (18 hours), evolving into an academic degree (120 credit hours). The team plans to add a new course to the curriculum, with the working title Who Owns the Rain? The course will investigate the science and sociology of water issues of the American Southwest Northern Mexico. To enhance this course and to reinforce other curricula, selected TWU faculty will attend and earn a water monitoring training certification through the River Systems Institute at Texas State University. This training is a combination of data collection and analysis of water quality in the lab and in the field. Graduates have been collecting and sharing water quality data, via on-line data bases, through the southwest since 1991. Upon certification, TWU will join this larger network, contribute their data, and benefit from the support and connection to a community of people working on similar issues. Faculty will incorporate the experience into courses, and then students involved in these courses will be able to pass on the training to the community through school clubs, interested community groups, scouts, etc. These data are shared with various state and local agencies, and community interest groups (local water boards, friends of the river, etc.) that will also monitor the data TWU collects. In addition to this external monitoring, the team will use the SENCER-SALG to evaluate student learning and attitudes in the new course.

University of Dayton
David Johnson, Kimberly Trick, Garry Crosson, Robert Keil, and Mark Masthay

The University of Dayton will incorporate civic engagement modules in the General Chemistry lecture and laboratory courses (CHM123 and CHM124) that will use both relevant examples and cover additional topics to improve student understanding and long term retention. General chemistry courses are required for all science and engineering majors. The utilization of SENCER principles to general chemistry lectures and laboratories will also facilitate incorporation several university-wide overarching undergraduate learning outcomes approved in 2007 by UD’s Academic Senate. Student learning outcomes in achieving practical wisdom and being able to critically evaluate the challenges of our times underpin the proposed revisions of the general chemistry sequence and will permit the simultaneous alignment of the revised curriculum with the university’s new curricular reform effort. The project will also encourage students to develop a sense and understanding of community and to appreciate all facets of life experience. The effectiveness of this project will be assessed using a three pronged approach: (1) the attainment of learning goals will be assessed using the SENCER-SALG, (2) a comparison of the retention rates of students in the SENCER sections with previous data and sections not using the modules, and (3) the use of standardized test score in comparison with historical data and sections not using the modules. Standardized tests, such as the ACS exams can be used as a final exam, to evaluate short term learning, whereas trends in the physical science sub-test of the MCAT will be used to evaluate long term retention of knowledge.

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