Category Archives: STEM Education

Michigan Tech’s Mi-STAR kits to be supplied by Nasco

Mi-STAR’s curriculum and its associated professional learning program were designed and developed in full alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Michigan Science Standards. The curriculum is unique in that it integrates content and methods across the traditional disciplinary boundaries of Earth and space science, life science, engineering and physical science. Engineering principles are fully embedded in the curriculum; engineering is not treated as an afterthought or add-on by Mi-STAR.

Although the curriculum is still being developed, all of the 6th-grade units will be available in time for the start of school in fall 2018. Several 7th- and 8th-grade units will also be available for the fall. When completed, the entire middle school curriculum will address all of the middle school standards.

Mi-STAR’s curriculum and associated professional learning support student-centered instruction in middle school classrooms. Each unit in the Mi-STAR curriculum addresses a real-world problem that is of wide interest to 21st-century society. By maintaining a focus on real-world problems, the curriculum helps students understand how science and engineering are used to design solutions to issues that are relevant to their communities and the world.

“By partnering with a major corporation to produce and deliver kits to schools, Mi-STAR will be able to expand its reach and provide better service to educators and other users” says Jackie Huntoon, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Michigan Tech. Huntoon noted “anything a STEM-focused University like Michigan Tech can do to increase students’ interest in science before they graduate from high school will ultimately benefit our state and the nation.

“Michigan Tech scientists and engineers have devoted a lot of time and effort into making Mi-STAR the best it can be—and these efforts are really having a positive impact on Michigan’s teachers and students.”

Mi-STAR was founded in 2015 through a generous gift to Michigan Tech from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. In 2017, Mi-STAR was identified as a promising program by STEMworks at WestEd.

School districts partnering with Mi-STAR have been successful at obtaining support from the Michigan Department of Education to enhance their teacher’s professional learning and to improve science learning outcomes among their students while using the Mi-STAR curriculum and professional learning program. In 2018, Michigan Tech received funding from the National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program that will be used to increase the number of teachers proficient with Mi-STAR’s NGSS-aligned curriculum and who are prepared to lead reform efforts in their schools, districts and the state.

As of January 2018, Mi-STAR was used by more than 450 teachers in more than 100 schools/districts with an estimated 45,000 students. Nasco was started in 1941 by a vocational agricultural teacher, Norman Eckley. Starting as a simple operation in a two-car garage, Nasco has grown to an enterprise publishing more than 35 different catalogs, with an annual circulation exceeding 5 million, to customers in education, agriculture, healthcare training and lab sampling worldwide featuring materials available for a wide array of educational, training and production needs.

by Jackie Huntoon, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs


Dr. Ellis Recognized at Dean’s Teaching Showcase Luncheon

Dr. Jsusie and joshosh Ellis was recognized on April 24 by CLS Department Chair Susie Amato-Henderson at the annual Dean’s teaching showcase luncheon. College of Sciences and Arts Dean Bruce Seely selected Ellis, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences (CLS) for his synthesis between research and teaching.
Following his experience as a K-12 teacher in Minneapolis, Ellis was driven to understand more about how teachers know when their students have learned. As a budding researcher with his eye on K12 education, Ellis entered the STEM Education doctoral program at the University of Minnesota, where faculty embraced this connection between research and educational practice. “I learned how to rigorously analyze teaching through a research lens, and I also learned how to conduct more meaningful research through the teaching lens. I firmly believe that I need both research and teaching to do it.”
This synthesis is embedded in Ellis’ research and classroom instruction at Michigan Tech, where he teaches future K-16 educators. His approach is especially useful when exploring how educational technology can support student learning. This might be best shown by a comment Ellis shared from B.W. Seibert: “Teachers will never be replaced by technology … but teachers who use technology effectively will replace those who do not.”
Ellis considers this perspective “both a warning and an opportunity for teacher education students at Tech eager to use the incredible technological tools of our age to push the boundaries of what we think learning is.” He applies Seibert in his instructional technology course (ED3100) and in his with the newly developed foundations of online teaching (ED5101) course. Both courses help educators learn to reach broader audiences, engage diverse participants and empower people of all abilities and backgrounds to achieve more. Students “learn how technology can lower barriers to finding information and more quickly allow students to seek knowledge and understanding.”
As one of 12 Deans’ teaching showcase members, Dr. Ellis is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large class teaching, innovative or outside-the-classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Psychology Students Present Research

