Employing Culturally Relevant Curricula and Pedagogy to Address Equity Gaps in Science Teacher Preparation across Two Programs
Daniel M. Alston and Lenora Crabtree
Abstract: Equity gaps in education are attributed to factors including 1) limited opportunities for students to address issues relevant to marginalized communities and 2) few teachers of color. To address both gaps, it is recommended that teacher education programs incorporate culturally relevant pedagogies (CRP), including those that explicitly address racism and other forms of discrimination. Many teacher educators, however, struggle to model CRP within discipline- specific instruction; few curricula exist for this purpose. This study will investigate the impact of course revisions foregrounding CRP in discipline-specific science methods courses across two teacher education programs. We intend to: (1) incorporate curricular revisions that model CRP into science methods courses; (2) evaluate the impact of these revisions on students’ critical consciousness as a measure of their capacity to enact CRP; (3) evaluate how curricular revisions influence students’ perceptions of CRP; and (4) explore how CRP might contribute to a sense of belonging among students traditionally marginalized in science and education. To address our research questions we will employ a mixed-methods design. The overarching goals of this research are to address equity gaps in 1) K-12 education and 2) teacher preparation that extend from limited opportunities for current and future teachers to engage in culturally relevant instruction. Faculty within the Cato College of Education will be able to use these findings to meaningfully revise discipline-specific teacher preparation programs. Findings may also inform efforts underway in other colleges to modify curricula and instruction to more closely align with culturally relevant approaches to teaching and learning.
Implementing Student Experience Project (SEP) Strategies to Build Equitable Learning Environments: A Faculty Workshop
Tonya C. Bates and Sam Furr-Rogers
Abstract: More diverse student populations are enrolled in institutions of higher education than ever before. It is understood that there is a need to ensure the success of every student who is pursuing their academic goals; however, data shows that approximately four out of every ten new college students will not graduate within six years. The Student Experience Project (SEP) is a collaborative endeavor that uses innovative, research-based practices to build equitable learning environments and instill a sense of belonging in students on campuses across the nation. Change recommendations from the SEP include ideas to increase social belonging, practices to foster academic encouragement and growth mindset, and ways to cultivate a supportive and inclusive classroom. However, in large enrollment courses, faculty often find these recommendations challenging to implement. In addition to the number of students, additional factors affecting the successful adoption of these practices may include instructor hesitancy, time constraints, and diverse student populations. In this project, we propose to (1) create new practices and adapt current SEP practices to allow successful implementation in large enrollment courses and (2) evaluate their impact on student belonging, identity safety, growth mindset, self efficacy, and social connectedness; both for the overall class population and within structurally disadvantaged or numerically underrepresented groups in STEM using data collected from student feedback and surveys using Copilot-Ascend. Finally, we will (3) create a professional development workshop to provide faculty with data-driven strategies that can be easily implemented in a variety of courses to build equitable learning environments.
Strengthening Program Coherence around Differentiated Instruction to Improve Candidate Learning Outcomes
Abstract: The investigator proposes the development of innovative instructional resources about the essential teaching practice of differentiation to be used in multiple teacher preparation courses in the department of Middle, Secondary, and K-12 Education (MDSK) across multiple semesters. The development of these purposefully sequenced resources will strengthen our programs’ coherence. It will provide opportunities for teacher educators to build shared conceptualizations of this multifaceted practice, and it will yield resources rooted in these shared conceptualizations for use by multiple teacher educators throughout the program. Differentiation focuses on proactively responding to academic diversity, or differences among students that affect learning. It features complex strategies that respond equitably to patterns of learner variance across whole classes of students. Research suggests that when candidates are taught the same model of differentiation across multiple program components, it supports their learning; when such coherence is lacking, it detracts from learning. To support coherence, all teacher educators must present similar interpretations of differentiation to candidates through explicit instruction, modeling, and coaching. This requires their intentional collaboration. Based on data from recent graduates, our department has concluded that coherence in our programs related to candidate learning about differentiation should be strengthened. The proposed project responds to this conclusion. A two-part study, with part 1 occurring within the SOTL grant period and part 2 occurring subsequently, will evaluate the effectiveness of the developed resources through data gathered from teacher candidates. This project will study program-level outcomes, and it focuses on a teaching practice that promotes equitable K-12 instruction.* (*SOTL areas of focus)
Characterizing the Growth of Spatial Thinking Abilities Across Meteorology Courses
Casey E. Davenport
Abstract: Spatial thinking describes how we find meaning in the shape, size, orientation, or relative position of one or more objects, processes, or phenomena. In the field of meteorology, the application of spatial thinking is critical for accurately interpreting, understanding, and predicting the four-dimensional atmosphere; tasks requiring spatial thinking skills are prevalent throughout the meteorology major, indicating that such skills are essential to student success. Spatial thinking abilities are known to be malleable, generally increasing with practice. However, the extent to which the current meteorology curriculum promotes continued growth in spatial thinking skills is unknown. Thus, the central purpose of this study is to measure spatial thinking abilities in students across the meteorology curriculum and identify any relevant factors at the individual, course, or curriculum level that influences the level of those abilities. Importantly, some courses may contribute to greater enhancement in spatial thinking abilities than others, so determining where additional, targeted training should be included will be an important outcome leading to enhanced student success.
