• COPUS: A non-evaluative classroom observation instrument for assessment of instructional practices

      Deligkaris, Christos; Chan Hilton, Amy B.
      Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education has gathered a significant amount of evidence that active learning pedagogical methods are much more effective in helping students learn than traditional, passive, approaches. [1] Higher education institutions interested in transforming their instructional practices saw the need for information gathering on their current extent of active learning. The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) was created as a response to that need. [2,3] COPUS allows a reliable characterization of how faculty and students spend time in the classroom, with a focus on measuring how student-centered the class is. The University of Southern Indiana’s Center for Teaching and Learning adopted the COPUS instrument in Spring 2017 as one tool to support reflective teaching and inform improvements in teaching. An non-evaluative class observation using the COPUS instrument is available for any USI class in any discipline and level. Instructors who are interested in incorporating active learning in their classes would find the information gathered from the COPUS useful. After a request is submitted by the interested instructor, a trained COPUS observer attends an instructor-selected class session and notes what students and the instructor are doing based on predetermined codes during two-minute intervals.  The observer focuses on identifying how students are engaged in their learning (such as working with class members to solve problems or listening to the instructor) and what instructional practices the instructor is using (such as interacting with students or lecturing), rather providing feedback on the instruction or course. From the observation data, two pie charts are generated, one for students and one for the instructor, that indicate the proportion of the time each spent on different behaviors (e.g. listening, writing on blackboard, asking questions etc). Instructors can use the COPUS results for improving their classes and increasing student learning, as documentation in peer-reviewed educational publications and professional portfolios, as well as funding proposals. Implementing the COPUS instrument at USI has been a particularly rewarding experience as it allowed a group of faculty with active learning pedagogical methods common interest to work closely together. As a COPUS observer, we found that attending other faculty member’s classes not only provides a service to enhance teaching but it also exposes us to different teaching approaches and active learning ideas. References Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics, Scott Freeman, Sarah L. Eddy, Miles McDonough, Michelle K. Smith, Nnadozie Okoroafor, Hannah Jordt, and Mary Pat Wenderoth, PNAS June 10, 2014 111 (23) 8410-8415 The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): A New Instrument to Characterize University STEM Classroom Practices, Michelle K. Smith, Francis H. M. Jones, Sarah L. Gilbert, Carl E. Wieman, and Erin L. Dolan, CBE—Life Sciences Education 2013 12:4, 618-627 Anatomy of STEM teaching in North American universities, M. Stains, J. Harshman, M. K. Barker, S. V. Chasteen, R. Cole, S. E. Dechenne-Peters, M. K. Eagan Jr., J. M. Esson, J. K. Knight, F. A. Laski, M. Levis-Fitzgerald, C. J. Lee, S. M. Lo, L. M. McDonnell, T. A. McKay, N. Michelotti, A. Musgrove, M. S. Palmer, K. M. Plank, T. M. Rodela, E. R. Sanders, N. G. SCHIMPF, P. M. Schulte, M. K. Smith, M. Stetzer, B. Van Valkenburgh, E. Vinson, L. K. Weir, P. J. Wendel, L. B. Wheeler, A. M. Young, Science 30 Mar 2018 : 1468-1470.
    • Implementation of a Student-Centered Active Learning Environment

      Deligkaris, Christos
      Numerous peer-reviewed publications in prestigious scientific journals have concluded that courses with a high level of student-engagement and active learning, decrease course failure rates, increase student learning and improve student grades. To increase student learning and decrease course failure rates, a reformed introductory physics course in electricity and magnetism was designed and implemented during the Fall 2016 semester at the University of Southern Indiana. Following recommendations from the physics education research (PER) literature, students had to read the textbook and take an online quiz prior to class in order to acquire some basic information. Class time was devoted to difficult topics and problem-solving sessions with students working in groups of four. To increase the effectiveness of group work, students periodically evaluated their group members and themselves using a validated online instrument developed for this purpose. Conceptual problems from PER were also included in problem-solving sessions during class. Student learning gains based on the PER-based Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism (CSEM) instrument will be presented and discussed. Thoughts on how to improve this student-centered active learning environment will be discussed as well.
    • Understanding Retention Pathways and Bottlenecks of STEM Majors: Implications for Student Success

      Elliot, William S.; Deligkaris, Christos; Greenwood, Eric S.; Gentle, Adrian P.; Chan Hilton, Amy B.; Blunt, Shelly B.
      The goals of this project are to increase faculty member's knowledge about evidence-based student retention, instructional best practices, and understanding bottlenecks and other factors impeding student progress in STEM at University of Southern Indiana (USI). In particular, hands-on experiences through group work and engaging students with early undergraduate research contribute significantly to student learning. To accomplish these goals, a working group consisting of faculty members from across the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education initiated discussions in Fall 2017 to examine retention factors and bottlenecks. In order to support these activities, the working group secured an Innovation Grant through the Pott College with the goal of developing individualized projects focusing on increasing retention of STEM majors and improving student learning. To assist with our shared efforts, reference materials are made available through SharePoint, Trello is used to document developing hypotheses and activities of the working group, and in-person meetings are held at least once a month to discuss the readings and to share updates on individualized projects. Initially, a systems map was created by the working group to analyze retention pathways of STEM majors at USI. Systems thinking is an effective way to understand the complexity of a topic, identify links among themes, and discover potential individualized research directions. Each working group member then created their own systems map to better constrain their specific area of interest. Research projects that originated from this process include: (1) comparing student attitudes towards group work implementations in introductory Physics courses; (2) evaluating the effectiveness of Pre-Calculus as a preparation for college-level Calculus; (3) exploring the impact of course repeats on student success in the Pott College; (4) increasing retention rates of STEM majors through an early undergraduate research program; and (5) using a faculty learning community and systems mapping to engage faculty members with pedagogical research. Selected student learning outcomes of these projects include: (1) improved comprehension and problem solving skills through group work and active learning, and (2) enriched student engagement through early undergraduate research. Furthermore, faculty members supported one another through the process of Institutional Research Board (IRB) training, the IRB approval process, and securing student data from the Office of Planning, Research, and Assessment. The results from this project will support longer-term retention initiatives and inform strategies to improve student success and retention of STEM majors in the Pott College at USI. In addition, these projects will better position the Pott College to seek external funding (such as National Science Foundation S-STEM program or Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence program) to support student retention efforts. Finally, classroom strategies that result in improved student learning will be expanded to other sections of introductory courses in mathematics and physics.
    • Using Online Videos to Promote Active-Learning and Student Success

      Deligkaris, Christos
      Active-learning in introductory physics classes, according to conclusive evidence in the physics education research literature, increases student grades, retention and learning. To include active-learning in class without compromising content, students need to acquire knowledge prior to class. Typically, this takes place by asking students to read the textbook and then take an online quiz based on what they read. In general, physics textbooks may be confusing, skip steps in theoretical proofs and example problems, and fail to demonstrate the coherence and organization of the discipline. This project sought to replace textbook reading assignments with short online videos prior to class in order to promote active learning in class. During the Spring 2017 implementation in General Physics II (PHYS176, algebra-based), the average normalized student learning gain of electricity and magnetism concepts was 55%. This learning gain is significantly higher than the national average of 23% of calculus-based electricity and magnetism introductory physics courses. Students completed the pre-class assignment almost all the time and found the online videos helpful for their learning. Thus, the use of online videos as part of pre-class assignments can significantly increase student learning.