2018_PsychUG_MiniconferenceStudents enrolled in PSY 3001 presented their research projects in the Meese 110 classroom on Thursday, April 26. While promoting the event, Dr. Hungwe expressed that “the mini-conference has a really great set of projects that the students conceived of, researched, designed, obtained IRB approval for, carried out, analyzed, and are finally presenting. Also, several members of the class are graduating, so this will be a great chance to see how far they’ve come.”

The mini-conference included eight projects, mentored by Professor Mueller and Professor Hungwe, that answered psychological questions in tech domains such as smart phones, health care, work place and STEM education.  Topics range from stress to work attitudes, working memory to ethical decisions, and personality to STEM education. Abstracts of the projects are listed below.
  1. Abigail Kuehne & Kira Warner : Examining Associations Between the Big Five Personality Traits, Math Attitudes and Numeracy
Previous studies have found associations between personality traits and attitudes related to anxiety and various cognitive abilities (Murdock, Oddi, Bridgett, 2013; Smith, 2017). The present study focused on college students and was comprised of two parts. Study 1 examined associations between the cognitive ability numeracy, and the Big Five Personality traits, focusing on the traits of openness to experience and neuroticism (opposite of emotional stability). The study employed a survey that contained a measure of personality using the 44-item Big Five Inventory, and a measure of numeracy using the Berlin Numeracy Test (Cokely et al., in press; John and Srivastava, 1999). The trait of numeracy was not found to be significantly correlated with any of the Big Five Personality traits. Study 2 examined associations between general math anxiety and self-perceived ability, and numeracy. A survey was conducted using the 15-item Modified Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitudes Scale and the 7-item Berlin Numeracy Test. Results suggested a negative relation between math anxiety and self-perceptions of math ability. Results also suggested a negative relation between math anxiety and the ability to interpret statistical information. These findings have important implications given the widely published research on the negative impacts of math anxiety on performance on mathematical task performance. Future research should investigate ways to help diminish math anxiety in specific populations (e.g. college students).
2. Ginger Sleeman & Ashley DeVoge: Impacts of Advertisement on Online Health Care Awareness and Utilization
 Employers have started adopting online health care programs in an effort to allow for flexibility amongst health care plans, and to reduce employer and employee medical costs. This study examines the effects of advertising on employee awareness and utilization of the Blue Cross Online Visits program. It is hypothesized that engaging employees through various advertising campaigns will increase program awareness and utilization. A pre-advertisement email survey was completed a random sample of University of 105 employees. Upon completion of the advertising campaign, a post-advertisement survey was  completed by 134 response employees. The advertising campaign had a significant impact on general awareness of online healthcare (X2(1)=16.02, p=<.001), as well as on awareness of the University offering the Blue Cross Online Visits program as a benefit (X2(1)=7.351, p=0.007). To determine if advertising had an effect on the likelihood of an employee using the program, an independent samples t-test was conducted and showed that advertising does not impact the likelihood of an individual partaking in the benefit (t(237.0)=0.175, p=0.861.)The results  also showed that age (X2(4)=4.705, p=0.319) and gender (X2(2)=2.407, p=0.300) did not impact how likely someone was to use the program.
3.     Greta Fisher, Rose Hildebrandt, & Sara Pietila: Effects of Keyword Mnemonics in Educational Settings
Past research has shown that keyword mnemonics have been effective in second-language learning, but there is limited research on its use in education (Putnam, 2015). If mnemonics are effective in helping students learn vocabulary for second languages, they may also be helpful in retaining information in other areas of education. In a preliminary survey taken by 48 participants, it was found that there was a positive correlation in the percentage of correct answers with the use of mnemonics to help answer the question, with Pearson’s R= 0.692 with p < 0.001. It was also found that although students used these methods, they rarely created their own mnemonics in order to study new materials.  The second study focused on the use of keyword mnemonics in comparison to other study methods used in educational settings, such as rote memorization.  In order to test if mnemonics were a more effective study method than rote memorization three surveys were sent out to students and asked them the same test questions. One survey had participants study with a mnemonic, another had participants study with a flashcard method and a third used no study method. If the hypothesis that mnemonics are a more effective study method is supported, we predict that participants who study with mnemonics will produce better results on a test than rote memorization. These results could help to prove that mnemonics can be utilized in subjects other than second-language learning.
4. Emmitt Forbush & Glory Creed: Effects of Priming on Ethical Reasoning
