Discipline: Science and Mathematics Education
Cynney Walters - Kennesaw State University
Co-Author(s): Kadian M. Callahan PhD, Kennesaw State University, GA
The ongoing shortage of STEM workers within the United States is a potential threat to the future of our national security and economic developments. In particular, contributions from STEM professionals— who make up a relatively small percentage of the U.S. workforce— have provided new technologies and advancements across various platforms such as industry, government, and academia. Without an increase in the number of STEM graduates, the already minimal amount of STEM professionals will remain underpopulated, which sets limitations for future innovations of the United States. Interested in bolstering the number of STEM graduates, researchers at Kennesaw State University are assaying the learning experiences of students in first-year science and mathematics courses through classroom observations using the Classroom Observational Protocol for Undergraduate (COPUS) instrument to record the simultaneous tasks and behaviors of students and the instructor (Smith, et al., 2013). Because factors outside of the classroom also influence students’ success and persistence, they are being examined through focus group interviews conducted by trained academic advisors with groups of 4-6 first-year students from populations that have lower retention rates in STEM (e.g., 1st generation students, African-American students, Hispanic students, working students). At present, this research investigation has collected COPUS data from the spring semester of 2018, and conducted a series of focus groups during the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters. The collection of COPUS data for the fall semester of 2018 is currently underway and involves 4-6 observations of each course to allow the researchers to develop a better sense of the learning experience across the semester. Additional focus groups are planned for spring 2019. Preliminary data indicates learning practices are lecture-heavy, but there is some evidence of active learning occurring in some of those courses. Data about students’ academic success and persistence will be collected at the end of the fall 2018 semester and examined along with COPUS data using statistical analyses, such as correlations and ANOVAs to determine whether there is a relationship between the different types of experiences and academic outcomes. Reference: Smith, M. K., Jones, F. H., Gilbert, S. L., & Wieman, C. E. (2013). The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): A New Instrument to Characterize University STEM Classroom Practices. CBE– Life Sciences Education, 12, 618-627.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): This study was supported, in part, by a grant from the University System of Georgia awarded to Dr. Adrian Epps, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kadian M. Callahan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: My involvement in the research process began with providing assistance towards the completion of the IRB requirements for my institution. Since then, I have been involved in conducting classroom observations and the running analyses of the data.