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Building Communities of Learning for Student Success

October 31, 2014 | Student Union

TSI 2014

The colloquium is a one-day conference on topics of teaching excellence open to Oklahoma college and university faculty, instructors, and graduate students. This faculty-organized annual event provides lectures, keynote speakers, and breakout sessions to enhanced instructors skills as educators, as well as forums to discuss the challenges of college teaching at a research university.

This year's conference theme is "Building Communities of Learning for Student Success". It's dedicated to exploring effective and innovative ways to foster student engagement in classes and in the university community as a whole.

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Pollock portraitDr. Steven J. Pollock


Dr. Steven Pollock is a professor of Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder. His Ph.D. is in theoretical Nuclear Physics from Stanford University. He is a Pew/Carnegie teaching scholar, a University of Colorado (CU) president's teaching scholar, and the 2013 Carnegie US Professor of the year. His current research is in the field of PER (Physics Education), investigating student learning in large and small scale physics classes, and the constraints and opportunities involved in replicating "proven" curricular practice, as well as extending educational models to the upper division. He has implemented and studied "Tutorials in Introductory Physics" at CU, along with supporting and investigating Teaching and Learning Assistants' pedagogical development. He has been described by his students as a human electron.

Understanding Educational Reforms: Impacts of Physics Education Research

Using physics education research as a catalyst, Dr. Steven Pollock will talk about student engagement, curriculum reform, and transfer of innovations across institutions, among other issues.

Physics education research (PER) has resulted in new materials, approaches to teaching, and theoretical understanding of student learning in physics. PER has influenced practices in introductory physics courses, impacting tens of thousands of students, and a growing number of current and future teachers. While the field has demonstrated positive effects in many instances, remarkably little work has gone into understanding how research-based educational reforms are replicated and sustained. This talk will discuss some of the data we have collected at CU Boulder over the past dozen years, investigating transfer of innovations across institutions, and among our own courses - including moves into the upper-division - and the resulting impacts on students over time. Such data provide a base from which educators can make informed decisions about difficult choices in technology, curriculum, methods, and resource allocation.

A Research-validated Approach to Transforming Upper-division Physics Courses

Dr. Steven Pollock will give two talks during his visits at OU. Beside the Keynote Speech on TSI, he will also provide a talk specific to audience who is interested in the development and improvement of upper division courses:

Thursday, October 30, 2014
4:00 – 5:00 pm
Location: Nielsen Hall, Room 170
Departmental tea and cookies starting at 3:30 in the Physics Building Atrium

Abstract: At most universities, including the University of Colorado, upper-division physics courses are taught using a traditional lecture approach that does not make use of many of the instructional techniques that have been found to improve student learning at the introductory level. We are transforming upper-division courses (E&M, quantum, and Classical Mechanics) using principles of active engagement and learning theory, guided by the results of observations, interviews, and analysis of student work at CU and elsewhere. I will outline these reforms including consensus learning goals, clicker questions, tutorials, modified homework, and more, as an example of what a transformed upper-division course can look like, and as a tool to offer insights into student difficulties in advanced undergraduate topics. We have examined the effectiveness of these reforms relative to traditional courses, based on grades, interviews, and attitudinal and conceptual surveys. Our results suggest that it is valuable to further investigate how physics is taught at the upper-division, and how education research may be applied in this context.