In order to create an ethically responsible society, we must understand peoples natural will to reason for themselves. The study was to explore the extent to which people put independent thought into ethical choices compared to the propensity to follow the crowd opinions or fall into framing/priming effects. In the first phase of our study, we discovered that people tend to place a high level of importance on decisions that they deem ethically challenging. We also gathered information on the types of ethical situations that people encounter in day to day life. In the second phase of our study, we used the scenarios provided by participants in study 1 to develop realistic ethical dilemmas. These ethical dilemmas were then answered by the participants of the second phase, some of whom were primed with different types of ethical reasoning logic before encountering the scenarios. We found a significant difference between groups primed with different ethical schools of thought, meaning that it appears we were able to manipulate the ethical decision making process for individuals who were primed.
5. Elizabeth Kelliher & Mariah Sherman: Occupation and self-efficacy: Predictor of success in the workplace
What makes a person successful in business? Previous research found that education is a predictor of salary, promotion, and career satisfaction (Ng, Eby, Sorensen, & Feldman, 2005). We interviewed people who considered themselves successful in business.  The results from the interviews were used to develop a survey. The survey question focuses on personal and academic background, work experience, personal beliefs about factors that influence success, management styles, personality, their education and other factors. A total of 134 people participated. Overall, we found MTU graduates felt better prepared by their education and reported that they were better equipped with the skills it takes to be successful in their jobs. Current students from all universities also had significantly different ratings of qualities for success, desired management styles, and best ways to learn on the job compared to working individuals.
6. Trista Burton: Does College cause anxiety
Anxiety is an issue that affects people in different ways and many will deal with it in their lifetime. Past experiments have focused on test anxiety of college students but have not focused on whether or not college students demonstrate higher levels of anxiety than the general population (Galassi, Frierson, & Sharer, 1981).  It was hypothesized that  those currently enrolled in college will demonstrate higher levels of anxiety. Study 1 used a 25-item which was consisting of three parts: 10 Trait Anxiety questions, 10 State Anxiety questions, and 5 demographic questions. Results showed that college students demonstrated higher levels of State-Trait Anxiety than those not enrolled in college. The focus of study 2 was on short coping mechanisms and how they impacted  the State Anxiety of college students. A 25-question survey with a randomly assigned coping mechanism was used to test the hypothesis that there are differences between coping mechanisms used  and the effect on State Anxiety levels of college students. There were no significant differences found.
7. Elise Brehob, Via Ouellette-Ballas, Kevin Grathoff:  Effects of meditation on working memory
Previous research has shown that meditation can be used to reduce stress and treat stress-related mental disorders, such as PTSD and social anxiety (Kiyonaga, Wong, & Gelfand, 2010) and educational settings (Quach, Jastrowski Mano, & Alexander, 2015). Since stress is connected to memory, studies have suggested the possibility of using meditation to improve working memory. The study investigated this in two different settings. Participants in study 1 consisted of a meditating and no-meditating group. They were asked to respond to an online survey. The survey contained demographic questions concerning meditation, mindful attention (MAA) questions, and a word recall test. It was hypothesized that the meditating group would perform better than the non-meditating group on  memory and mindfulness tests. The differences were not significant. Study 2 was a lab experiment with an experimental and control group. The experimental group completed the N-back memory task, with an intervening 15-minute period of meditation, which was followed by  the completion of the Corsi memory task. The control group completed the memory tasks with a 5-minute break between the tests, with no meditation. The results are inconclusive. Follow up studies with larger samples are recommended.
8. Madeline Shortt: The compulsion to use smartphones in college students
There has been an increasing interest in understanding problematic smartphone use and its characteristic (Wang, Lee & Li, 2016). This two part study  investigated the compulsion to use the smartphone among a college population. Study 1 was designed as an online survey with 34 participants.  It was hypothesized that the compulsion to use smartphones would be associated with the number of apps used. A Chi-square test was conducted with compulsion (DV) and social media apps on their devices (IV). The social media apps were categorized as  either high compulsion or low compulsion, and the social media use was categorized the same. There was  no significant difference found (X2(1) =0.075, p=0.78). Study 2 investigated if the compulsion to use a smartphone would disrupt an attention task. Fourteen college students participated in a lab setting where they were given a task. Halfway through the experiment, two messages were sent to their phones. The participants’ level of concentration was observed before and after the messages were sent using a rating scale. A note was also made on whether they attended to the message or not.  A paired-sample t-test was conducted to compare the before and after their phone went off concentration scores. There was a significant difference in the paired-sample t-test (M=2.0, SD=0.34); t(13)=6.360, p<.001). Results showed that almost every individual’s concentration score went down once their device went off and over half of the individuals checked their devices.  The result show that students had developed a compulsion to use smartphones even when their attention was needed to complete a task.

