Several current project are affiliated with the SEER Center. Click on the name of the current project listed below for more information.
This project investigates learning in the biological sciences among introductory and advanced undergraduates. Undergraduate biology instructors place importance on deep conceptual understanding and problem solving, yet they suffer from a lack of consensus in instructional science on the best way to facilitate this. Researchers do not know whether explicit instruction should precede or follow problem solving, nor do they know whether the optimal pedagogical sequence depends on students’ level of prior knowledge. It is also likely the case that conventional assessments fail to capture the full impact of different pedagogical approaches on students’ application of learning, also known as transfer. These unknowns are important because currently thousands of students leave science with inert knowledge, unprepared to use scientific concepts and practices in subsequent courses, critical day-to-day decisions about healthcare, public health, and the environment, and ultimately their professions. The goal of the project is to resolve these fundamental questions concerning when and how to provide instruction and opportunities for problem solving about a challenging fundamental concept in the biological sciences.
Although active-learning instruction can increase student’s ability to learn fundamental concepts in STEM and is associated with increased retention of underrepresented minorities, the results instructors achieve vary substantially. Instructors in undergraduate biology courses, while highly-trained research scientists, often have had few opportunities to be trained as educators, or to gain experience with active learning. Yet knowledge regarding teaching and learning, not just knowledge of course content, influences how instructors use active learning, thereby affecting student outcomes. There is likely to be important teacher knowledge that is generalizable across content, such as knowledge of how people learn, and teacher knowledge that is topic specific, such as knowledge of the difficulties student encounter as they learn natural selection. There is a critical need to determine the teacher knowledge that is important to using active learning effectively in undergraduate biology, especially in challenging contexts like large classes.
This summer research experience will train 24 undergraduate students over three years. We will recruit first generation college students, students from underrepresented minority groups, and students from schools with few research opportunities to become UBERV3 fellows. Undergraduates will collaborate with faculty mentors on individual research projects, and engage in a program offerings organized around three areas: a research strand, a professionalism strand, and an equity strand.
Students’ beliefs about intelligence (termed “mindset”) influence their motivation, behaviors, and ultimately academic performance and persistence. Mindset has been widely studied in educational contexts, but the survey used to measure mindset does not work well with undergraduate students. Thus, the goal of this project is to develop a new survey to measure mindset in STEM undergraduates. This measure will be useful for researchers, practitioners, and institutions to study undergraduate STEM students’ beliefs about intelligence and ultimately improve students’ academic outcomes.
The DeLTA project involves more than 100 faculty over five years in transforming undergraduate STEM education at UGA from the status quo toward new commitments, such as basing educational decisions on evidence. DeLTA will impact UGA at every level – courses, departments, and the institution – and will generate new knowledge on change in higher education that can be applied by other institutions.
The GEMS project is a Noyce Capacity Building project that brings together faculty from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences (FCAS) and the College of Education (CE) to evaluate the recruitment, preparation, and induction of secondary mathematics and science teachers produced by the University of Georgia (UGA). Drawing upon collected data, evidence-based conclusions will be made that address increasing the number of highly-effective and diverse mathematics and science teachers in grades 6-12.
Mentoring is an essential element of what makes research experiences valuable for undergraduates, and yet there has been little if any systematic investigation of negative mentoring experiences in undergraduate research. This project will address this major gap in knowledge by developing a high quality survey useful for measuring negative mentoring in undergraduate research. This measure will be useful for researchers, practitioners, and institutions to study the prevalence and impact of negative mentoring in undergraduate research and ultimately improve the experiences and outcomes of undergraduate researchers.