Spatial thinking skills will be measured using the Spatial Thinking Abilities Test (STAT). This exam will be administered to students enrolled in required meteorology courses at the start and end of a course to determine course-level gains in spatial thinking. STAT scores will also be correlated to course performance, as well as other demographic factors. Statistical comparisons will be made among different classes (e.g., freshman vs. senior courses) to further characterize overall progression
Spanish Heritage Learners at UNC Charlotte: A comparative multi-course study of their linguistic needs, perceptions, and achievement of learning outcomes
Javier García León and Paloma Fernández Sánchez
Abstract: As of Fall 2021, 12% of the UNC Charlotte students identify as Hispanic. UNC Charlotte is also the university with the highest percentage of Hispanic graduates in the state. Language teaching and learning research has shown that these learners have needs that are unique and different from those of non-Heritage learners of Spanish. Addressing these needs has an impact on the retention and successful graduation of these students, which belong to underrepresented groups. The Spanish program currently offers an advanced class (SPAN 3203) and an intermediate forthcoming course (SPAN 2050) targeted towards Spanish Heritage learners (SHL). While these courses offer many advantages, there are some unanswered questions about students’ needs, learning strategies, and teaching effectiveness of the courses. For example, what are the perceptions and needs of SHL at UNC Charlotte? Do these courses meet those needs? Is the performance and the achievement of student learning outcomes (SLOs) of these students in Spanish classes similar to what previous research has established? Therefore, we propose to confirm those needs and determine if the SLOs as well as the courses are effectively addressing them. By answering these questions, we can a) better determine if the teaching approaches we use are the most beneficial to heritage learners and b) continue creating a pathway for these learners that would help close the equity gap in higher education. SHL mainly belongs to communities who have lower access to education and graduation rates. By providing targeted language education, we promote better educational experiences that can positively impact these students’ professional lives.
Casting an OPAL (Observation Protocol to Assess Literacy): Examining Teachers’ Instructional Practices
Adriana L. Medina
Abstract: The overall purpose of this project is to design and validate an Observation Protocol to Assess Literacy (OPAL) with the aim of capturing literacy teaching and learning that is grounded in principles of effective literacy instruction. There are three objectives to be achieved in the process: 1) conduct research on existing observation protocols, 2) create the Observation Protocol to Assess Literacy (OPAL), and 3) conduct the research necessary to validate it. This study aims to yield a valid literacy observation instrument that will serve as a practical guide for teacher educators as they deliver and observe literacy instruction. The findings of this study have implications for both practice and future research. For reading researchers and reading education faculty in the Cato College of Education, a valid literacy observation instrument could serve a part in a multifaceted teacher observation system and would help to document preservice teachers’ literacy practices to ensure they can effectively teach literacy.
Historically Underrepresented Students’ First Year Writing Experiences at the University of North Carolina Charlotte
Angela Mitchell, Jan Rieman, and Tonya Wertz-Orbaugh
Abstract: Since effective written communication is an institutional-level outcome at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), we need a better understanding for how racially diverse students fare in the foundational writing instruction that comes from the WRDS 1103 or 1104 faculty. This study seeks to explore how historically underrepresented minority students experience their First Year Writing (FYW) course at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and to track their success in the writing assignments in “Writing and Inquiry in Academic Contexts” (WRDS 1103 or WRDS 1104). We are looking to combine student voices with disciplinary and institutional data to create a more complete understanding of historically underrepresented minority students’ efficacy in FYW. Using focus groups to capture student experiences in WRDS 1103 and 1104, we will look for patterns in responses that might indicate how they navigated both the challenges and successes in their FYW course in Fall 2021. We will combine their experiential data with the scoring of writing portfolios from the course in Fall semester 2021 to get a more complete picture of the ways they met the outcomes of the course. We will analyze whether or not historically underrepresented minorities encountered obstacles as writers that other student populations did not. The findings of our study will impact how we are serving UNCC undergraduate minority students’ writing needs and help us align best practices from antiracist scholarship in Writing Studies with the experiences of our UNCC students.
Improving Peer Observation of Online Teaching in Higher Education
Carl Westine and Stella Kim
Abstract: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many more faculty are currently teaching online and will continue to teach online courses in the future. Additionally, many of these faculty are on the tenure-track and will require peer observation of teaching as part of their evaluation process. Given the high-stakes associated with this process, better instruments are needed to defend decision-making about quality teaching and support research and evaluation efforts to improve and assess online teaching quality. In this project, researchers will document existing practices in peer observation of online teaching and use concept mapping to build consensus across the variety of instruments that exist both internal to UNC Charlotte and at large research institutions across the country. This information will be used to describe and explore differences in conceptualizing the peer observation process among faculty of different ranks and disciplines. Focus groups with faculty and teaching and learning staff will be utilized to explain the unique perceptions of key dimensions associated with the peer observation process. These efforts will be invaluable in the process of building and refining sound and practical instruments that are inclusive of stakeholders’ values. The research will ultimately be useful for improving current instruments used for peer review of online teaching at UNC Charlotte.