Five projects selected for dB-SERC awards

Since 2014, the Discipline-Based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC) has supported faculty members in developing projects designed to bring innovation to teaching and learning in the natural sciences.. 

This year, dB-SERC has awarded four Course Transformation Awards. Recipients receive funds for equipment, student support, or summer salary for faculty. dB-SERC also awarded one mentor-mentee award to support projects conducted by students and faculty working together.  

Course Transformation Awards 

Mastery-based grading in Chem 0110 General Chemistry 1: Sean Garrett-Roe (Department of Chemistry)

This project will build on a previous course transformation that involved curating frequent, low-stakes assessments that center student learning. Now, Garrett-Roe will validate his initial pool of General Chemistry assessment questions, increase the number and variety of complex questions, and expand the assessment infostructure to maximize the transferability of mastery-based grading.  

Helping General Chemistry Students Use Spaced Practice to Improve Learning: Peter Bell (Department of Chemistry)

For this project, Bell will create a large database of General Chemistry 2 questions. Then he will implement brief daily assignments to replace longer out-of-class assignments. This will allow students to be more aware of their progress, be able to seek out help earlier, and will discourage limiting studying to long intense sessions immediately before exams.  

Transforming Large Lecture-Based STEM Courses Through Personalized Coaching: Expanding ECoach at Pitt into Introductory STEM Courses: Jessica Wandelt (Department of Biological Sciences), Jennifer Ganger (Department of Psychology) and Lingfeng “Kitty” Liu  (Department of Chemistry) 

“ECoach” is a personalized coaching tool that supports student success through tailored communication and interventions. Wandelt, Ganger, and Liu will implement ECoach into two large-enrollment courses (Introductory Biology and General Chemistry 1) to provide a strong foundation of study skills, meta-cognitive awareness and equitable resources to incoming first-year students at Pitt. 

Research Writing in Physics: Gurudev Dutt (Department of Physics and Astronomy) and Jennifer Keating (Institute for Writing Excellence) 

Dutt and Keating will create a new physics course for undergraduate and graduate students so that students can develop a variety of communication skills needed in the field. Students will learn how to move from research design and analysis of results to disseminating findings. The course will include skills related to reading and writing journal articles as well as technical reports, grant proposals, and fellowship applications.  

Mentor/Mentee Award 

Help Students Learn to Learn Chemistry: Mentor, Margaret Vines, and mentees Nicole Saltzman and Nicholas Corsello (Department of Chemistry)  

This project will develop a new program that allows students to not only gain extra practice in chemistry problem solving, but also to hone their skills justifying their thought processes and developing scientific intuition.