RA Lupe's reflections on the year:
If I had to describe my experience in this project it would be incredibly welcoming. From the start everyone was so easy to talk to and become friends with. These past three quarters have been great, it saddens me that the last quarter of us as a group wasn’t as we planned. I could easily say that Fall quarter was by far my favorite. When I think of Fall I remember when we all first met and how we each learned how to transcribe and how to work the cameras. I will always remember how nervous we all were when learning to set up the cameras for the first time, and how accomplished we felt after having it down.
One of my favorite memories from Fall quarter is starting the Researcher Club. Meeting students and seeing them engage and wanting to learn more of what research is was amazing. I always looked forward to the meeting and hearing all their ideas even if it was just two students, it was great to see them excited about something. I also enjoyed small talk with the students about college and the questions they had regarding different career paths. Let’s not forget about the pizza, it was delicious! I am also glad I had the chance to attend classroom observations and see how the camera's work is done and also get a better look at how the classroom is run first hand. Same thing goes with the PD, it was so interesting seeing all the teachers bounce ideas off each other on how to improve and get their students more engaged with science. Let’s not forget the RA meetings, those were always fun. Dana and Jasmine always had the best ice breakers and the M&Ms were great too!
The one word I would choose to describe Spring Quarter would be “interesting”. This quarter was quite different for all of us. From getting used to a new environment and getting adjusted with online classes. Spring quarter we dealt with student letters which was great seeing how students showed affection to their loved ones when explaining to them why they chose the car they did. RA meetings were always fun, it was nice interacting with others due to all of us having to be in quarantine.
In all thank you Jasmine and Dana for giving me the opportunity to be part of this project. I would also like to thank you for constantly helping and giving us words of advice when it comes to our academic goals. I am thankful to have met everyone in this project and wish everyone the best.
RA Yasmeen's reflections on the year:
Over the past three quarters working on our team’s research project, what I have enjoyed the most is having been a part of some of the main steps of the research process from the Design a Car for a Loved One unit. From attending professional development meetings discussing alternative assessments, to coding and analyzing themes in student work based on those same assessments, I am so glad to have been able to participate in such a project. For example, the earliest Professional Development meeting I attended was where teachers from the physics department came together under the guidance of Dr. Kang and discussed initial student work regarding the new unit in order to apply and understand physics concepts taught in class. I remember reading excerpts of student initial work then and compared that to the students' final assessments, which reflected not only physics content, but their own personal tastes and affection for family members, as they designed features to keep their loved ones safe while also attending to their personal tastes and preferences.
That having been my initial exposure to the project, I have been able to interact with the following outcomes of the project, such as attending one teacher’s introduction of the unit to her students, decoding student work, reading letters students wrote to their loved ones, and finally coding student letters to analyze major themes in student work.
Having the ability to work for an extended period of time on such a project has been highly rewarding as we have been able to see growth in student thinking, and have been able to interact with different pieces of data, such as teacher interviews, classroom observations, and analysis of student work. I look forward to resuming our team’s research in the fall!
We have been working on qualitative data analysis including coding student letters as a team. Though these times of isolation have brought many changes in our lives, I believe it has allowed for us to grow as a team as we continue to work together virtually. It has been a gratifying experience to get to read over and code some of the letters students wrote as part of their unit for physics.
The physics team put a lot of thought in creating a unit that teaches science in a way students can find meaningful. The unit asks students to design a safe and efficient car for a loved one and has students write a letter to that loved one explaining their reasoning behind those features. In their letters, students demonstrated deep thinking and made connections between the physics content taught in class and their personal lives. For example, one student wrote “These features are all meant to either prevent you from getting into a collision, or in the event of a collision, increase the time of a collision, which would decrease the force felt by you and the babies,” demonstrating knowledge about physics content and attributing it to the safety of their sister, and their nieces and nephews.
