UCI Professor Dr. Adrienne Williams is a professor who is leading the way today at the post-secondary level to increase engagement and undergraduate success in STEM education.
According to âSuccessful STEM Education,â a National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative that discusses the importance of success for STEM students that Williams advocates, the current demand for STEM workers is greater than the number of available applicants who have come forward. trained for specific STEM. careers. This is due in large part to the curriculum established by American Education Standards.
As reported by the 2016 Gallop Student Poll, the K-12 system has shown a decline in student engagement levels, where 74% of younger fifth graders remain engaged with classroom materials, while 34% of older Grade 12 students show less commitment to their education. This disengagement is also observed in STEM education. However, research has shown that students in any school or setting can engage in the STEM program and be successful in the field through transformed education in districts and schools. This transformation of education would include devoting more time to science and mathematics education. As this is implemented in K-12 schooling, the same changes are expected to occur at the college level.
The UCI Education Research Initiative, of which Williams is the associate director, actively seeks to address equity and educational achievement among the UCI undergraduate population. By making connections with under-represented, first-generation and low-income minority students, the initiative aims to âenhance educational experiencesâ.
The goals of the initiative focus on identifying and applying educational practices and policies that can help students. In this way, the initiative can increase success in post-secondary education while reducing educational inequalities that also present challenges for undergraduates.
With specific interests in teaching biology and equity in STEM education, Williams is heavily involved in the goals of the initiative.
Williams’ research in STEM education focuses on equity and achievement, and his research has shown that success is highly dependent on a student’s ability to interact with STEM course material. The increased interactions with STEM material were able to effectively facilitate active engagement and improved student performance.
In Williams’ research paper, “Seven Practical Strategies for Adding Active Learning to a Scientific Conference,” she lists seven useful strategies that faculty members can implement in their own classrooms.
Courtesy of Science Direct
Through the work, Williams says instructors often fail to recognize that students will differ in the amount of knowledge of the material since some may have been exposed to the science material before. Likewise, expectations about what the classroom will look like will also differ among students. By considering the diversity of these student voices, class engagement can improve.
According to the study, one of the most useful strategies in this area is Strategy # 4: Use âexamâ questions outside of exams. With this strategy, an instructor can plan an activity to facilitate small group discussions of recycled multiple-choice exam questions that are at a reasonable level of difficulty. According to Williams, this has proven to be beneficial for both students and instructors. Instructors will be able to provide a summary of the topic discussed in class that day, allowing them to assess how students interpret the questions and material. On the other hand, students will have the opportunity to assess their level of preparation for the science course, while remaining engaged with the material and creating a sense of community with their peers.
As collaborative discussions have been shown to facilitate active learning in a science classroom, Williams also emphasizes the importance of individual study strategies that students implement into their daily school routines.
âA Survey of Study Skills of First Year University Students: The Relationships of Strategy to Gender, Ethnicity and Course Type,â another article by Williams, examines the varying success of students pursuing a STEM major in college. Many students who are female, first generation, or underprivileged may be considered more affected by the transition to college when their performance in high school STEM courses does not compare to college STEM courses.
Researchers have often associated this academic performance with study skills that are not commonly used by students from under-represented groups. For example, Williams’ survey found that the self-test and replay strategies both showed an increase in top marks. However, these strategies were not used as much by under-represented students as they were by non-under-represented students. Flashcards had shown the opposite result, leading to lower grades as well as increased use among underrepresented students. This demonstrated that many students whose backgrounds did not expose them to the rigors of college courses were not accustomed to using study strategies related to better performance.
To learn more about Williams’ research in STEM education, student performance, and how to be successful in STEM, visit the UCI School of Biological Sciences website.
Korintia Espinoza is a STEM intern for the fall term 2021. She can be contacted at [email protected].