2013-2014 Funded Projects

Acquiring skills, critical engagement, and professionalization through research-based service learning in Applied Anthropology

Nicole D. Peterson

Abstract: The purpose of this project is to assess the effects of a class-based project that combies applies research and service learning on student outcomes, which include professional development and skills valued by emploters. The ultimate goal of this assessment is summative and formative: to improve the design of the undergraduate Applied Anthropology course. Applied anthropology is the application of anthropological ideas and methods to current social issue; by engaging student in an applied research project that involves collaboration with a community organization, the core applied anthropology course (ANTH 4111) has the potential to prepar students for post-graduate success through mastery of the methods, ethics, and approaches of applied anthropology.

The focus on learning through community-focused research meets several of the UNC Charlotte Anthropology Department's Student LEarning Objectives. The course requires students to demonstrate knowledge of social science methods. In addition the service learning component promotes awareness of the interconnections among the individual, society, and culture, and the combination of service learning and research allows students the chance to examine comtemporary problems and public policy through social science. This project also supports UNCC University Strategic Goal #8, "to graduate students with the breadth and depth of knowledge and the intellectual and professional skills that prepare them for a productive life in an ever-changing world." In addition, the service learning component, as part of a larger research project, also addresses University Strategic Goal # 2, "to increase both faculty and student research that will address fundamental and regional problems."

Full Proposal: Acquiring skills, critical engagement, and professionalization through research-based service learning in Applied Anthropology [PDF, 376 KB]

Gender, Race/Ethnicity and Team Based Learning

Coral Wayland & Lisa Slattery Walker

Abstract: This project explores how gender and race/ethnicity influence the collaborative learning process in a team based learning (TBL) environment. There is a large body of literature evaluating the effectiveness of TBL. Most of it, however, focuses on preparing faculty or students for TBL or on TBL outcomes. Surprisingly, there is little research on the actual collaboration that forms the basis of TBL. This project collects observational data on students’ behavior during collaborative learning activities and uses it to explore how two status characteristics, gender and race ethnicity, influence the collaborative learning process. Specifically, this project will explore whether there are gender and racial/ethnic differences in:

  • students’ behavior during collaborative learning activities
  • the peer evaluations of performance that students receive
  • a student’s final grade.

The data for this research will be collected during Spring and Fall 2014 in a section of LBST 2101 taught by Dr. Coral Wayland. Graduate research assistants will collect observational data on student interactions during the collaborative learning process. Specifically, they will code 12 types of behavior identified in the Bales Interaction Process Analysis. In addition, the course utilizes a program called CATME to have students conduct peer reviews of their team members’ performance. The research team will have access to the CATME scores. Finally, grades will be extracted from Banner. After identifying binary relationships between variables using correlations, we will conduct multi-variate analyses utilizing the full range of the coded behavior to determine whether TBL is equally effective for multiple elements of the student population.

Full Proposal: Gender, Race/Ethnicity and Team Based Learning [PDF, 524 KB]

Pre-Service Teacher’s Preparedness to Teach African American Boys: The Impact of an Urban Collaboration on the Development of Afro-Centered Cultural Knowledge in an Elementary Education Program

Erin T. Miller

Abstract: The primary purpose of this research is to better understand how to prepare teacher education candidates to effectively teach African American males within two sections of a course entitled Multicultural Education: Modifying Instruction for Urban Learners (ELED 4292) that is taught in the Reading and Elementary Education Department (REEL) of the College of Education at UNC Charlotte. The overarching goal of this project is to engage the mostly white female student population who take this class in an exploration of the opportunities and challenges of teaching in diverse contexts where the achievement and retention of African American males is a top priority. This will be accomplished through a) special lecture guests, b) a relevant film screening/discussion, c) an equity workshop, and d) a student visitation to the Gannt community resource center to interact with a temporary exhibit related to African American males. The success of the project will be measured through the Multicultural Teaching Competency Scale (Spanierman, Oh, Heppner, Neville, Mobley, Wright, Dillon, & Navarro, 2011) at the beginning and ending of the semester, as well as through qualitatively analyzed responses to audiotaped focus group questions and open ended post-activity reflections. The timeliness of this project cannot be understated as it is deeply aligned with the goals of teacher education programs across the country (DarlingHammond & Bransford, 2005), local urban school districts (Clark, personal communication, October 18th , 2013), and a national renewal on effectively teaching the growing and underserved populations in our schools (Lewis, Simon, Uzzel, Horwitz, & Casserly, 2009). 