Meacham Lobby
Registration and refreshments
Meacham Auditorium
Opening Remarks
Provost Kyle Harper
Meacham Auditorium
Keynote Address
Steven J. Pollock
Meacham Lobby
Break with Refreshments
Breakout Session I
Governors Room
Paper Session: Immersing Students in Research
Moderator: Sandra Tarabochia
Regents Room
Paper Session: Using Technology Platforms for Learning
Moderator: John Snead
Associates Room
Paper Session: Student Interaction in the Classroom
Moderator: Hong Lin
Governors Room
The First-Year Research Experience (FYRE) Program: A Gateway to Undergraduate Research and Enhanced STEM Development
Anthony Burgett
The First-Year Research Experience (FYRE) Program places OU Honors students in semester-long, on-campus mentored primary research internships during their first year at OU. In existence since 2011, the FYRE program is a collaborative effort of the OU Honors College and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry to provide highly talented STEM-oriented students a mechanism to explore professional paths in research at the start of their college education. All first-year Honors students, regardless of major, are encouraged to participate in FYRE, and the FYRE program has evolved into a gateway through which students may gain exposure to research in many different scientific disciplines throughout campus.
The FYRE program exemplifies the kind of educational opportunities and student engagement that can only happen at a brick and mortar university, and the FYRE program, in keeping with the best traditions of the university education, broadens the student learning and perspective through employing academic research. This talk will describe the FYRE program, including its evolution and future goals, discuss the impact the program has had on STEM development at OU, and present aspects of the FYRE program that might be broadly useful for the university teaching community.
Regents Room
Engaging Students as Creators Using Wikipedia in the Classroom
John Stewart and Stacy Zemke
We know students use Wikipedia for research, but how can we encourage them to be creators of content as well as educated consumers of content that is available on the Web? John Stewart (History of Science) and Stacy Zemke (OU Libraries) will discuss how they have used writing for Wikipedia as a way to engage students in the classroom and online. This panel will outline past student Wikipedia projects as well as how they plan to use social and public writing projects in the future, including:
  • Wikipedia tools for education
  • best practices for faculty
  • tech experience needed to get started (Hint – VERY LITTLE)
Associates Room
Incorporating Social Norms and “Leveling Up” to a Medium-Sized Calculus II Course
Milos Savic
Social norms are roughly defined as the “rules of the environment” of the classroom, with the rules either verbally or non-verbally communicated. I aimed to incorporate two main ideas in my Calculus II course: one can “level up” (borrowing a video game phrase) to reach benefits and ultimately a grade in the course, and that the environment is one that is non-judgmental, meaning students cannot judge each other for what they state verbally. This has resulted in many students participating frequently in this Calculus II IBL course (of 35 students), which has, in turn, caused discussion to be fruitful. I elaborate on both ideas in my presentation, noting that the content of the course is non-essential: one can use the two ideas in other courses, specifically in first- and second-year courses.
Governors Room
The Coffee Project: Engaging First Year Undergraduates in Research.
Ronald Halterman
We recognize that the earlier we can introduce students to independent laboratory inquiry, the more likely they are to retain a STEM emphasis. This advantage of a brick-and-mortar setting for research engagement typically involves feeding undergraduates into long-term projects. Within the framework of our First Year Research Experience (FYRE) program, we have developed "The Coffee Project" to engage students in a semester-long readily understood investigation of coffee flavor components.

During the first two-thirds of the term, students investigated a common question regarding the staling of roasted coffee beans upon storage. Green coffee was freshly roasted to light, medium and dark levels. Coffee was brewed using best coffeehouse practices under controlled grind, temperature, time and water ratios to give optimized percent dissolved solids and percent extraction. The flavor components were quantified using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Variations in the concentration of around forty flavor components were determined and graphed. Marked differences were apparent in the different roast levels and more subtle changes were detected between origin varieties. During the last third of the term, the students designed and conducted research to test their own independent questions related to the study of coffee. Two projects partnered with Mariposa Coffee Roastery and Gray Owl Coffee. They all contributed to a common project poster and each prepared a poster on their independent inquiry. The retention of these students in STEM related studies will be followed. This project demonstrates a scalable program to engage students in meaningful research that can readily incorporate independent inquiry.
Regents Room
Educational Video Games, Student Learning and Student Engagement: A Study of the Parnassus LLC Galileo Game Prototype
Peter Barker and Logan Watts.
In Fall 2013 students in two History of Science classes taught by Peter Barker participated in a study of an innovative video game intended to supplement historical reading and lectures on Galileo. Peter Barker will describe how the game was developed and some of the features of the game. Logan Watts will describe the design of the empirical study. Both speakers will present and comment on the results of the study, which demonstrated bothincreased student learning and engagement.
Associates Room
Using Team-Based Projects and Peer Learning Activities to Create Student Engagement
Chad Davis
At the University of Oklahoma, most engineering disciplines take the course titled: ENGR 2002 – Professional Development. Historically, this course was effective in satisfying accreditation requirements on student outcomes, but was not well received by the students. The students’ lack of engagement in the course was discovered to be the primary reason for their dissatisfaction. The course was redesigned to include many innovative practices in team-based learning and peer learning. Course surveys, completed by 148 students, were used as the primary assessment method.
Additionally, standard course evaluations were used to both compare this course to other engineering courses and show major improvements from the previous version of ENGR 2002. Many student comments are included to show their reaction to different aspects of the course. One student made a comment that echoed our sentiments regarding the teaching of this course for the first time in the fall 2012 semester: “from being in this class it is noticeable that people need to take it to work on public speaking skills or working with groups.” From our experience, many students grow a great deal in terms of communication effectiveness and ability to function on a multi-disciplinary team as a result of this course, and we believe these skills are essential to become a great engineer. Without fostering an environment of engagement in the course through team-based projects and peer learning activities the students wouldn’t take away nearly as much of the critical information they are taught in the course.
Governors Room
Cornerstone: A New Way to Provide Research Experiences for Undergraduate Students
Ingo Schlupp and the Biology Cornerstone Faculty Group
A survey conducted by the Biology Department Student Advisory Committee revealed that large number of students in biology have a strong interest in working in a research laboratory and think this is a valuable component of their undergraduate training. The Department of Biology typically involves students in research in individual laboratories, but the numbers of students that can be reached this way is small. With strong support from the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the Provost, and the Vice President for Research, the department funded a group of faculty to design a new course named Cornerstone. Each Cornerstone class revolves around topics a professor is actively researching in her/his group.
In spring 2014, seven participating faculty met weekly and used best practices of backward course design to create scaffolding for individual Cornerstone sections and plans for assessment. All sections use mainly active learning techniques and try to avoid lecturing as much as possible. After an active advertising campaign, we rolled out two sections of Cornerstone as a 2970/4970 Special Topics class in the fall semester of 2014, with three more sections scheduled for spring and summer 2015. The first teachers are Dr’s. Richard Broughton and Ingo Schlupp.

