2012-2013 Funded Projects

The Best of Both Worlds: Hybridized Second Language Methodology Instructions

Scott Kissau

Abstract: Due in part to its many convenience-related benefits, online teacher education continues to grow exponentially. Despite such growth, recent research has called into question the suitability of fully online instruction for certain teacher preparation courses. Methodology coursework, in particular, with its emphasis on the modeling of various teaching strategies, has been singled out in multiple studies as ill-suited to online instruction. To address the limitations of fully online instruction, while still maintaining its associated advantages, in the proposed research project the principal investigator (PI) plans to develop and teach hybridized versions of two second language (L2) methodology courses and to investigate the effects of sych hybridized instruction on the sense of efficacy of L2 teacher-candidates enrolled in initial licensure programs. The results of the study will serve to inform the development of future methodology instruction in the College of Education at UNC Charlotte and beyond, and will address a void in the related research.

Full Proposal: The Best of Both Worlds: Hybridized Second Language Methodology Instruction [PDF, 773 KB]

Time for a Change: Preparing for Common Core K-2 Mathematics Instructions

Charlene Sheets

Abstract: The proposed project is a curriculum and professional development effort to prepare preservice elementary education majors to teach the Common Core mathematics curriculum in K-2 classrooms. Common Core is a national initiative, currently adopted by 45 states (including North Carolina), to provide all educational stakeholders with a clear and consistent framework that brings together the common goals and best practices in education. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy." (CCSSI , 2010).

Towards this end, we will examine the effects of an innovative teacher preparation project designed to help our prospective elementary mathematics teachers develop effective strategies for implementing the Common Core standards for grades K-2. In particular, we will examine how the study participants learn to effectively use children’s literature as a springboard for teaching robust and relevant mathematics, which they will demonstrate through creating their own original mathematics lesson plans.

We, the faculty of UNC Charlotte, are committed to providing our education students rich experiences with Common Core mathematics. We seek to foster an environment that recognizes the benefits of Common Core. Both the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Education at UNC Charlotte aspire to reach these goals.

Full Proposal: Time for a Change: Preparing for Common Core K-2 Mathematics Instruction [PDF, 517 KB]

Investigating the Readability of Geoscience Reading Materials Assigned to Undergraduate Earth Science and Geology Students

Scott P. Hippensteel 

Abstract: While the readability of secondary school textbooks has received considerable attention, studies of the readability of college textbooks are less common and studies focused on the readability of college science textbooks and supplemental materials are rare and nonexistent, respectively. This proposed project will assess the readability of the textbooks, laboratory manuals, and supplemental materials (e.g., journal articles) used by geoscience faculty at UNC Charlotte to investigate whether the students have the appropriate reading skills for the materials being assigned. Readability will be calculated for common textbooks used in introductory and advanced Earth Sciences classes, the laboratory manuals for ESCI 1101, GEOL 1200 and 1210, and the six journals that are most commonly used as supplemental materials. Reading grade level will be calculated using the Flesch–Kincaid readability test and the results of each text, manual, or journal will be compared to the level of the course in which it is commonly assigned to identify materials that may be too challenging for the students. The results of the study will be shared with all faculty teaching Earth Science and Geology courses at UNC Charlotte. Faculty can then alter reading assignments to better match the reading level of their students and the laboratory manuals can be rewritten, if necessary, to better match the reading level of the intended audience. Additionally, the findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America and published in the Journal of Geoscience Education, thus aiding faculty and students from outside UNC Charlotte.

Full Proposal: Investigating the Readability of Geoscience Reading Materials Assigned to Undergraduate Earth Science and Geology Students [PDF, 337 KB]

Developing Online Content for Foundation Design Instruction

Michael Swisher, Jeff Balmer, Nicholas Senske

Abstract: Foundation design studio (first year) in the School of Architecture introduces essential representational skills and design concepts through a rigorous sequence of hand-drawing and modeling exercises. In particular, first year emphasizes the use of 2D and 3D diagramming as an aid to understanding and generating designs. This proposal seeks to investigate the use of interactive online content to help teach architectural diagramming more effectively.

To support and supplement in-studio demonstrations of diagramming methodology, the instructors have already created over 2,000 original high-resolution images and one hundredfifty digital models. Although students have access to these materials online, in practice, the use of static media is less than ideal to convey nuances of manual technique and theory. Our goal is to translate this media into animated and interactive online content that we believe will increase accessibility and facilitate improvement in skills performance and subject comprehension.

We propose a pilot study to study the effectiveness of online content and determine the feasibility of translating all of our lessons into this format. Our plan is to convert a sampling of lessons into interactive media and then to evaluate them by comparing student outcomes against previous work that does not use the updated material. Longer-term, our intention is to build upon this proposal and seek additional funding to develop a new framework for teaching and learning the fundamental principles and practices of design.