Full Proposal: Pre-Service Teacher’s Preparedness to Teach African American Boys: The Impact of an Urban Collaboration on the Development of Afro-Centered Cultural Knowledge in an Elementary Education Program [PDF, 786 KB]

On-Site Secondary Education Program (OSSEP): A Study in Pre-service Teachers’ Efficacy and Civic Engagement

Paul G. Fitchett, Susan Harden, Heather Coffey, Joyce Brigman, & Thomas Fisher

Abstract: Classroom-based field experiences are a cornerstone of teacher preparation. They provide opportunities for preservice teachers to make connections between university-based instruction and real world application. Moreover, a continuingly evolving body of research supports the use of place-based instruction in teacher education. These on-site teacher education programs provide opportunities for collaboration between higher education and PK-12 institutions. The purpose of this proposal is to provide funding and resources for the implementation and evaluation of an On-site Secondary Education Program (OSSEP). This program, unique of its kind at UNC Charlotte, will include a yearlong place-based instructional setting for three key courses in the Minor in Secondary Education program. Located at A.L. Brown High School, OSSEP will provide authentic opportunities for future high school teachers to collaborate with discipline-specific colleagues to develop lesson plans, reflect on practice, and better understand the psychological development of adolescents. By including targeted clinical activities, preservice teachers will engage in meaningful school community activities that will prepare them as instructional leaders, but also civic-minded, socially-conscious professionals. Research will be conducted to examine the effect of the OSSEP program on preservice teachers’ sense of selfefficacy, civic-engagement, and professional competence (as measured by the edTPA teacher performance assessment). The rationale for this program aligns with the College of Education professional mission statement and has the potential for informing how the secondary in education minor is implemented at UNC Charlotte. 

Full Proposal: On-Site Secondary Education Program (OSSEP): A Study in Pre-service Teachers’ Efficacy and Civic Engagement [PDF, 1.38 MB]

Flipping Traditional CS Education Upside Down: A Study of Interventions in Two Core Computing Courses

Celine Latulipe, Bruce Long, Mary Lou Maher, Audrey Rorrer, & Karen Bean

Abstract: At UNC Charlotte, the Department of Software and Information Systems is embarking on a mission to revolutionize teaching in an ongoing effort to improve student learning outcomes and retention. We have incorporated promising teaching methodologies into a revised classroom structure for two core courses in the Department: introductory programming and introductory web programming. The overarching objective of restructuring these courses into a “flipped” classroom experience using complimentary teaching methods is to increase student engagement and performance. We believe that by accomplishing this central goal, a secondary goal of increasing student retention from freshmen to sophomore year can be achieved. While we have begun these pedagogical reforms, we have yet to conduct assessment of student performance and evaluation of these initiatives. The purpose of this proposal is to conduct a robust evaluation of these interventions, so that we may glean understanding about what methodologies are central to improving student learning and student retention. The intellectual merit of this project is in testing new teaching methods that have been demonstrated as effective elsewhere, developing a deeper understanding of how these methods impact our students, and in identifying methods that are viable approaches to infuse across our curriculum. These findings will enable us to enhance educational practices so that students benefit directly. The benefits to the College are improved student learning outcomes, retention and better academic performance overall. University benefits include quality enhancement including better student preparation for higher-level courses. The larger community benefits from knowledge of contextual factors pertaining to pedagogical innovations.