Alumni Spotlight: Chemical Kim

image4Over the past 10 years I’ve taken my love of teaching chemistry to the community and volunteer bringing hands-on learning to schools, organizations, libraries, the children’s hospital, and television science segments on ABC affiliate stations (WZZM 13 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and ABC7 in Fort Myers, Florida). I present a blend of smart and entertaining hands-on science activities that motivate kids to continually question and investigate their world. My encouragement is to never stop being curious and never stop seeking the answers.

In addition, I utilize mobile technology in my teaching in the chemistry classroom, laboratory, and science outreach. I’ve authored several technology grants and have led several workshops at local colleges and schools teaching on the integration of mobile technology in the classroom.

I started into the education program at MTU as a junior as a result of two friends majoring in mathematics that convinced me to join them. I really wasn’t expecting to go into teaching. I loved chemistry and was planning on a career as a research chemist. Standing in front of a group of people was always so fearful to me. As I got farther into the education program, I started to discover how much I was enjoying my classes. It got me thinking how many college chemistry professors really don’t know how to teach. This motivated me more in the education program at MTU. I started to feel like I could be that change and teach chemistry better than it was taught to me. The education program at MTU gave me that “face your fear and find your passion” moment. I faced my fear of being in front of a group of people and found a passion that made everyday of going to work since, a joy.

My advice to current teachers is to do what you love. If you don’t find a love in your subject or in teaching it, don’t force it. The teaching world is filled with too many who complain about teaching, students, and the hard work for so little pay. Yes, the pay is little and yes, the work is hard… but if you love it, you will not regret a day of your career choice. You will make a difference to the world because you’re giving the good part of yourself, the happy part.

Always be yourself and do not teach a particular style just because that’s how you were taught. Teaching is always evolving and be ready for constant change. The best experiences you can bring to the classroom are your life experiences. Use your personality and life experiences to make the best environment for learning. In the early years of your teaching, keep learning more hands-on about your subject and education. Substitute teach, participate in research, attend workshops and seminars, become active at your school. And if you have time, volunteer in your community.

If you’re enjoying teaching, then your students are probably enjoying learning. And if your nervous, that is good because nerves means you care. The day I’m not nervous or a bit scared to go into a classroom might be the day I might be ready to retire from teaching.

To learn more, check out Chemical Kim’s social media sites: www.youtube.com/scistudiowww.chemicalkim.com


World Class Expert on Cognitive Systems Engineering Visits CLS

Dr. Robert HoffmaIMG_2692n, world renowned expert on cognitive systems engineering and Senior Scientist at the Institute for Human Machine Cognition (IHMC), gave a talk on April 9, entitled, “Integrated Model of Macrocognition” for students and faculty in Cognitive and Learning Sciences and Human Computing Center at MTU. IHMC, based in Pensacola, Florida, is a leading organization in research to understand and extend human capabilities and technologies.

Dr. Hoffman is working with MTU Faculty, Dr. Shane Mueller on a DARPA project to develop explainable AI.

