An article describing our NSF-funded SCIL 109 Water in Society course, part of the WELL project, and its first implementation appears in the September/October 2018 issue of the Journal of College Science Teaching. In the article, we describe core tenets of the course design, present some findings from research conducted during the first year of the course, and share some ongoing questions and challenges associated with the course. This was a great team effort and it’s fantastic to see this manuscript in print. We look forward to building on this work with subsequent publications focused on students’ model-based reasoning about socio-hydrologic issues conducted in the context of the course.
This past year, the E2FEW project has benefited tremendously from contributions of undergraduate research assistants supported through UNL’s Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience (UCARE) program. Over the course of the past 12 months, the UCARE program has funded 4 undergraduate students to collect and analyze data, as well as disseminate project activities and research findings, in collaboration with the E2FEW project team. We are very thankful for the hard work of Holly White, Brooke Mott, Lexy Polivanov, and Saleh Husseini to videorecord CASNR classes, score student work, run stats, and develop posters for sharing our project work with the UNL community. We look forward to Holly and Brooke continuing their work this year as part of the E2FEW project team and Forbes group!
Congrats to Ashley (McKenzie) Sutter for publication of her thesis work in the International Journal of Science Education. Utilizing value belief norm (VBN) theory and construal level theory (CLT), the study explores how undergraduate students reason and make decisions about prairie dog conversation issues. The research, which was conducted in the SCIL 101 course (Science and Decision-Making for a Complex World), is grounded in the use of structured-decision making as a teaching and learning strategy in large enrollment, undergraduate STEM courses. Findings from the study illustrate the interrelationships between students’ values, problemmatization of the issue, and science-informed decision-making.
Congrats to Molly Brandt for publication of her thesis work in the Journal of Agricultural Education. This study explored the use of Evidence-Centered Design to develop, validate, and test assessment items aligned with standards for student learning focused on the integration of STEM and agriculture. The study provides important insights into upper elementary (grades 3-5) students’ reasoning about interdisciplinary STEM concepts and contributes to efforts to design an assessment system designed around these standards that can provide an essential tool for program evaluation.
In the Fall, 2016 semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach one of four large sections a required course for all CASNR students – SCIL 101 Science and Decision-Making for a Complex World. The class, re-conceptualized and redeveloped from a long-standing introductory course (AGRI/NRES 103 Introduction to Agricultural and Natural Resource Systems), involves students learning to make science-informed decisions about agriculture and natural resource issues. Comprised of four modules designed around food, energy, and water issues, SCIL 101 offers students the opportunity explore these challenges issues from multiple perspectives, ultimately conducting independent research on a question of their choosing. My section of the class this fall had 130 students, almost half of which were CASNR undergraduate students from Rwanda studying in IANR to become future agricultural leaders in their home country. I am also very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, including WELL project graduate students Diane Lally and Destini Petitt, and Science Literacy graduate student McKenzie Peterson.
I am very excited to lead a newly-funded, 3-year NSF IUSE Engaged Student Learning: Exploration project (DUE-1609598) focused on the iterative design, implementation, and study of a new, interdisciplinary course for non-majors – SCIL/AECN/NRES 109: Water in Society – at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). The Fostering Undergraduate Students’ Disciplinary Learning and Water Literacy (WELL) project presents an outstanding opportunity to iteratively develop and study an innovative undergraduate STEM learning experience through design- and discipline-based education research. We are lucky to have an amazing, interdisciplinary team on board for this project, including faculty associated with UNL’s Water for Food Global Institute and two graduate students. The new course will be an integral part of a newly-established undergraduate minor – Food, Energy, & Water in Society – in CASNR, as well as a key component of a growing suite of undergraduate experiences associated with the IANR Science Literacy Initiative.