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Ph.D. student in STEM Education travels to Japan to research STEM equity

STEM equity researcher, National Science Foundation fellowship recipient, Ph.D. candidate, and sushi connoisseur Jeanna Wieselmann shares her research agenda as she spends the semester in Japan partnering with Shizuoka University.

What is your degree program?

I am in the STEM Education Ph.D. program within the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  I plan to graduate in May of 2019.

What drove you to enroll in the STEM Education Ph.D. program?

I completed my undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota and spent several years teaching for a STEM non-profit.  As a STEM teacher, I observed students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields excelling.  I wanted to learn more about how to make quality STEM education accessible to all students, through quality curricular materials and support for teachers.  The University of Minnesota has amazing faculty and an integrated STEM program that perfectly matched my research interests.

What is your current research focus?

I am currently interested in gender equity in STEM and am looking at the factors that influence whether girls are interested in pursuing STEM careers.  Girls already tend to have less interest in STEM by the time they reach middle and high school, so I’m focusing primarily on the elementary grade levels in the hopes that quality elementary STEM experiences can help foster continued STEM interest.

You are in Japan this semester working on STEM education. Tell me about your goals for the semester and how the project came about.

I am interested in international perspectives on STEM, and I decided to visit Japan because my adviser, Dr. Gillian Roehrig, has cultivated a strong relationship with Dr. Yoshisuke Kumano from Shizuoka University. I was able to study through my National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This semester, I am working on two research projects.  The first project investigates middle school students’ perceptions of STEM and interest in STEM careers after participating in STEM activities through various programs.  The second project involves helping with teacher professional development focused on STEM and supporting these teachers as they implement STEM activities in their elementary classrooms for the first time.

What have you found surprising/challenging as an educator and researcher working across international borders?

This certainly hasn’t been a surprise, but the language barrier is a major challenge to conducting research across international borders.  I’m fortunate to be surrounded by Japanese colleagues who are willing to help me, but my ability to understand what is happening in a classroom is limited.  As a researcher, I’m also very aware of my positionality and am cautious about entering a new culture and pushing my beliefs and values on people. I’m working in collaborative groups with Japanese researchers to help ensure that the Japanese perspective is fairly portrayed in the research I conduct.

Which resources have you found through the department to help with your research?

The biggest resource that has helped with my research is the faculty within the department.  I learned a lot through my coursework, and I also have wonderful mentors who are willing to give advice and feedback on my work.  Every time I talk to another professor about my research, I leave with new ideas and new resources to explore. In addition, my fellow graduate students are irreplaceable for the support they provide.

And the key question: have you eaten the most delicious food in Japan?

The food in Japan is absolutely amazing!  There’s great, affordable sushi available everywhere, including the grocery store that’s a block away from my apartment.  One of my favorite meals was Okonomiyaki, a regional specialty of Hiroshima that features a savory pancake topped with cabbage and other veggies, noodles, meat, and a delicious special sauce.

Learn more about the Ph.D. in STEM Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

C&I PhD candidate Jeanna Wieselmann receives WPLC award

Jeanna Wieselmann2

Jeanna Wieselmann, a doctoral candidate in STEM Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction was selected for the 2017 Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Award (WPLC) as a “Rising Star” graduate student.

Wieselmann’s research is focused on gender equity in STEM education at the elementary school level. She is interested in gender equity in STEM, particularly in maintaining girls’ interest in STEM in the elementary years and beyond.

Wieselmann will be traveling to Japan this fall to work with colleagues there as they begin to introduce integrated STEM instruction in the classroom.

“I’ll help with STEM curriculum development and implementation, and I’ll study student perceptions of self and STEM, likely examining differences across contexts,” she says, including both different settings within Japan and as compared to the U.S.”

“I’m fortunate be at institution where women are well represented in the STEM fields, in my department in particular,” Wieselmann says of Department of Curriculum & Instruction where both of her advisors, Gillian Roehrig and Julie Brown, are female STEM faculty. “I would like to be a professor at a research institution, so seeing women in that role has definitely inspired me.”

Find out more about the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and the doctoral program in STEM Education.

Billington collaborates on NSF-funded grant to create interactive science education games

Barbara Billington, a science lecturer in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, will collaborate with University of Minnesota colleagues and educational technology company Andamio Games on a project funded by the National Science Foundation to produce a series of tablet-based lessons and challenges to help high school students master concepts related to photosynthesis and cell respiration. This project will enable students to learn difficult science concepts using a collaborative gaming approach that aims to significantly increase student engagement and understanding.