It was very enlightening to see how students took something they cared about and used that to understand a much larger scientific concept and then applied it to their everyday lives and those of others. In the following example, Newton’s Laws of Motions allowed this student to understand the importance of seat belts in ensuring their brother’s safety, “The most important aspect of the car is the good seat belts because seat belts actually decrease the risk of injury up to 59% because it helps fight against Newton’s 1st Law. Newton’s 1st Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force." It was almost as if I was able to get a glimpse of each student’s thought process through these letters! Continue reading below for an example letter that we all wanted to highlight.
Undergraduate Research Assistant
A Physics Unit Students Will Never Forget
I’ve been curious about the field of education for years now, but only recently have I seriously begun going into it as a career. As I work towards my bachelor’s degree in physics, I chose to take up the education concentration so I can learn more about what it’s like being an educator. Going through those classes opened my eye to the wonders of teaching, so much so that I became a volunteer for Tustin High School’s student physics presentations.
Students in physics classes had spent two months learning about momentum concepts in the Fall. They learned about the forces in play and how mass and velocity affect it. But most importantly, this specific unit called for real-life examples to engage students’ interests in momentum. Students were to design a car for their loved one, keeping in mind safety features so that the vehicles can withstand car crashes.
UC Irvine researchers and high school teachers worked together during the Fall semester to design this physics unit to learn more about optimal science learning. One of the big goals here was for students to turn their science learning into meaningful connections and bring science outside the classroom. Students were also encouraged to be creative with their designs and to write a letter to a loved one who would receive this car. At the end of it all, groups of students presented their car designs in minute long presentations to physics judges.
I came in as a judge, evaluating students on the physics and momentum knowledge they learned and demonstrated in each presentation. It was great to see the result of all these students’ hard work and effort. I listened to students excitedly pitch their car designs with safety features designed to protect their loved ones. I only learned later about how much time these students, teachers, and researchers dedicated to this momentum unit. I could tell that not only would the results of this project be beneficial to educators everywhere, but the high school students would also keep this in their hearts as a fond learning experience. Though I wish I had a chance to view the designing process, I still had an amazing experience seeing the designs and presentations these students crafted themselves.
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Tustin High School CHEMISTRY OBSERVATIONS
What occurred today?
Today, chemistry teachers at Tustin are preparing their students to learn more about stoichiometry by introducing them to units and by helping students realize the importance of relating quantities. The lesson helped students by having them bring in their own ideas, and by allowing them to actively work with everyday quantities. Since teachers were aware of the difficulties students have with math, it was very amazing to see how teachers were adjusting their lessons to better support their students. Also, from observing all three teachers, it was evident that the lesson was purely a team effort done by the Chemistry Team.
What is stoichiometry and why is it important to learn?
The lesson introduced students to key mathematical techniques and ideas used in stoichiometry. Stoichiometry comes from the idea that mass is conserved during a chemical reaction, where reacting molecules have the option to break or form new bonds to produce new molecules. During this process, students will realize that the number of atoms of each element should be equivalent before and after the reaction. With this new insight, students are able to relate quantities of reactant to know how much product will be produced during any given reaction. Stoichiometry plays an important role in understanding how the components of a chemical reaction are related to one another and can help students give meaning to numerical values commonly found in chemistry.
Undergraduate Research Assistant
INSIGHT FROM PHYSICS STUDENTS
As an undergraduate researcher, one of my tasks is to transcribe student and teacher interviews and capture their insights and their experiences with the curriculum. In a unit where students studied momentum, they elaborated on one activity in which they designed a car for their loved one and had to implement safety features for the passenger in case of an accident. Often times when I think back to my science classes, we were not asked about how the content was tied to our personal lives. We might have gotten an example of how it affects our lives in an every-day style, but when the teachers in this study elicited their students thinking of their loved ones, students’ intrinsic motivation was fostered, and they wanted to learn how to keep loved ones safe.
