Congrats to Diane Lally, doctoral student with the WELL project, for being selected by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) for a 2019 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. This award recognizes outstanding teaching assistants in geoscience education. Diane is currently a 4th-year doctoral student who, for the past 3 years, has served as a graduate teaching assistant for the SCIL 109: Water in Society course. Her research focuses on scientific modeling and systems thinking in undergraduate geoscience courses, including work in the 109 course develop and study the impact of course modules in which students use data-driven, computer-based water models to investigate water-related phenomena (e.g., groundwater, regional water balance, etc.).
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.
Forbes, C.T., Brozovic, N., Franz, T., Lally, D., & Petitt, D. (2018). Water in Society: An interdisciplinary course to support undergraduate students’ water literacy. Journal of College Science Teaching, 48(1), 36-42.
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.
Sutter, A.M., Dauer, J.M., & Forbes, C.T. (2018). Construal level and value-belief norm theories: Implications for undergraduate decision-making on a prairie dog socio-scientific issue. In International Journal of Science Education, 40(9), 1058-1075.
Congrats to Dr. Jaime Sabel for publication of dissertation work in CBE–Life Sciences Education. This study explored the used of reflective scaffolds and metacognitive tools to support and enhance undergraduate students’ learning in the context of an introductory undergraduate course for non-majors. Study findings provide insight into how students use these tools, how they can be integrated into the design of course activities, and ways in which they productively impact students’ life science learning.
Sabel, J., Dauer, J., & Forbes, C.T. (2017). Introductory biology students’ use of enhanced answer keys and reflection questions to engage in metacognition and enhance understanding. CBE–Life Sciences Education, 16(3), 2-12.
Many thanks to all members of our research and instructional team who collaborated on a study investigating undergraduate students’ reasoning about water-focused socioscientific issues. Carried out in the first iteration of the revised SCIL 101 course (formerly AGRI/NRES 103) with more than 200 students, study results illustrate strengths and limitations of students’ thinking about the use of groundwater for agriculture in the context of a multi-week course module. Thanks to Dr. Jaime Sabel for leading this effort!
Sabel, J.L., Vo, T., Alred, A., Dauer, J.M., & Forbes, C.T. (2017). Undergraduate students’ scientifically-informed decision-making about socio-hydrological issues. Journal of College Science Teaching, 46(6), 64-72.
As part of the WELL project, our team had the chance to teach our new course – SCIL 109 Water in Society – this past spring semester. It was an amazing opportunity work with 45 undergraduate students, both STEM and non-STEM majors from an array of programs. It was also a wonderfully enriching experience to collaborate with colleagues spanning multiple disciplines as part of our instructional team. The course touched on core hydrology concepts, exploration of contemporary real-world water-related challenges, and opportunities to communicate about both the scientific and non-scientific dimensions of these issues. Students used computer-based water modeling tools based upon authentic datasets, worked in collaborative teams on long-term projects, participated in site visits, and developed and presented infographics to attendees at an international water-focused conference. Please see our spring, 2017 syllabus and course calendar here.
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.
A new article co-authored by Jenny Dauer and I has been published in the Summer, 2016 issue of Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal. The paper, entitled Making Decisions about Complex Socioscientific Issues: A Multidisciplinary Science Course, reports on the initial iteration of a revised version of SCIL 101, a large-enrollment, interdisciplinary, introductory undergraduate course required of all students in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR). The course represents a core element of programmatic efforts associated with the IANR Science Literacy Initiative to cultivate science literacy among undergraduate students at UNL.
Dauer, J. & Forbes, C. T. (2016). Making decisions about complex socioscientific issues: A multidisciplinary science course. Science Education & Civic Engagement: An International Journal, 8(2), 5-12.
This month we were lucky to be able to host Eleanor (Elly) Vandegrift as a visiting scholar at UNL. Elly is the Associate Director of the Science Literacy Program (SLP) and a Senior Instructor in Biology at the University of Oregon (UO). The UO SLP is an institutional effort, originally funded by an HHMI grant, to help science faculty transform the classes they offer to non-science majors to foster science literacy. Her trip to UNL was part of the 2015 Science Literacy Initiative Seminar Series, which has been ongoing in May. While on campus, she had the opportunity to engage with the Science Literacy team, give an invited presentation, and facilitate a faculty development workshop on effective undergraduate science instruction. The visit was highly informative and productive, particularly to learn about the SLP at UO, which provides a model for our own postsecondary STEM education efforts in IANR. We look forward to continued discussions with Elly and future collaborations to advance larger-scale science literacy efforts in higher education contexts.