As part of the grant, Billington will partner with life science teachers from Saint Paul Public Schools to conduct a classroom study in the second year of the project. Lessons will be designed and research directed by both Billington and her colleagues Sehoya Cotner, associate professor in the College of Biological Sciences, and Christopher Desjardins, research associate at the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement.

“Science teacher feedback in Phase I of the project reconfirmed the value of our multi-player approach and also led us to the addition of a virtual biology lab,” said Andamio Games president Adam Gordon. “Teachers wanted their students to get a practical experience of scientific experimentation — including when it doesn’t go quite as expected — independent of the usual costs and time commitments for conventional lab experiments.”

Billington has a unique understanding of science classrooms after seven years teaching high school biology. She earned both her teacher licensure and Ph.D. in science education from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, where her current research focuses on training pre-service teachers and gender equity in STEM education.

Find out more about the science education programs in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.



C&I’s Gillian Roehrig appointed President of the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE)

Professor Gillian Roehrig has been elected to the prestigious role of President of the Association for Science Teachers Education (ASTE), a non-profit professional organization composed of over 800 members from countries around the globe.

Gillian Roehrig with past ASTE president, Malcolm Butler

The mission of ASTE is to “promote excellence in science teacher education world-wide through scholarship and innovation.” Members include teacher educators, scientists, science coordinators and supervisors, and informal science educators who prepare and provide professional development for teachers of science at all grade levels.

As both a professor of science education and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Roehrig’s professional focus is on advancing science teacher education and preparation.

She writes that her “research and teaching interests are centered on understanding how teachers translate national and state standards into their classrooms. Of particular interest is how teachers, from preservice through induction and into the inservice years, implement inquiry-based teaching and how different induction and professional development programs can influence teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and classroom practices.”

Roehrig’s brings her considerable experience and expertise to help steer ASTE in advancing science education practice and policy through scholarship, collaboration, and innovation in science teacher education.

Learn more about the science teacher education and research programs in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.





STEM Education Center receives donation from Lakeland Foundation

On Friday, February 26th, Chad Tverberg from the Lakeland Companies visited the STEM Education Center to present a donation from the Lakeland Foundation. Chad, a University of Minnesota alum, currently serves as Vice President of Engineering. Lakeland is a 60-year old, family-owned business that specializes in providing high-quality electrical component and systems solutions to industrial companies throughout the Midwest.

“At the Lakeland Companies, we share worthwhile work stories to help our employees understand that what we are doing here is more than just a job. Many times the solutions we provide to our customers are also beneficial to our communities,” said Chad. “Your work is a great example of something that is worthwhile. I am seeing some of the results first hand from my own teenagers who are benefiting from the STEM influenced curriculum at their school, to the engineering students that we have hired in recent years. You are making a positive impact on the community.”

(L-R) STEM Co-Director Karl Smith, Chad Tverberg, STEM Co-Director Kathleen Cramer, CEHD Senior Development Officer Jane Townsend

(L-R) STEM Co-Director Karl Smith, Chad Tverberg, STEM Co-Director Kathleen Cramer, CEHD Senior Development Officer Jane Townsend

Chad’s visit included a tour of the center and a conversation with STEM Center Co-Directors Kathleen Cramer and Karl Smith.

“Donations such as Lakeland’s afford the STEM Center opportunities to explore promising areas of research, support graduate students, and host events that broaden our impact and community,” said Karl.

The STEM Education Center thanks the Lakeland Foundation for its continued support.

STEM Advisory Board Member Receives CEHD Distinguished Alumni Award

STEM Education Center Advisory Board Member Natalie D. Rasmussen is the recipient of a 2015 CEHD Distinguished Alumni Award.

Dr. Rasmussen received her B.S. in Life Science from the University of Minnesota in 1990 and her Ph.D. in education from Curriculum and Instruction in 2006. Her commitment to mentoring young people, passion for public school leadership, and outstanding teaching in science education were highlighted when presented the award.

The College of Education and Human Development Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2010 to honor alumni who have brought distinction to their professions and communities. Recipients are community builders and leaders who span a diverse range of academic disciplines and career paths: business and civic leaders, counselors and social workers, educators and activists, entrepreneurs, and the most dedicated of volunteers. All recipients make a positive difference in the lives of children, youth, families, schools, and organizations, and whose achievements bring honor to the college.