The aspirations for the class are high: we want to take students into a real-life, experiential research environment in which they are encouraged to conduct their own, unscripted research, with the expectation of a research publication crowning the project. We are also seeking greater student enthusiasm and engagement with the subject, increased learning gains, and a cultural shift in the department toward more active integration of faculty research and undergraduate education.
Regents Room
Teaching Life-Cycle Analysis with Sustainable Minds: A Discussion with Examples of Student Projects
Mark Meo
When the Department of Geography at the University of Oklahoma expanded its undergraduate degree options to include Environmental Sustainability in 2011, it was faced with the question of how should the Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) core course be taught, and what aspects of LCA should it cover. In addition to the textbook selected for the classroom, it was clear that students would also need to get hands-on experience using LCA in a manner that reinforced and extended the themes taught in class. This dual challenge was resolved with the selection of a readable and easily understood text and the adoption of Sustainable Minds software for the conduct of student projects.
In this paper, we describe the manner in which LCA is taught in the classroom and the important role that LCA software has played to help students acquire a working understanding of the merits of the technique as well as its limitations. Examples of student projects that were completed as course assignments are used to illustrate the scope of student interests and accomplishments.
Associates Room
Introducing Color to the Study of Black Letter Law
Matt Kane
The only way I have found to fully ensure that the most students are “getting it” is through inspired classroom discussion. Thus, a significant focus of a course (and what distinguishes a physical class from any remote learning option) is group dialogue. Often this is a challenging task, in an environment where students often expect to simply review a textbook and cite back the elements of a particular tort or crime. But this does little to encourage creative thinking or prepare the student for the actual practice of law. Student engagement requires more than simply assigning a component of the grade to participation, although that is certainly useful tool. It requires engaging the students’ interest.
Thus, opening the class with an invitation for students to address of pertinent recent events provides a mechanism both to loosen up the room while introduce relevant concepts. Throughout the class period, the discussion may then return to salient points from the day’s headlines to illustrate the more theoretical or black letter rules that are the focus of the session. Similarly, relevant video (often simply downloaded from YouTube) provides a means to break up the monotony, thereby reengaging students that might be otherwise distracted, before again using those real life events and discussions to further illustrate the key points of the day. Ultimately, success is found not only in improved grades but in future interest and understanding which lasts well beyond the final bell.
Lunch (provided)
Breakout Session II
Governors Room
Paper Session: Teaching with Excursions
Moderator: Allison Palmer
Regents Room
Paper Session: Teaching in Mathematics
Moderator: Susan Burke
Associates Room
Paper Session: Technologies in Teaching
Moderator: Bruce Mason
Governors Room
Experiential Learning Community: We Love What We Create With Our Minds and Hands: Be Inspired and Inspire Others
Diana Bairaktarova
An assignment was designed for a sophomore Engineering Dynamics course offered in the Spring 2014 semester. The instructor’s goal of the project was twofold: 1) to help students clarify course concepts and encourage them to think about the concepts in novel ways; 2) to promote experiential learning community and engagement through service learning.
The students were asked to create an artifact for a contest that illustrated a Dynamics concepts covered in the course. Along with the physical artifact, each group needed to develop a manual of the artifact containing information how their artifact works: visual representation of the artifact, assembly and test procedure, safety instructions, list of parts and tools used, note to the user and how to use the artifact for educational purposes. Project evaluating rubric was created to help the experiential learning groups ensure their artifact meets the specific criteria. These criteria were organized in three main themes: concept and technical proficiency, human-center design, and creativity. The project was creative in nature and students worked outside of class time to design and build their artifacts. They used low cost materials available at most hardware and toy stores and their designs were easy to implement.

