Putting It All Together: Learning Outcomes and Assessments that Blend Core Ideas with Science and Engineering Practices

Cori Fata-Hartley, Melanie Cooper, Diane Ebert-May, Becky Matz, Lynmarie Posey, Ryan Sweeder, and Jon Stoltzfus

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
11:15 - 1:00 (Lunch at 11:15, program starts at 11:30)
Lunch Provided


The first two workshops in this series introduced participants to key components of Backward Design including developing course learning outcomes and constructing assessments that measure student learning. In the third workshop, participants will apply this knowledge to develop outcomes and assessments that include both disciplinary core ideas and science or engineering practices. This approach requires students to do more than simply learn the “facts of science”. Rather, students explore core ideas while investigating and explaining phenomena through scientific inquiry (scientific practices) or while solving problems using engineering design principles (engineering practices). Workshop participants will modify existing or develop new learning outcomes for their courses and use the Three-Dimensional Learning Assessment Protocol (3D-LAP) to develop or revise accompanying assessments, including both multiple choice and constructed response questions. Participants are encouraged to bring along example learning outcomes and assessments that they would like to improve.


The presenters are part of MSU’s AAU STEM Initiative Education Initiative (https://stemedhub.org/groups/aau) project, Creating a Coherent Gateway for STEM Teaching and Learning (PI: Melanie Cooper). More information about the project can be found here: http://create4stem.msu.edu/project/aau.

Melanie Cooper is the Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education and Professor of Chemistry at Michigan State University. She received her B.S. M.S. and Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Manchester, England. Her research has focused on improving teaching and learning in large enrollment general and organic chemistry courses at the college level, and she is a proponent of evidence-based curriculum reform for example the NSF supported “Chemistry, Life, the Universe & Everything”. She has also developed technological approaches to formative assessment that can recognize and respond to students free-form drawings such as the beSocratic system. She is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the Leadership team for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the National Research Council advisory Board on Science Education (BOSE). She has received a number of awards including the the ACS award for research on teaching and learning 2014, the Norris award for Outstanding Achievement in teaching of chemistry in 2013, and the 2010-2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award from the Society for College Science Teaching.

Diane Ebert-May is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant Biology at Michigan State University. She provides national and international leadership in biology education research and teaching. Ebert-May’s lab group developed and tested a model for professional development using inquiry-based, learner-centered teaching. They continue to investigate the longitudinal impact of transformed biology courses on undergraduates’ use of scientific practices (e.g., models, arguments, working with data, and narratives) to learn the core concepts in biology. Ebert-May lead FIRST IV, an NSF-funded professional development program to help 201 postdoctoral scholars create and teach their first introductory biology course in preparation for their academic positions. Her group is now investigating the contextual factors the impact early-career faculty teaching practices. Her book, Pathways to Scientific Teaching (Ebert-May and Hodder eds, second edition in prep), is based on student-centered learning, science practice-based instructional strategies, assessment and research. She teaches plant biology, introductory biology to majors in a large enrollment course, and a graduate /postdoctoral seminar on scientific teaching. Her plant ecology research continues on Niwot Ridge, Colorado, where she has conducted long-term ecological research on alpine tundra plant communities since 1971. She is a AAAS Fellow in the Biological Sciences. Her recent awards include the US Professor of the Year Award for Michigan from the Carnegie Foundation/CASE (2011), the Education Award from the American Association for Biological Science (2012), and University Distinguished Faculty (MSU 2012). She earned her BS from University of Wisconsin, Madison (Botany), MA and PhD University of Colorado (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology).

