Learn more about our research

A talented group of faculty, postdoctoral research associates, graduate students, and undergraduate students are engaged in research projects aimed at enhancing the learning experiences of students in STEM courses. Learn more about the people and their projects.

Currently funded projects

Mapping Change in Higher Education-Social Networks and STEM Reforms: This is a collaborative proposal from three institutions that have been implementing institutional transformation grants for at least three years. This proposal includes one PI from each of these earlier grants, with the goal of finding the transformation strategies that are effective at these institutions, which differ in the level of faculty participation in local and national networks focused on improved STEM teaching, the institutional presence of scholars who study how students learn STEM, and the institutional incentives available to promote increased use of evidence-based teaching practices. The research will examine interaction effects between teaching networks and research networks, particularly intra-institutional research networks. This project will broaden our knowledge of effective institutional change models and help efforts in other institutions to encourage evidence-based teaching. Award number: DUE 1726409 Start date: October 1, 2017 In the News

Evaluating the Uptake of Research-Based Instructional Strategies in Undergraduate Chemistry, Mathematics, & Physics: It is well documented that the use of Research-Based Instructional Strategies (RBIS) significantly improves learning and retention of students in undergraduate courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Yet, there are few large-scale efforts to document the use of RBIS and to explain why they are not more widely used by STEM faculty. This project aims to fill the knowledge gap by examining the use of RBIS and identifying factors that influence implementation of RBIS in undergraduate STEM education. The primary aims of the research project are to (1) build capacity to document changes in the implementation of RBIS; (2) estimate the importance of individuals, departments, institutions, and disciplines in shaping instructional decisions to implement RBIS; and (3) test a set of hypotheses on how and why instructors use RBIS. The national survey followed by in-depth interviews will establish baseline data for mathematics and chemistry faculty, and will provide an updated and extended snapshot following a 2008 survey of physics faculty. Award number: DUE 1726379 Start date: September 1, 2017

Promoting instructional change in introductory STEM courses through Faculty Learning Communities focused on the transition from high school to college: This project will develop Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) at the University of Maine and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in which faculty who teach introductory STEM courses will meet regularly over the course of a year. Participating faculty will examine data about instructional differences in high school and college; discuss student transitions with high school teachers; and explore emergent data that provide insight into why students, especially those who are first-generation, struggle during the first semester of college. These groups will develop materials about instructional transitions that can be used in a variety of courses and will respond to questions from first-year undergraduate students regarding how to achieve success in STEM fields. In conjunction with the formation of FLCs at two universities, this project will conduct research to understand how the FLCs affect participants' teaching beliefs and course practices as well as how the FLCs ultimately impact students in introductory classes. Award number: DUE 1712060 Start date: August 1, 2017 In the News

Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning (SEMINAL): UNL PI: Wendy Smith, with Co-PIs Allan Donsig and Nathan Wakefield at UNL; collaborator institution PIs Howard Gobstein (APLU), Robert Tubbs (U. Colorado-Boulder), and Chris Rasmussen (San Diego State U.). A fundamental goal of the project is to develop a better understanding of how to enact and support institutional change for implementing active learning mathematics (ALM) in undergraduate learning environments. This project will investigate environments at six institutions that have successfully improved student learning in the Precalculus-to-Calculus 2 (P2C2) sequence by employing active learning in mathematics (ALM), as well as nine other institutions in the process of institutionalizing ALM. The results of this work will lead to important strategies for adapting, implementing, supporting, and assessing ALM in P2C2 courses. Award number: DUE 1624643. Start date: September 1, 2016 In the News

Midwest Regional Noyce Dialogue: Funded by AAAS (as a subaward to a Noyce grant from NSF), Wendy Smith, PI. with Co-PIs Sharon Vestal, South Dakota State University and Lindsay Augustyn at UNL. We were invited to submit this proposal to host one of six AAAS-sponsored regional dialogues about preservice STEM teacher education. The dialog was held in May, 2017, and focused on discussing issues including the goals of preservice teacher education, college-level curriculum for preservice teacher education, faculty training/professional development related to teaching preservice teachers, and policy implications related to this work (including promotion & tenure policies related to excellent teaching of undergraduates).

The Winding Roads to Effective Teaching: Characterizing the Progressions in Instructional Knowledge and Practices of STEM Faculty: This NSF Faculty Early Career Development project will address a wide gap in the discipline-based education research literature about STEM faculty members' knowledge base for teaching and instructional practices. Specifically, the project will characterize how STEM faculty members' practical theories and their integration with instructional practices evolve in the contexts of different (a) levels of experience as faculty members; (b) climate, culture, and rewards structures of departments and institutions; and (c) formal and informal professional development experiences. Award number: CAREER DUE 1552448. Start date: March 1, 2016 In the News

DBER research community

DBER faculty at UNL represent a diverse span of STEM disciplines, including biology, chemistry, engineering, entomology, geoscience, mathematics. They study various populations from undergraduate students, to teaching assistants, future teachers, faculty and citizen. You can find the faculty engaged in DBER at UNL and learn more about their projects by visiting the directory page (coming soon!).