Our Research Interests

Our research group is interested in Chemistry Education Research and Institutional Change Research. How people learn chemistry (and other topics) is tied to so many factors before you arrive on campus, and many that are present in the classrooms. We are curious to learn more about how faculty training (professional development), in-class teaching strategies, and student background all play a role in student success.

Our team is currently working on a number of different facets of institutional change research. Learn more about each project below!

Measuring change in classroom environments

How do faculty change their classroom environment after participating in professional development workshops and communities of practice? We look to measure these changes with instruments like:

  • Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching (DART). Audio levels can tell you a lot about the teaching environment. See the seminal paper on this technology here.
  • Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate Sciences (COPUS). There is a lot you learn about teaching practices by observing it directly. While this is labor intensive, it is a very valuable way to collect data on classroom environments.
  • Post-secondary Instructional Practices Survey (PIPS). This survey allows faculty to reflect on their own teaching practices.

Developing the next generation audio data collection and analysis for teaching environments - DART 2.0

As mentioned above, we find the idea that you can correlate the audio level and signatures in a classroom to teaching practices fascinating. Hence, our group is not only using the SEPAL DART tool to analyze audio recordings from our participant faculty classrooms, we are working in two ways to expand this technology in collaboration with Dr. Kimberly Tanner and Dr. Melinda Owens (the original creators of DART):

  • We want to make the collection of audio recordings of classrooms easier and more secure through the Internet of Things. This involves building out a raspberry Pi to automatically capture the audio levels in a classroom, process it on the pi, and send only the analyzed data to our research group. This will remove many concerns faculty have of privacy (what they and students say won’t be accessible).
  • Working with a computer science collaborator here at UA Little Rock (Dr. Fanny Milanova and her group), we are trying to create the next generation of DART (2.0). The goals of this collaboration are to increase the range of class sizes where accurate data can be collected, separating out single voice interchange from single voice lecture, and validating the new algorithm in a variety of classroom types.

Studying development of a community focused on teaching and learning in STEM

Participation in a professional development environment, like a community of practice, can influence the enactment of evidence based instructional practices in STEM. A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who come together in pursuit of a common interest, such as sharing experience to solve a problem, creating common resources, generating new knowledge together, and/or communicating knowledge outside of the community (Wenger, 1999) Our community at UA Little Rock is currently in the transition phase from “Potential” (Stage 1) to Coalescing” stage (Stage 2) of CoP development which is characterized as making connections and negotiating community. It is important to understand how the “coalescing” phase occurs in the UA Little Rock context. The way that we are looking to understand this phase is through the lens of Regulation of Learning Theory which describes learning as happening through regulation of self-regulated (individual), co-regulated (peer- to- peer), and shared regulation (community) of learning. (Hadwin et al, 2017).

Student equity - increasing participation in the Learning Assistants program for students from Historically Underserved Groups

To build a more diverse STEM workforce, institutions seek to increase the representation of diverse groups in faculty and mentoring positions. The Learning Assistant (LA) near-peer student support program has the potential to bring diverse students into highly visible and impactful mentoring roles early in their college careers, benefiting both LAs and students in LA-supported courses. However, the demographic characteristics of potential students interested in the LA Program and the subsequent barriers to entry have yet to be investigated. Thus, our lab investigates the potential barriers to equitable participation in the LA Program to create inclusive practices in recruiting and retaining students who have been historically marginalized.

Kattoum, R. N.; Abbood, I., Huff, K. E., Baillie, M. T. Perceived Barriers to Equitable Participation in the Learning Assistant Program. J. Chem. Ed. 2023, 100, 7, 2495-2503.

Faculty mindset and teaching practices

Faculty professional development in evidence-based teaching practices is essential to institutional reform efforts in higher education, especially in STEM fields with high attrition rates and inequities in student representation. But is professional development enough to move the needle of student success, or are there other considerations underlying faculty mindset about intelligence being static (fixed mindset) or malleable (growth mindset)? The theory of planned behavior suggests that attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavior control work in tandem to initiate any changes in behavior. Hence, if faculty adopt teaching practices because of the norms set in that department but do not necessarily believe in those practices, this can result in minimal improvements in student outcomes. Thus, our lab also investigates 1) if there is a correlation between faculty mindset (self-identified and student-perceived) and teaching practices and 2) whether coupling a faculty growth mindset with active learning enhances student outcomes in STEM courses, especially for students from marginalized populations.