The artifacts were evaluated by professionals from Oklahoma City Science museum, teachers from Norman public schools, faculty, staff and students from the College of Engineering, and all groups of the class at the end of the semester artifact fair. Most projects were donated to Norman public schools and the Gifted and talented program.
Regents Room
Mapping Expert Mathematicians’ Minds
Sepideh Stewart and Keri Kornelson
Our interdisciplinary team investigated the way an expert mathematician thought about Calculus and disseminates her knowledge to novice students in her Calculus I course. We analyzed her teaching journals, journals kept by her students, a survey of student perceptions, and audio-recorded team meetings where we asked the mathematician to provide more details about her thought process as she taught difficult mathematical concepts to students. Our long term research goal is to construct a cognitive model of the expert mathematician’s mind that will inform classroom interventions to improve student learning for the large number of students enrolled in Calculus at OU and the US.
Associates Room
Using Devices for Student Engagement: BYOD
Katrina Boyd
Although a Film and Media Studies course would seem ideal for today's students since audio-visual examples are abundant, over the last few years I have found it increasingly difficult to engage the class fully and to convince students—early on—of the introductory course’s high degree of rigor, requiring a deep understanding of numerous practical definitions as well as more abstract concepts. I wanted to find a way to increase the number of student questions without overburdening my GTAs. In-class questioning seemed ideal, but clicker systems, with their emphasis on multiple-choice questions, seemed too limited for a humanities-based class, which necessarily involves open-ended questions.

As I was reading about ways to enhance large-lecture courses, I came across a number of web-based BYOD (“bring your own device”) systems that allow for a wide variety of question types (including short answer). Students can literally use any device with web access or they can text answers. Since this summer I have been using LectureTools (by Echo360). Unlike clicker systems there is also a slide presentation component coordinated with a robust note-taking system for the students. Students can also “flag” slides as confusing or pose questions on particular slides; my answers are visible to all students. The ease of use is remarkable and the positive impact on student performance, particularly the low-end of the class has been impressive. I am now using LectureTools my three fall courses and have hopes that it will again have a positive impact on student learning outcomes.
Governors Room
Using Geology Field Experience to Foster Student Engagement
Gail Holloway and Shannon Dulin
Every spring, the ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics offers a weeklong field trip to its first year majors. To be eligible, students must have completed an introductory geology class, but have not taken any of the upper division classes within the major. The trip is not required, so attendance is self-selected by the students. In geology and geophysics, experience with field-based skills and observations is essential. The students are exposed to diverse geologic settings in New Mexico and Colorado, which helps to secure in their minds the geological processes that they will learn about and apply to their upper-division courses and throughout their careers.
During the trip the students form bonds with other geology and geophysics majors that lead to study groups in upper division classes, and support throughout the major and beyond. Many of the undergraduates go on to participate in undergraduate research experiences. Of the 15 students that participated in the 2014 freshman fieldtrip, 40% have initiated research projects with faculty in the school. These students are likely to become active in the departmental geology club, which participates in K-12 outreach and geology education workshops with local schools and organizations. Data is currently being compiled on retention, performance, and other measures of student success that may have been positively impacted due to participation in the freshman fieldtrip.
Regents Room
Group Learning in a Flipped Mathematics Course
Keri Kornelson
Discrete Mathematics is the first course in which math students learn to write proofs (logical arguments). It is the gateway to nearly every upper level math course. Aside from the content of the course, students learn to read and create logical arguments, they learn new proof techniques, and they build their mathematical writing and communication skills. When students work together, all of these goals are enhanced.  I found using mostly lectures for teaching this course to be unsatisfactory. The content is much less challenging than the techniques, and I wanted to be present when the students were learning to use the material.
A flipped format works very well for this course, particularly when paired with daily group activities. Students learn this difficult new way of thinking much better if they present and discuss their work, critique each other in a helpful but rigorous way, and come to a consensus about whether a logical argument is "right" or "done". Getting a group of students to start working together on a problem is pretty easy, but the hard part is to keep them together. Each group member must fully understand the work and each person should be willing to challenge or explore steps in the argument. This dynamic is difficult to achieve and maintain.   In this talk, I'll discuss my flipped Discrete Mathematics course from Spring 2014. I will share some group activities that worked well and discuss ideas for future enhancements to the course.
Associates Room
Perceived Affordances of a Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classroom in Promoting Collaborative Problem Solving
Xun Ge, Yujin Yang, Lihui Liao, and Erin Wolfe
A mixed-method study, consisting of multiple case studies and a quantitative study, was conducted to explore both instructors’ and students’ perceptions of and experiences with technologies in a technology-enhanced Active Learning Classroom (ALC). The ALC was designed to promote students’ collaborative problem solving. A total of 92 students and five instructors from four classes at a southwestern university in the United States participated in the research. The data sources consisted of class observations, interviews, and surveys. The study showed that some instructors used the ALC technology to its full potential while others used it minimally.
It was also found that students’ confidence in completing problem-solving tasks increased over time. While both students and instructors agreed upon many benefits of ALCs for learning and instruction, technology use actually depended on the perceived purpose, needs, and meaningfulness of the instructors, which also somewhat depended on the specific content and context of the courses.
Governors Room
Dialog with Galileo: A Learning Community for Engineering at OU Arezzo
Chris Ramseyer
Traditional engineering undergraduate education requires little more than a classroom, chalkboard and in recent years, access to fairly simple computers. This instructional method, which relies on the traditional lecture approach, runs the risk of ignoring instructional methods that have been researched and proven to improve undergraduate student learning. These methods include both experiential learning and active engagement. Engineering students at OU in Arezzo (Italy), the signature study abroad program of the University of Oklahoma, have a unique opportunity to learn about engineering theory and practice in a challenging global context. Their new global environment challenges engineering undergraduates to go beyond the traditional methods of acquiring knowledge.
Furthermore, this unique framework encourages engineering faculty to expand and improve the teaching process by utilizing a plethora of new experiential learning and active engagement opportunities presented by teaching abroad.

