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Deep teaching in a college STEM classroom: Part 2

At our May 25 meeting, we discussed the second half of the article, “Deep teaching in a college STEM classroom”, by Bryan M. Dewsbury, in Cultural Studies of Science Education (2020) 15: 169-191 (Dewsbury Deep Teaching).  Consider the following questions:


In what way is learning is a social behavior, as proposed in the article? Here are some of our thoughts:

  • This is hard to figure out than it first appears.
  • Learning in person is easier for most people—meaning, there must be social aspects.
  • Student success is better with interaction.
  • Small group learning is generally more effective—why?
  1. How can we communicate more empathy to students?
  • Use courseware to help students master content outside of class in order to free up in-person class time
  • Obtain demographic info on the students prior to each semester (from IR)
  • Give a student survey asking them about their previous experience with science classes, what will help you be successful, and/or their feelings on group work.
  • Do a reflection the first day, “I believe…” They can pick a core value to shape their decisions in life.  Pick one, any value they have.
  • Tell the class why you are doing this.
  • Give them opportunities to get know each other (e.g., small group discussions).
  • Give the students meaningful projects they can contribute to and feel a part of.
  • Try to get to know what they want to do. One participant shared that on the first day of class, asks the students to post a photo of what biology means to them.  She gets interesting photos (ex. butterflies, babies/giving birth, themselves, photosynthesis).
  1. What social assets do the different kinds of students bring to class that can be leveraged?
    • Leverage your own experiences as a model when teaching.
    • Try to make it personal. For example, consider sending an email to students at the beginning of each module with the question, “Does anyone have any experience with this?”
  • When teaching about pollination, one participant discovered that several students had relatives who were beekeepers in their home countries.
  • Another shared how she has asked her Comparative Anatomy students to bring in a photo of their vertebrate pets, or a photo of a vertebrate pet they would like to have.
  • Some students can contribute personal experiences when they do the topic of alcohol production (fermentation) in microbiology.
  • On the topic of ethnobotany the instructor can ask the students about home remedies.


  1. Try to use examples/models that show diversity. For example:

When we discuss research with students, show photos of students who are minorities.

Continued: Plans to address challenges to student success in STEM at KCC


Continued discussion of plans for a study of challenges to and strategies for student success in STEM at KCC


Goal: (from previous meeting)

Identify obstacles and challenges to student success in STEM at KCC, and determine to what extent evidence-based strategies are employed at KCC to address these challenges


Effects of Mindset on success:

  • Faculty mindset (fixed vs. growth):
    • Revise the language of the survey: use the word “ability” instead of “talent” or “intelligence”
    • Compare the results to average grades in each instructor’s class
  • Student mindset:
    • Compare results to STEM grades and overall GPA
  • Create our own version of the survey in-house


How to proceed

  • Recruit faculty from each STEM dept to act as liaison and participate in this effort
  • Contact chairs (Math, Bio, Physical Sciences) to explain our goal and ask for their support and ideas
  • Review the AMP to see what is already being done to identify challenges to STEM success
  • Connect with KCTL and KCeL to see what they may be doing along these lines


More potential challenges students may face:

  • Connection to the community, belonging and identifying with STEM communities
  • Disconnect between faculty and student expectations
  • Advisement relationships
  • Gender/racial achievement gaps

Readings for Spring 2016

1st Session

  • Freeman, Scott, et al. “Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.23 (2014): 8410-8415. (Link)
  • Theobald, Roddy, and Scott Freeman. “Is it the intervention or the students? Using linear regression to control for student characteristics in undergraduate STEM education research.” CBE-Life Sciences Education 13.1 (2014): 41-48. (Link)

2nd Session

  • Dunlosky, John, et al. “What works, what doesn’t.” Scientific American Mind 24.4 (2013): 46-53. (Link)
  • Nehm, Ross H. “Understanding undergraduates’ problem-solving processes.” Journal of microbiology & biology education 11.2 (2010). (Link)

3rd Session

  • Carpenter, Shana K., et al. “Using spacing to enhance diverse forms of learning: Review of recent research and implications for instruction.” Educational Psychology Review 24.3 (2012): 369-378. (Link)
  • CUNY Office of Academic Affairs, “Best Teaching Practices” (2011) (Link)