Cori Fata-Hartley is Assistant Dean for Curriculum Coordination in the College of Natural Science. She completed doctoral studies at the Medical College of Ohio and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for Molecular Virology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fata-Hartley joined MSU in 2005 and held appointments in Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and served as the Interim Director for Faculty and Instructional Development in the Office of Faculty and Organizational Development before being appointed Assistant Dean. Throughout her career she has participated in fellowships focused on teaching and learning in STEM disciplines including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Teaching Fellowship, New Generation for Scientific Teaching Program while a postdoctoral associate at UW-Madison and the American Society for Microbiology Biology Scholars Program after joining MSU. Her efforts at MSU have focused on improving STEM teaching and learning and increasing the retention and academic success for a diverse group of learners. Fata-Hartley received the 2013 All-University Individual Award for Sustained Effort toward Excellence in Diversity in recognition of her work to promote and foster inclusive learning environments at MSU. As Assistant Dean for Curriculum Coordination, Fata-Hartley plays a lead role in the implementation of the college’s ongoing Biology Initiative, an effort to improve the educational experience students pursuing life sciences degrees. She also works with departments and programs across the college to develop and improve curricula and the connections among them.

Becky Matz is an Academic Specialist in the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology and adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry. Matz earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry and M.S. in Educational Studies from University of Michigan before doing postdoctoral work at Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. Matz’s research focuses on assessment development, particularly at the interface of chemistry and biology, program-level assessment of large-scale institutional change efforts in undergraduate science education, and assessment of student learning in MSU’s new quantitative literacy courses. She is a current Fellow in the STEM Gateway Fellowship program and a mentor in the Lyman Briggs Scholarship of Undergraduate Teaching and Learning (SUTL) program.

Lynmarie Posey is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Michigan State University. She earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Davidson College. She completed a Ph.D. in experimental physical chemistry at Yale University before pursuing postdoctoral research at Stanford University as an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Her current research focuses on curricular and instructional approaches to support students who are underprepared in mathematics but interested in STEM. She developed CEM 121- Explorations in Chemistry for the Dow STEM Scholars Program. Instead of drilling students in algorithmic problem solving, this course focuses helping students build capacity to engage in the scientific practices of using models, constructing explanations, and using mathematical and computational thinking. The pilot offering of CEM 121 revealed a strong relationship between students’ mathematics background and their ability to use scientific practices. She is currently collaborating with mathematics education researcher Kristen Bieda to develop evidence-based interventions for CEM 121 and MTH 100E that target 1) using ratios and proportional reasoning, 2) explaining covarying relationships, 3) understanding linear rates of change, and 4) translating between multiple representations in a science context. Her group is also beginning to investigate the relationship between mathematics background and students’ abilities to engage in scientific practices that do not explicitly use mathematics. She is a member of the AAU project team and has been involved in the transformation of MSU’s large-enrollment general chemistry lecture (CEM 141 and CEM 142) and laboratory courses (CEM 161 and CEM 162).

Jon Stoltzfus is the Biological Sciences Program Director and a member of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology faculty. He has extensive teaching experience at MSU including teaching Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology, Applications in Biomedical Science, Introduction to Biochemistry, Comprehensive Biochemistry, Advanced Biochemistry I and Advanced Biochemistry II. He completed the Walter and Pauline Adams Academy for Instructional Excellence and Innovation and was a CREATE for STEM Gateway Fellow. His research includes work on how students make sense of biological phenomena during group modeling activities and how student models reveal student understanding of course content across introductory chemistry and biology courses.

Ryan Sweeder is an Associate Professor of Chemistry in the Lyman Briggs College and the CREATE for STEM research institute at Michigan State University. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in inorganic chemistry and chemistry education and completed his postdoctoral studies at Cornell University. He is the director of the Lyman Briggs SPRING Scholars’ program. The Sweeder research group studies the undergraduate science student experience in an effort to understand student retention as well as examining methods for using online chemistry simulations to promote out-of-class learning of chemistry concepts. He is a current Fellow in the STEM Gateway Fellowship program and has received the Distinguished Professor of the Year Award from the Michigan President’s Council of State Universities (2015) and the MSU Alumni Association of Mid-Michigan Excellence in Undergraduate Education Award (2014).