If You Build It… A Writing Intensive Cornerstone Course for STEM StudentsClif Kussmaul, Muhlenberg College email@example.com NCIIA 2012
NSF S-STEM grant DUE-0965834 Scholarships in Math & Science (SIMS) Improving Recruitment & Retention in the Mathematical & Physical Sciences• Financial aid (need-based scholarships)• Advising & support for academic & psychosocial issues• Mentoring & professional development• Faculty learning community to explore issues & possible strategies
We expected that a cornerstonecourse would improve STEM retention.• Developed by engineering schools to encourage & support students via – community building – professional development – real world activities, processes, & tools
We offered a STEM cornerstone using a First Year Seminar on new product development.• At Muhlenberg, a first year seminar – is a small discussion-oriented class – promotes intellectual conversation, critical thinking, and reading & writing – is based around instructor’s interests
FYS: Studying Problems, Creating SolutionsFYS: If You Build It…• Active-, inquiry-, & team-based activities• Reading, writing, & discussing variety of articles, chapters, & essays• Multidisciplinary design projects, e.g. – a pookalam – musical percussion instruments – new product development proposals
During pre-orientation, SIMS students created a pookalam.• Decorative pattern, for fall festival in south India• Traditionally of flowers; other materials common• Objectives for SIMS – Provide a novel design project, so students can investigate options, develop & implement a plan, and adjust as needed. – Show the design process outside of engineering. – Help SIMS students & advisors bond as a group. – Publicize SIMS program and the sciences in general.
Students worked in teams of 2-4 for 3 weeksto design & build percussion instruments.• Studied examples, designed concepts, & built prototypes.• Advice & feedback from local percussionist.• Finished instruments included: – flowerpot drum with adjustable head tension – hanging water bottles filled to different pitches – trapezoidal drum with multiple striking surfaces (wood, metal, & plastic) – PVC pipes cut to different pitches
Students developed new product proposals using a Stage-Gate model & templates.• Progressed from many ideas to a few concepts to larger team proposals & final presentations,• Favorably received by a faculty panel including Business & Entrepreneurial Studies faculty.• Final venture proposals included: – bracelets that change color with UV exposure – travel mugs that change color based on temperature – airplane seats for increased comfort – cups with separate dip compartments
Increased confidence in abilities. Less convinced of their importance?2010 Pre/PostSurvey pre-course post-course 3: Somewhat 2: Somewhat 3: Somewhat 2: Somewhat Unconfident Unconfident Unconfident Unconfident Confident Confident Confident Confident Average Average Change 1: Very 1: Very 4: Very 4: VeryLearning OutcomesRatingsConfidence in your abilityto:Work effectively in teams. 57% 43% 0% 0% 3.6 67% 33% 0% 0% 3.7 ↑0.1Develop & reviewproposals & reports. 14% 57% 29% 0% 2.9 50% 42% 8% 0% 3.4 ↑0.5Importance to your future:Work effectively in teams. 57% 36% 7% 0% 3.5 67% 33% 0% 0% 3.7 ↑0.2Develop & reviewproposals & reports. 79% 21% 0% 0% 3.8 75% 17% 0% 8% 3.6 ↓0.2
Clear desire for more writing. 2010 Post Survey Average 2: About 1: Too 3: Too Much Right How much time Little was devoted to: 1. writing 0% 42% 58% 1.4 2. speaking 0% 100% 0% 2.0 3. reading 8% 92% 0% 2.1 4. listening 0% 100% 0% 2.0 5. teaming 33% 67% 0% 2.3 6. tech. content 0% 83% 17% 1.7
SIR-II course evaluation ratings improved from 2010 to 2011. 2010 2011 # responding, # enrolled 12, 14 13, 15 Learning Increased 3.08 3.62 Made Progress Toward Objectives 3.25 3.69 Interest Increased 3.42 3.15 Helped Me Think Independently 3.75 3.46 Actively Involved Me in Learning 3.67 3.92 Outcomes mean 3.43 3.57 Studied and Put In Effort 3.00 3.62 Prepared for Each Class 3.06 3.54 Challenged 3.17 3.38Student Effort & Involvement mean 3.08 3.51
Overall, we are pleased with the FYS, and hope to offer it again in future years.• More examples & rubrics to clarify expectations.• Add more “academic” reading & writing.• Move some discussion to web-based forums.• Design & build percussion instruments earlier.• Allocate more time for teams & later proposals.
Clif Kussmaul (FYS instructor) firstname.lastname@example.orgJane Flood (SIMS PI) email@example.com This material is based upon work supported in part by NSF Grant DUE-0965834: Scholarships in Math & Science. Any opinions, findings, & conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.