The OU in Arezzo engineering students benefit by engaging the works of two important historical figures who worked in the area around Arezzo, Italy - the astronomer Galileo and the Renaissance architect Brunelleschi. Site visits to historic locations important to the advancement of engineering are synthesized with traditional Newtonian based theory discussed in the classroom. Professional visits to local engineering firms are an additional key to bridging the gaps between history, theory and practice. Facilitating student reflection on their experiences, followed up with a discussion on abstract concepts in the classroom, students then create an engineering project that requires them to test the various theories they experienced. In this way an instructional environment is created that has been demonstrated in educational literature to improve student learning. Additionally the OU Engineering in Arezzo experience provides vivid examples of the value of practice and theory. The OU Arezzo engineering program using active learning and experiential learning shows a lot of promise and may warrant research into its value for engineering education.
Regents Room
Rubrics on D2L
Wayne Stewart
As an instructor of Statistics and conducting two labs per week there are a number of challenges that one has to contend with. First -- how to be consistent in the marking and second how to mark efficiently without the process becoming hugely time consuming? I managed to solve these two problems by using D2L rubrics. In this talk I will give a basic "how to" and pointers I have learnt from the school of hard knocks. The process is easily improved year after year so that as time moves on assessment becomes more educative and less laborious.
Associates Room
iEducate: Modeling Professional Development Participation for Preservice Teachers
Kate Shannon and Theresa Cullen
This four-day event included sessions to support students to use their iPads in education courses and explore ways they could use the iPad in their classrooms as teachers. A full agenda of events with descriptions was made available to JRCoE faculty and students via an online scheduling service. Over 100 participants took advantage of the workshops. Technology tools including SCHED and iTunesU were used to aid in the planning, communication, and delivery of the event. Students were engaged campus-wide through the use of multiple venues including the One University Store.
Participants were encouraged to form groups to “gamify” the experience and engage in both face-to-face as well as online activities including Twitter conversations around education (#OklaEd), post ideas to social media to share within the college and teams (@oueducation, #iEducate), and interact with K-12 classroom teachers and students to learn about technology integration taking place currently in schools.
Meacham Lobby
Break with Refreshments
Meacham Auditorium
Closing Remarks
Simin Pulat, Vice Provost for Faculty Development


For further information, please contact:

Dr. Susan Burke, Chair
Dr. Hong Lin, CTE