Full Proposal: Developing online content for foundation design instruction [PDF, 700 KB]

Understand Student Perspectives on the Course Evaluation Process

Loril M. Gossett

Abstract: This study explores student attitudes about course evaluations. Although scholars have studied the specific metrics used for course evaluations, few have explored how students make sense of this process (e.g., what motivates students to fill them out, do they understand the questions). As UNC Charlotte transitions from paper to online evaluations, this is an optimal time to conduct such a study. Theoretically, this project is grounded in research on organizational member voice, member participation, and organizational feedback systems (Hirschman, 1970; Stohl & Cheney, 2001). At the pedogogical level, this study can help the academic community better understand factors that motivate or discourage students from offering feedback about their classroom experiences on course evaluations. By conducting both surveys and focus groups with students across all colleges on campus, this study should provide a comprehensive understanding of how the faculty and the university might encourage students to productively engage in the evaluation process so that we might better understand the issues that are working or need more attention in the classroom. Outcomes from this study will provide UNC Charlotte with university-specific information about general factors that encourage and discourage student involvement. Additionally, this study will provide specific feedback from students about our transition from paper to online evaluations. Given that the university spends a great deal of money on course evaluations, any insight that might make these more effective (better response rate, more specific feedback, etc) should improve the process and provide better information to both teachers and the administration.

Full Proposal: Understand Student Perspectives on the Course Evaluation Process [PDF, 589 KB]

Collaboration for Quality: A Partnership to Assess Information Literacy Instruction for Freshman Engineering

Alison Bradley, Dan Latta, Meg Harkins

Abstract: For several years, students in the required freshman course Introduction to Engineering (ENGR1201) have been offered the option of attending a voluntary library research workshop and receiving extra credit on their related project. Since hundreds of students in over 20 sections take this course each fall, the workshop format was developed as an alternative to traditional in-class library instruction, which is not practicable on this scale.

Although post-class surveys provided positive feedback about the value of the workshops, instructors for ENGR1201 saw a continuing heavy reliance on inappropriate reference sources in student work submitted. To better assess how the workshops were serving the students in these large classes, a group of freshman instructors and their subject librarian designed a citation study to evaluate the quality and variety of sources cited by students who attended a workshop versus those who did not. After the pilot study was completed, the instruction team and the librarian worked together to revise assignments and discuss ways of providing support to all students enrolled in Introduction to Engineering, including tools like online research guides and video tutorials played in class or embedded in course management software.

While the initial study of a small sample of student work provided useful insights, grant funding would allow the team to expand the study to include additional sections of the course and to review historical data to improve teaching and learning of research skills and to determine any effects on student retention, progression, and academic success. 

Full Proposal: Collaboration for Quality: a Partnership to Assess Information Literacy instruction for Freshman Engineering [PDF, 539 KB]

Using Modular Online Learning Platforms to (Re)introduce Student-centered Active Learning and Essential Academic Skill Development in History Survey and General Education Courses

Oscar E. Lansen

Abstract: An inherent weakness of the university educational system is that it places those least prepared for college in large lecture survey or general education sections least conducive to active learning or academic skill development. These courses in turn are entrusted to instructors who often lack the time, experience, or pedagogical insights to remediate its passive, static, learning climate; or address student skill deficiencies. As a result, large lecture survey and general education students face unjustifiably disproportionate dropout/retention rates vis-à-vis their peers in small honors or learning community sections.

The department of History services 450 students in history surveys and 1,545 students in Liberal Studies courses per semester.1 This proposal seeks to develop a Department-wide online modular instruction platform that will (re)introduce active problem-based learning and scaffolded academic and discipline-specific skill development to these lecture-format courses. This platform, which will consist of six structured developmental units and twelve instructor-modifiable and/or interchangeable progressively analytical content modules, will 1) redress the passivity and inherent learning disadvantage of (large) lecture survey/LBST settings, 2) develop essential/higher learning skills and critical analysis in freshmen/sophomore introductory course formats, 3) promote student-centered, active and imaginary learning in content courses, 4) provide pedagogical tools and instructional rigor to faculty not necessarily schooled in history didactics. This non topic-specific Moodle-based platform can be used with any instructional format or and serve as a foundation for future hybrid and online delivery efficacy.

The proposal addresses the core objectives of the QEP plan and University student retention efforts. It makes access to quality education and student success more equitable by distributing high quality history didactics to faculty and students.

Full Proposal: Using Modular Online Learning Platforms to (Re)introduce Student-centered Active Learning and Essential Academic Skill Development in History Survey and General Education Courses [PDF, 1.1 MB]

Teaching the Theory of Island Biogeography as an on-campus Field Laboratory

William Garcia & Sara Gagné

Abstract: Numerous studies have demonstrated that students perform better and have increased learning outcomes in courses that promote active learning by means of inquiry-based activities and research experiences. One complication for subjects such as the Earth Sciences and Ecology is that central theoretical tenants of these disciplines are field-based. Typical educational inquiries into these concepts use existing or simulated data to illustrate patterns and processes. As a result, students acquire a superficial understanding of the systems being taught. We propose to test whether student learning outcomes are improved if an inquiry-based field exercise and research project are used to teach the Theory of Island Biogeography compared to the use of simulated data in class. This project will be implemented in two courses in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences: Biogeography and Landscape Ecology. We will compare student learning outcomes using our new methodology to student learning outcomes from a previous semester of Biogeography to assess whether our field-based inquiry method outperforms a traditional lecture and the use of simulated data. Student learning outcomes will be assessed through course pre- and post-tests, multiple-choice and essay questions on traditional exams, and a research paper. An increase in learning outcomes due to our new methodology would provide valuable data for field-based disciplines being taught at UNC Charlotte and elsewhere on how to best design exercises in upper division courses.

Full Proposal: Teaching the Theory of Island Biogeography as an on-campus field laboratory [PDF, 459 KB]