Cargill Foundation to fund STEM Education Center and Minneapolis Public School’s program to develop STEM schools


The Cargill Foundation Board of Directors has approved a two-year capital grant in the amount of $300,000 to the STEM Education Center through the University of Minnesota Foundation to aid in the effort of developing STEM schools in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS).

Faculty members Gillian Roehrig and Julie Brown have partnered with MPS STEM Integrationists Betsy Stretch and Charlene Ellingson to direct and implement the newly awarded program.

The funds are in support of the STEM Education Center’s partnership with administrators at MPS secondary schools (Franklin, Olson, Ramsey, and Stanford middle schools) and one grade-nine STEM concept school (North High) to engage in new and innovative concepts to develop inclusive STEM school frameworks within Minneapolis Public Schools.

Four part-time graduate research assistants will be awarded a Cargill STEM Fellowship to carry-out the research necessary for this program, and additional funds will be used to provide professional development in the summers and academic years.

“We are pleased to partner with University of Minnesota Foundation and University of Minnesota’s STEM Education Center,” wrote Director of Cargill Foundation and Corporate Giving Tolá Oyewole. “We look forward to seeing the progress of the Developing STEM Schools in Minneapolis Public Schools Program over the next year.”

STEM Education Center Faculty Feature- Bhaskar Upadhyay

UpadhyayB-2004The end of the year marks a time of reflection and gratitude. We look for inspiration to begin a new year and we are thankful for what the previous year gave us. Recently back from sabbatical, Dr. Upadhyay reflected on his many projects and future plans but nothing was more impactful than his time spent in Nepal after the catastrophic earthquake that truly altered his life.

April 25th 2015 marked a tragic day for the citizens of Nepal. A magnitude 7.8 earthquake ravaged the country, leaving over nine thousand either injured or dead. Like so many Nepal natives, this event had a massive impact on Bhaskar Upadhyay’s life, but it did not break his spirit.

Still considering himself new to America, Bhaskar Upadhyay has been living and working in the education world for the past sixteen years. Influenced by his parents and dear friends who were unable to receive a formal education, Bhaskar pursued education to positively impact and educate future generations back in his Nepalese village. His research interests center around the proper conceptualization of the achievement gap and providing high quality STEM/STEAM education on a global scale.

Dr. Upadhyay’s sabbatical was supposed to be a time to focus on his research. He had begun a book project about STEAM education with reflective stories from fellow principals, teachers, and school administrators. However, after April 25th his plans were severely interrupted.

“The best use of my time while on sabbatical was being able to help a very small number of people in Nepal after the earthquake,” said Bhaskar.

Spending over two months in his hometown, Bhaskar helped schools rebuild their infrastructure and provided relief by talking with parents and children about the earthquake and how it changed their lives.

“It did change my life obviously. I think about my life and what I need to do and figure out more than I did before that. If I had to say what sabbatical really did I think that was the most important thing,” reflects Bhaskar.

Now back from sabbatical and in the United States, Bhaskar is focusing once again on completing his book on STEAM education and addressing proper perceptions of the achievement gap. He is also reflecting more on what STEM/STEAM education means to him and what it means to be a STEM/STEAM educator. This has proven to be a challenge for him, in that, philosophically Dr. Upadhyay believes STEM/STEAM is a good way to educate our youth but worries about losing the importance of the individual disciplines.

However, Bhaskar’s spirit and drive to understand and impact the world of STEM/STEAM is unwavering. Taking from his own personal interests in cooking and gardening, Bhaskar seeks to find stimulating and relevant contexts for children to learn STEM/STEAM concepts. He continues to look at how racialized experiences affect achievement gap and ways to create positive learning spaces for all youths.

Ultimately, Bhaskar looks forward to pursing work that touches his core and especially impacts teachers, parents and youth with the least privileges, whether they are in in the Twin Cities, Nepal, or elsewhere.

EngrTEAMS Represented at White House Next Generation STEM Learning Forum

The EngrTEAMS research project was represented by the lead PI, Dr. Tamara Moore, during the Next Generation STEM Learning for All Forum supported by the NSF on November 9th, 2015 at the White House.

The Next Generation STEM Learning for All Forum was a capstone event to a week of administrative events supporting next generation learning. Thought leaders across the nation were invited to the White House to focus on the potential to transform STEM Learning and Education, strategizing how to best achieve collective impact, and coordinate toward national goals for STEM Education.