Full Proposal: Flipping Traditional CS Education Upside Down: A Study of Interventions in Two Core Computing Courses [PDF, 310 KB]

Redesign of Introduction to Astronomy Lab: Using recent pedagogical research to improve general science education

Catherine J. Qualtrough & Susan R. Trammell

Abstract: The goal of this project is to restructure the Introduction to Astronomy Laboratory course (PHYS 1130L) to emphasize active learning, improve problem solving skills and better educate students in the scientific method. This will be achieved in three principal ways. We will reformat the course to double the time spent in faculty-student and peer interaction. We will rewrite course materials to employ inquiry based learning methods rather than traditional “cookbook” style instruction. We will also add a hands-on learning component utilizing the newly-built Campus Observatory. This will allow us to adopt a research-based teaching methodology, which encourages students to make and interpret their own observations of the physical world.

PHYS 1130L is one of the most popular laboratory courses for non-science majors to meet their general education requirements. Recent research highlights the critical importance of practical astronomy courses because they are often the terminal science experience in a non-STEM student’s educational career. Unfortunately, many students leave university with limited mathematical skills and a poor grasp of scientific concepts. For these reasons we want to maximize the learning experience and teaching quality in this class. To do this we want to test the hypothesis that a greater emphasis on conceptual understanding, interactive learning and active engagement will lead to measurable student learning gains.

We expect to improve the way students understand concepts and solve scientific problems. By emphasizing transferable skills, this course has the potential to better serve the University by improving critical thinking abilities and general scientific literacy

Full Proposal: Redesign of Introduction to Astronomy Lab: Using recent pedagogical research to improve general science education [PDF, 750 KB]

Show and Tell Fluid Mechanics: An innovative approach to Fluid Mechanics Instruction

Praveen Ramaprabhu & Russell Keanini

Abstract: We propose a novel strategy to incorporate simple in-class demonstrations and experiments in to the undergraduate Fluid Mechanics course offered by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Sciences. The live demonstrations will be used to introduce theoretical concepts discussed in the course, and will serve to engage the students in interactive learning, discussions, and experimental design. The tabletop experiments and demonstrations will be simple and inexpensive to assemble, comprised of elements that could be purchased at a local hobby store. This will enable and motivate the students to reproduce the demonstrations on their own, and experiment with variations. The effectiveness of the program will be closely monitored through carefully designed surveys, administered to both the control and treatment sections. The Show and Tell Fluids program will also establish a framework for a series of outreach and fluid mechanics popularization activities that include lectures and demonstrations at local middle- and high- schools, demonstrations at the North Carolina Science Fair Foundation, video demonstrations posted on the PIs’ website as well as on YouTube. Data from research in to the program’s effectiveness will be disseminated through relevant archival journals and presented at national and international conferences. The proposed teaching innovations will impact nearly 150 students that take the fluid mechanics course every year. However, if similar methods are implemented by other courses in the department, the techniques could result in a broad impact.

Full Proposal: Show and Tell Fluid Mechanics: An innovative approach to Fluid Mechanics Instruction [PDF, 1 MB]

Pedagogy of Service Learning as Informal Science Education: Community Engagement, Engineering, and Underrepresented Youth

Brett Tempest & Lisa R. Merriweather

Abstract: Informal Science Education (ISE) holds great promise for not only teaching secondary students about science but also for motivating students, particularly underrepresented students, to consider a STEM related college major. Service learning, as a teaching innovation and a potential form of ISE, has been underexplored as a pedagogical strategy that can be used by both formal classroom teachers and other agents of science education in community-based organizations. This project will build on a pilot project - Bridge to Engineering - conducted in Fall, 2013. That program focused on exposing high school students to STEM careers through community service, but had very little emphasis on understanding or developing a pedagogy of ISE through service learning. Using participatory action research, this work will assess the viability of service learning as an ISE pedagogical strategy by exploring the perceptions of educators and students during the project. This critical component is the center of this SoTL project and will inform science education methods instructors and science educators on best practices for integrating service learning into science education. Increasing diversity throughout the Lee College of Engineering and the College of Education is an espoused priority for each. The College of Education further has a commitment to preparing educators for the 21st century which includes serving a diverse constituency. This project contributes to those priorities by focusing on underrepresented youth and pedagogical strategies that can better assist them in being prepared and motivated to enter post-secondary programs in engineering and other STEM related fields.

Full Proposal: Pedagogy of Service Learning as Informal Science Education: Community Engagement, Engineering, and Underrepresented Youth [PDF, 634 KB]