Discipline-Based Education Research

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Nebraska's Brian Couch talks with students in LIFE 120, the university's introductory biology course

What is DBER?

The primary goal of the Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) group is to study college-level STEM education through learning sciences and education research that is grounded within the cognate expertise of STEM disciplines. DBER research and change efforts work to inform college-level STEM education, drawing on multi-faceted inputs and support. Thus, the DBER Group is composed of faculty, staff and students from STEM, education and other fields who share a common interest in studying and transforming STEM education (formal and informal, PK-16+) through both basic and applied research. The group meets on a weekly basis via an informal STEM Education Seminar and Journal Club where we learn more about current STEM education research and activities in formal (grades PK-16+) and informal (outreach activities and museums) educational settings. Together we explore questions and ideas of mutual interest that deal with STEM education and STEM education research. All are welcome to attend. In addition to our seminar, we also host other types of activities such as workshops and socials.

X-DBER Conference

Join us March 1-3 for X-DBER Conference

The DBER community at UNL invites you to an online conference to discuss how theories, methods, and application of education research cross disciplinary boundaries from March 1-3, 2021. The goal of this conference is to bring together DBER researchers from across disciplines (e.g., biology, chemistry, engineering, geoscience, math, physics) to learn about ongoing research and develop future directions. The meeting centers on five themes: educational tools and interventions; learning and cognitive research; diversity, inclusion, and equity; student experiences and affect; and integrating disciplinary practices. The meeting will allow researchers and practitioners to identify synergies in theoretical and research approaches across disciplines to help the diverse communities solve novel problems and translate research into classroom practices. This virtual setting will allow researchers across all ranks (e.g., graduate students, postdocs) to present their work to a national audience and help connect these researchers to broader communities and research projects. Register by Feb. 21

A representation of faculty networks at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, University of South Florida and Boise State University. Each node represents a faculty member, with the arrows signifying discussions, the size of the nodes corresponding to the use of evidence-based instructional practices, and colors denoting different STEM disciplines within the universities. Jacob McAlpin | University of South Florida

Study: Forward-thinking faculty sharing innovations mostly among themselves

Eager to learn the latest in instructional practices that research says will better engage and educate her students, an assistant professor of biochemistry attends a virtual workshop devoted to exactly that. A seminal theory proposed in the mid-20th century would suggest that she, as an early adopter of the innovations, might share them with fellow faculty in her department, maybe in her college, possibly even across her university. New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that she will, too — but probably just with the choir of faculty who are already practicing what she’s preaching. Surveys and network analyses of 192 STEM faculty at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, University of South Florida and Boise State University revealed that frequent users of evidence-based instructional practices are far more likely to engage one another than colleagues less familiar with the practices. The finding suggests that faculty networks alone are not enough to disseminate and drive the adoption of evidence-based practices that could improve undergraduate instruction and address inequities for students historically underserved by STEM classrooms.

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Brian Couch

Biology education research earns Couch national award

Brian Couch, associate professor of biological sciences, teaches two consecutive sections of UNL's introductory biology course to 400 undergrads three days a week. You might think the newest recipient of the Research in Biology Education Award, given annually by the National Association of Biology Teachers, would have total confidence in his classroom capabilities. Not quite. “My research, and the research of others, makes me insecure about my teaching,” Couch said, laughing but only half-joking from his second-floor office in Manter Hall. “I’m constantly thinking about how we can make our courses better. In an ideal world, all of my students would succeed. Everybody would learn everything. When we fall short of that, that’s what keeps me up. That’s what gets me here to do more research and analysis.” Learn more about Couch and his award.

Marilyne Stains, associate professor of chemistry, watches a class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Stains and her colleagues have authored a new study showing that traditional lecturing remains the most common teaching style for undergrad classes in science, technology, engineering and math. Craig Chandler/University Communication

Lesson learned? Massive study finds lectures still dominate STEM ed

An analysis of more than 2,000 college classes in science, technology, engineering and math has imparted a lesson that might resonate with many students who sat through them: Enough with the lectures, already. Published March 29 in the journal Science, the largest-ever observational study of undergraduate STEM education monitored nearly 550 faculty as they taught more than 700 courses at 25 institutions across the United States and Canada. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Marilyne Stains and her colleagues found that 55 percent of STEM classroom interactions consisted mostly of conventional lecturing, a style that prior research has identified as among the least effective at teaching and engaging students.

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Brian Couch

Couch featured in Neuronline's Methods to Improve Student Learning

“Thinking about the evidence behind how we teach and what we teach is important,” reflects Brian Couch, assistant professor at Nebraska. Couch, featured by Neuronline by the Society for Neuroscience, and his research group seek to understand the undergraduate science education system and identify methods to improve student learning. Undergraduate neuroscience is a broad field with diverse students. Identifying and using tested teaching practices with demonstrated efficacy in the classroom can help educators assess their students’ success and adequately prepare them for future careers. Watch this video to learn how to start small and incorporate specific evidence-based activities into your classroom to improve student learning.

Shape of daylight

Lee's interactive teaching tool for astronomy featured in Washington Post

An article on the fall equinox in the Washington Post features graphics that were adapted from Kevin Lee's interactive teaching tools on the Nebraska astronomy site, the Daylight Hours Explorer. Lee also has seen through Google Analytics that more than 160 major universities have used the tools at astro.unl.edu and the site had more than 1.6 million sessions in 2016, with nearly 2 million hits expected by the end of 2017. Read more

Jenny Dauer
Jenny Dauer, assistant professor of natural resources, speaks with a student about a decision-making exercise. Dauer's forthcoming research is on using the decision-making model to teach scientific literacy. | Greg Nathan, University Communication file photo

Dauer earns NSF grant to assess science, decision-making course

A nearly $300,000 National Science Foundation grant will help a University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher develop assessments and hone a foundational science course that focuses on teaching students science and decision-making skills.

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Leilani Arthurs
Leilani Arthurs, assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences, sculpts a river bed into the new augmented-reality sandbox in Bessey Hall. Craig Chandler | University Communication

Arthurs, Searls introduce an innovative technology to help EAS students

Augmented-reality technology is helping Earth and Atmospheric Sciences students visualize geologic features and explore landscape dynamics. EAS has built a sandbox with a computer with a stellar video card, a projector, a Microsoft Kinect gaming sensor and, of course, 200 pounds of sand, to help students better understand geologic formations and mentally translate the landscapes normally depicted on 2-D topographic maps. Check out this video with DBER faculty Mindi Searls and Leilani Arthurs.

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2017 Nebraska K-12 Science Education Summit

Science Education Summit delves into three dimensions of learning

Nearly 250 people attended the 2nd annual statewide Nebraska K-12 Science Education Summit on Dec. 11, 2017, at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln. The summit gave participants the opportunity to get an update on Nebraska’s new College- and Career-Ready Standards; explore 3-dimensional learning, phenomena, and integrated science; learn about innovative K-12 science curriculum, resources, and programs developed by university faculty; and engage with science education stakeholders from across Nebraska. More than 150 K-12 teachers attended and were joined by Nebraska Department of Education officials; school district science directors; ESU science staff developers; and Nebraska faculty, staff, and graduate students.

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