Of the many activities throughout the event, a highlight of Dr. Moore’s experience was participating in a group discussion around achievement gap with fellow researchers as well as advocate, philanthropist and rapper MC Hammer.

“I believe I was selected to participate in the discussion around achievement gap because of the range of partner districts on the EngrTEAMS project that provide great insights and experience”, says Dr. Tamara Moore.

The EngrTEAMS project was also represented during a poster session designed to showcase NSF-funded research and development, engage a broad community of stakeholders and facilitate networking across stakeholder groups.

To learn more about the Next Generation STEM Learning for All Forum visit their website at http://www.nsfstemforum.edc.org

Dr. Karl Smith Presents at December CUE Meeting

Dr. Karl Smith, Co-Director of the STEM Education Center, presented at the Council for Undergraduate Education meeting held December 2nd at Walter Library.

Topics of discussion included the STEM Education Grand Challenge Proposal submitted by Dr. Smith and colleagues as well as feedback from the recent AAU STEM Conference held on October 13th-14th in St. Louis, MO. The STEM Education Center Communications Coordinator, Kelly Auxier, attended the AAU conference on behalf of the University and provided notes and feedback for the CUE meeting.

The Council for Undergraduate Education, formerly the Council of Undergraduate Deans, was formed to bring people together across the University to share information and recommendations on University initiatives in undergraduate education.

An agenda and presentation materials of the December CUE meeting are available at the CUE website.

STEM Education Center presents at East China Normal University

In May 2015, Dr. Jia-Ling Lin, research scientist from the STEM Education Center, and Prof. Tamara Moore (the former co-director of the STEM Education Center, now associate professor at the Purdue University) presented two lecture series in the East China Normal University (ECNU), awarded by the Lectureship for the Division of the International Courses for Graduate Students of ECNU: “Foundations of Precollege Integrated STEM Education” (Moore) & “Discourse Analysis and Nature of Dialogic Inquiry in STEM Education” (Lin).

In 2014, Prof. Moore and Dr. Lin were invited to become distinctive oversea professors for the Collaborative Innovation Center for National Education Policy-making (CICNEP), following the STEM Center delegation visit to the ECNU in spring 2013. Members of the delegation included Prof. Karl Smith, the center co-director, Prof. Moore, and Dr. Lin. The delegation was received by the Vice President of the ECNU, Dr. Ren Youqun, who expressed interests in establishing and developing collaborations with UMN.

Karl Smith invited to talk at American Association of Physics Teachers Meeting

Karl Smith gave an invited talk at the 2015 Summer Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers at their meeting in College Park, Maryland on July 28, 2015.

The Session was Research on Teamwork, and his talk with titled Teamwork: Insights from 40 Years of Research and Practice.

Systematic research on teamwork (or groupwork as it is referred to by many researchers) has been conducted for well over 40 years. I started experimenting with cooperative learning in my engineering classes in the early 70s. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning. High performance teamwork is at the heart of effective use of cooperative learning. I’ll summarize key findings of the research that informed the implementation of cooperative learning as well as the development of Teamwork and project management, now in its 4th edition. As physics instruction shifts to an increasing use of challenge-based learning (e.g., problem based, SCALE-UP, inquiry based, etc.) understanding and implementing effective teamwork is essential.

AAPT Summer Conference 2015
Session EK: Research on Teamwork
Smith – Teamwork: Insights from 40 years of Research and Practice [Smith-AAPT-Teamwork-v7.pdf]

EngrTEAMS Highlighted in Start Engineering Newsletter

Congratulations to the EngrTEAMS project for their mention in the latest Start Engineering newsletter. Start Engineering is a learning resources company dedicated to inspiring and engaging children from elementary to high school about engineering. Their newsletter highlights engineering education activities from a variety of sources from business to universities. For more information about the EngrTEAMS project, read here.

Dr. Julie Brown to Receive Rising Star Faculty Award

Congratulations to Dr. Julie Brown, Assistant Professor of Science Education-C&I and STEM Education Center colleague for receiving the 2015 Rising Star Faculty Award from the CEHD Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle. Dr. Brown will receive the award at the Circle’s annual recognition ceremony on Tuesday, June 16th at the Town and Country Club in St. Paul.

The Rising Star Award recognizes a pre-tenure female faculty member in the College of Education and Human Development who has demonstrated leadership and creativity in an academic area as show by research, teaching, and service. This award requires a nomination process with a detailed letter describing the nominee’s qualifications as well as a letter from the nominee describing their teacher philosophy and research interests. The recipient will receive a $1,000 award for professional development.

