Educational Research

Engaging students with evidence-based teaching methods Visit Archived Education Projects

Our education research focuses on efforts to improve student learning by incorporating evidence-based practices in the classroom. Our broader objectives are to (i) increase the scientific literacy of students from all backgrounds and (ii) attract and retain a more diverse body of students to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Research Experiences in Authentic Laboratories (REAL) Science

We aim to develop, study, and share programs and curricula that attract and retain a diverse body of students to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The work, funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, targets a variety of students at different points in their educational trajectories:

  1. University of Michigan undergraduates now have the opportunity to take a redesigned organic chemistry laboratory course (CHEM 211) which reflects the realities of organic chemistry research. Students tackle timely, real-world problems in organic chemistry. At the same time, UM Chemistry department graduate student instructors, faculty, and postdoctoral teaching fellows will develop skills as educators employing hands-on, learner-centered pedagogies that empower students to learn by engaging in 'almost' authentic research.
  2. Our program funds summer research internships in the UM Chemistry department to provide authentic research experiences for local community college students. Participating students have opportunities to learn what it means to do chemistry research and pursue advanced study in chemistry at UM.
  3. High school students from across the globe come to Michigan as part of the Michigan Math & Science Scholar program. Our program runs a 2-week long camp focused on sustainable polymers. This unique opportunity enables high school students to gain experience doing real chemistry research in a summer camp-style setting.

in lab action shot

Research on each of these facets of the grant will focus on gaining a better understanding of what features of each program effectively promote and sustain student interest in further study and STEM careers. Research articles and publicly available, innovative curricula will be products of the research, so keep an eye on this space! See this HHMI Bulletin for a highlight.

Michigan Math & Science Scholars (MMSS) Program

This annual two-week summer camp serves to provide high school students with foundational skills in science and encourage them to pursue higher education in STEM fields. Our course focuses on topics within polymer science while providing the students with fundamentals of organic chemistry. Specifically, the focus is on sustainable polymers, ranging from understanding the environmental impact of polymers as well as methods for making more sustainable materials. The lab activities are designed to include experiments designed by the students, allowing them to formulate and test hypotheses based-off results obtained from previous experiments. These trials simulated what a “real” research lab workflow is like. Additionally, we include short field trips to demonstrate how the polymers they used in lab (e.g., polylactic acid) are found in real applications (e.g., 3D printing). We also include a creative project in the course, where students work in small groups to research and then create a stop-motion film to present to the class and post on YouTube. The structure of course gives them the tools to learn fundamental lab skills and the opportunity to independently learn more about specific areas that were of high interest to them. To keep with the program’s mission and encourage these student to continue to cultivate their scientific interests in the future, we include an undergraduate panel to discuss how to select, apply, and thrive in college. Additionally, there are many opportunities for the students to informally discuss their inquiries with the course instructors. The course is typically met with positive feedback from the students. Ongoing assessments are being used to evaluate student learning and course impact on their career aspirations.