In the following quotes, we see how students have positively perceived the new ways in which teachers are presenting physics topics to them. One student explains, “He’s not one of those teachers that’s like, ‘well if you don’t get it, then that sucks, that is how I am teaching you’. He will figure out a different way.” Another student said, “A lot of students learn different ways between like notes and labs and it’s important to find a balance.” For these students, having a different way to learn the content was crucial to their education. Being able to find different ways to present this information is helpful for students who do not learn in traditional ways (i.e. lectures and note-taking). Being able to present other means of learning, like connecting it to their personal lives, gives them a new internalized motivation for them to create a car that can protect their loved ones from a crash.
I was also present the day that students presented their designed car models and what safety features they implemented to help ease the impact of an accident. Students were both given the opportunity to design their car in terms of their loved one’s favorite type of car, color, style, and brand, while thinking of what safety features to include outside and inside of the cars. Finding ways for students to let their creativity flow while tying it to physics is important. I believe we shouldn't outcast creativity from science nor separate art from science topics. Merging both art and physics can allow student’s creativity to grow and further research would be needed to understand how the implementation of creativity and science subjects already are affecting students.
Undergraduate Research Assistant
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS DISCUSS AND LEARN ABOUT RESEARCH
Currently, we have two High School Researchers clubs at Tustin High School and Foothill High School. The Clubs are predominantly comprised of students enrolled in science classes whose teachers are enacting new curriculum to (1) promote a more inclusive learning environment and (2) make the material matter to students. There are a strong number of students who are passionate about being involved in research and have demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm for the club.
Last month, on January 13th, we had our first winter meeting at Foothill High School. We engaged students in a discussion about, “What is a Research Question?” and “What steps can be taken in order to answer the question(s) proposed?” The students created their own research questions and discussed what they expected to find. It was refreshing and insightful to be able to listen to their ideas as they illuminated general themes and concerns they had or were experiencing as students.
Being able to have a High School Researchers Club and being able to be there for discussions is very exciting. We get to see what the interests of the students are, how their questions revolve around their classes, and how they are impacted by the academic and social culture of their school. We are excited to interact with the students more and cannot wait to hear their great ideas!
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Coming into UCI, I knew little about what a researcher does. I also knew little about what I wanted to do as a career. It might’ve been because I was the first one in my family to go to college. So, things like career options, research, and university life seemed like a stranger. Slowly, I began to become more intrigued with education and becoming a teacher. I wanted to be able to share the knowledge that I have gained over the years of being an undergraduate student, and help students like me. For this reason, I was excited about us forming a High School Educational Researcher Club at two local high schools. We decided to go into these schools in order to not only motivate and empower students to pursue careers in science, but for them to help us gather their peers and friends’ perspectives about science. We wanted students to identify as researchers themselves and feel like they too belong in career fields in science. We also wanted students to take this opportunity to ask us questions about college, and utilize us as resources when applying to college.
This all led me to sitting across from Gabriela* in our first educational research meeting with the high school students. As we were asking questions to get to know interesting facts about each other, she asked me about my experience in UCI and how much I liked it or whether or not it was difficult for me to adjust to the campus. Our interaction didn’t last long due to the time constraint of a lunch club, but I was able to learn that she wanted to go to UCI as well. I left that day, glad that I had interacted with her for a few minutes, and hoping that she would come back to me with questions.
For our next group meeting, only a few students came. However, instead of looking at it negatively, we focused on how it affected two of the students that did show up. They were able to share their ideas with us, and we were able to work with them one on one. Luis* was able to tell us the kind of people that he would want to interview which consisted of the majority of his friends. The second student, Miriam*, was also very vocal in coming up with the questions that they can ask their family members and peers. It was a moment in which they had a much greater voice to share, and slowly we can recruit more students or combine them with another class. But, I am glad that we are able to focus on students who want to be there. When I came into college, I had little knowledge with research, so being able to provide students with an early experience on what it is like to be a researcher will hopefully intrigue students to become familized with what we do. Whatever the outcome might be, it will be interesting to see how their interest changes in the beginning of the club to the end of it.
*All student names are pseudonyms
Diana Isely Pablo-Ramirez
Undergraduate Research Assistant