Read more about this award and the CEHD Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle here.

The STEM Education Center is proud to have Dr. Julie Brown as a member of our team. Congratulations!

CEHD Recognizes Dr. Post’s Many Accomplishments

The STEM Education Center would like to congratulate Dr. Tom Post for the wonderful recognition he received yesterday for his many years of service in CEHD.PostT The College of Education and Human Development hosted its Spring Assembly & Recognition Ceremony on Tuesday, April 21st at the DQ lounge of the TCF Bank Stadium. Along with Dr. Post, fifteen other retirees were  recognized and awards were given for various accomplishments by CEHD faculty, staff, and students. The STEM Education Center is proud to have such an accomplished colleague and will be sad to see him leave in the coming months.

STEM Education Center’s Karl Smith will receive ASEE Lifetime Achievement Award

The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) is awarding Karl Smith, professor emeritus and co-director of the STEM Education Center, with the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. Smith will be presented with the award during the 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition on June 15 in Seattle, Washington.

The ASEE Awards Policy Committee identifies the recipient of this award through a thorough nomination process complete with references and a final selection.

The 2015 ASEE Lifetime Achievement Award consists of a $2,000 honorarium and up to $1,000 in travel reimbursement to accept the award, as well as a plaque and a framed certificate.

The STEM Education Center would like to congratulate Professor Smith with this outstanding achievement!

Read more about him and his work on his bio page and on the STEM Education Center website.

Fellows Continue John Haugo Mission

The STEM Education Center is proud to announce its two new John Haugo Fellowship recipients Emily Dare and Bethann Wiley. The John Haugo Fellowship is granted to students in their final year of their PH.D. program to aid in the completion of their research.

Emily Dare
Emily Dare

This fellowship will enable me to conduct the research for my dissertation. My work will examine the attitudes and beliefs of students who are exposed to girl-friendly and integrated STEM instructional strategies. Specifically this work will focus on middle school physics in hopes of understanding what might influence girls’ interest in the field. My passion for this area of research arises from my own experiences as a woman in physics and wanting to understand why there is such low representation of women in physics-related careers.

Bethann Wiley

I am very honored and excited to receive the Haugo Fellowship.  This fellowship will allow me to focus deeply on the analysis of my data for my dissertation as well as writing my dissertation.  I plan to expand on a previous study that I was involved with in the CAREI Center on Flipped Classrooms at the elementary level.  I am interested in understanding to what extent various models of “flipping” align with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Principles for high quality mathematics instruction for all students.  I would also like to develop a richer understanding of how the Flipped Classroom model impacts students’ attitudes toward and achievement in mathematics.  The idea of “flipping” a classroom has become a very popular idea across the country however there is an extremely small amount of literature to support this model and virtually no research, except the CAREI study, on “flipping” at the elementary level.  I hope to move this body of research forward with my study at the elementary level specifically focusing on student impact and mathematics teaching and learning within the Flipped Classroom model.

EngrTEAMS Fellows Scheduled to Present at E4 Conference in November 2014

EngrTEAMS Teacher Fellows, Ann Pelletier, David McGill, Heidi Sundet and Shelley Norton have been accepted to present at the 2014 E4 Conference in St. Paul on November 18th, 2014. Below is the description of their presentation and registration for the E4 conference can be found at www.theworks.org

Rockin’ Good Times with Earthquakes

9:30 to 10:45 a.m.

Capacity 30

Ann Pelletier,Como Park Elementary School,Shelley Norton, Bruce F. Vento Elementary School, Heidi Sundet, Expo Elementary School & David McGill, Capitol Hill School,St. Paul Public Schools

Experience a STEM-based unit about engineering in earthquake-prone areas. Use the seismometer app on an iPad to see how seismic waves are measured and graphed. Work within design constraints and test assorted earth materials and select one substrate to anchor an amusement park ride. The design will then be tested on a shake table.

Dare, Ellis and Roehrig Publish J-PEER Article

Graduate students, Emily Dare and Josh Ellis along with Professor, Dr. Gillian Roehrig recently published a new article in the Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER) titled, “Driven by Beliefs: Understanding Challenges  Physical Science Teachers Face when Integrating Engineering and Physics”. The STEM Education Center would like to congratulate them on this great accomplishment and encourage our STEM community members to read their excellent work.