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Dr. Lark Receives New Funding

lark-personnelAmy Lark, Assistant Professor in Applied Science Education, was one of the Michigan Tech faculty members to receive an award exceeding $5,000 from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium for her program “Teacher Training: The Next Generation Science Standards in Theory and Practice”.  Click here to see a full list of recipients.

NASA implemented the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program in 1989 to provide funding for research, education and public outreach in space-related science and technology. The program has 52 university-based consortia in the United States and Puerto Rico.

As an affiliate of the Michigan Consortium, Michigan Tech has been an active participant in MSGC for approximately 20 years. MSGC funding is administered through MTU’s Pavlis Honors College. For more information, contact Paige Hackney in the Pavlis Honors College, call 7-4371, or visit the MSGC website.


New Publication in K-12 STEM Education

Cover of the International Journal of STEM Education, four circles overlappingDrs. Dare and Ellis of the Teacher Education program in Cognitive and Learning Sciences have published new research in the International Journal of STEM Education. Along with their co-author, Dr. Gillian Roehrig at the University of Minnesota, Drs. Dare and Ellis explore middle school teachers’ experiences in their first-time implementation of integrated STEM curriculum units. This article is publicly available through Open Access.


Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Joshua Ellis

Ellis was mentioned recently in Seely’s article about Cécile Piret (Math). He was, and is, her partner in studying how students learn in Calculus 3 by adding 3-D printers to class exercises. Seely indicates Ellis merits recognition in the Showcase in his own right, saying, “We expect CLS faculty to integrates research on education and learning with his classroom endeavors, but Josh’s approaches merit special attention.”
Ellis began his career as a K-12 teacher in Minneapolis, and knew from the beginning that he was expected to actively consider how a teacher’s decisions affected students. He elaborates, “I asked myself questions every day: How do I know when learning is happening in my classroom? How do my students learn best? What’s my role as the instructor?”
Importantly, he found that the answers to these questions often changed, leading him to adopt a research-like approach. “I sought to identify what helped my students succeed and what inhibited their growth as learners.”
He also entered the STEM Education doctoral program at the University of Minnesota, where faculty embraced this connection between research and educational practice. “I learned how to rigorously analyze teaching through a research lens, and I also learned how to conduct more meaningful research through the teaching lens. I firmly believe that I need both research and teaching to do it.”
This synthesis is embedded in Ellis’ research and classroom instruction at Michigan Tech, where he teaches future K-16 educators. His approach is especially useful when exploring how educational technology can support student learning. This might be best shown by a comment Ellis shared from B.W. Seibert: “Teachers will never be replaced by technology … but teachers who use technology effectively will replace those who do not.”
Ellis considers this perspective “both a warning and an opportunity for education students at Tech eager to use the incredible technological tools of our age to push the boundaries of what we think learning is.” He applies Seibert in his instructional technology course (ED3100) and in his work developing the new foundations of online teaching (ED5101) course. Both courses help educators learn to reach broader audiences, engage diverse participants and empower people of all abilities and backgrounds to achieve more. Students “learn how technology can lower barriers to finding information and more quickly allow students to seek knowledge and understanding.”
This insight explains Ellis’s enthusiasm for 3-D printers as tools that can create solution spaces for mathematics problems. He added that he feels a responsibility to model himself those practices he hopes his students will adopt within their future classrooms. “Educators who engage in these practices are poised to inspire interest, creativity and excellence in their students. I’m incredibly proud of the work that I do as an educational researcher and as an instructor to create these opportunities for our students.”
Seely agrees, and that is why he chose Ellis as this week’s Dean’s Teaching Showcase member. Ellis will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with 11 other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large class teaching, innovative or outside-the-classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.
by Michael Meyer, Director, William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

Transdisciplinary: Working Across the Campus

Michigan Technological University’s transdisciplinary researchers reach across disciplines and institutional boundaries to solve complex problems that are bigger than a single specialized field.

Kelly Steelman, an assistant professor of cognitive & learning sciences, says diversity is good for problem-solving. If you only have a spoon, the only food you’ll want to eat is soup.

“The more tools you have available to your research team, the more likely you are to consider a variety of solutions and not get stuck always trying to use the same approach to every problem… The more perspectives we bring to the table, the better opportunity we have to create innovative and transformative solutions.”

Read the full story on the Michigan Tech News Website.