Erin Baumgartner

Research in Science Education: Current Research

* Non-majors instruction- impact on content acquisition and attitudes about science

Figure: Proportion of students in Biology 101 with previous laboratory science.


- This project examines how students who are not biology majors are impacted by taking introductory survey courses. By collecting data on content knowledge (aligned to course learning outcomes) and on attitudes about science before and following participation in an introductory biology course, I am trying to gain understanding of how different instructional strategies can increase the value of introductory biology courses for people who do not plan to major in science. I am also examining how a variety of demographic factors may or may not influence student performance in an introductory course. I was honored for my research work with biology novices with the 2011-2012 Four Year College & University Section Research in Teaching Award by the National Association of Biology Teachers.

- In collaboration with Dr. Ava Howard, I am conducting an examination of how the evaluation strategies we use impact student study habits and anxiety about evaluation. Currently we are using a series of short, regular low-stakes exams in some course sections and more traditional high-stakes midterms in others. Both exams include indicator questions that allow us to compare content performance and students complete anonymous surveys about their study habits and exam anxiety. We are also collecting data on how the type of exam question influences student performance.

I am currently Co-PI on an NSF-funded grant, The NW Biosciences Research Consortium, that brings together faculty from a variety of institutions in the Pacific NW to examine mechanisms for and impacts of implementing recommendations made by AAAS in the Vision & Change in Undergraduate Biology Education document.

Presentations and resources produced as a result of these activities can be found on the visionandchangeatwou page.

question type and student performance
Figure: student exam score correlated with raw score on multiple choice questions versus open ended questions.

* Science partnerships

estuaryWorking in the Salmon River Estuary with Biology and Education students. Photo by Alfonsa Wilson

- Throughout my career, I've been involved in many different science partnerships, and have been asking the question: what are the characteristics of succesful and unsuccesful science-education partnerships? Currently, I am working with Dr. Karen Haberman on an Oregon Sea Grant funded project that has brought together Biology and Education majors to collaborate in the development of inquiry-based lesson plans that highlight estuarine ecology. These students had a common research experience in the Salmon River Estuary as part of Dr. Haberman's research monitoring invertebrates in recovering marshes of different ages. Following that experience, they worked together to build lesson plans to engage K-12 students in understanding scientific processes and estuarine ecology. Some of these students will be presenting their activities to teachers in a workshop this summer.

As part of the Salmon River project, Biology graduate and MAT candidate Tyler Orr conducted a study to examine how scientific inquiry experience identifying benthic invertebrates impacted content knowledge and selected scientific skills of the "expert" Biology majors and "novice" Education majors. Tyler's work is being presented at the Oregon Academy of Science February 2012.

- A project that I currently have under development is an investigation of the perceived barriers to engaging in Citizen Science projects among the scientific community. Although there is some strong evidence for this mechanism as an excellent means to accomplishing both scientific and educational goals, many scientists have reservations about engaging in such partnerships. By surveying randomly selected scientists from different disciplines, I hope to uncover what perceptions may be influencing the likelihood of engaging in Citizen Science partnerships.

* Teaching Science as Inquiry- Professional Development for Ocean Literacy

- I am a consulting curricululm developer on this project, led by Dr. Kanesa Duncan of the Curriculum Research & Development Group and Hawaii Sea Grant at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.