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Sansom Research Group

There are three main foci for the Sansom research group: how to improve student success in general chemistry, how to support university faculty to use evidence-based instructional practices, and how to improve the quality of science instruction in K-12 classrooms.

Improving Student Success in General Chemistry. General chemistry is considered a gateway course because so many STEM majors require general chemistry. Thus, failure in chemistry can lead to leaving STEM fields. Likewise, success in general chemistry opens opportunities for students to continue in a variety of STEM majors. We are constantly investigating strategies to help students succeed, and past studies have looked at decision-based learning to improve problem solving, open educational resources to reduce textbook costs, and process skills as a way to support skill-building in lab. 

Helping University Faculty Adopt Student-Centered Teaching Practices. Supporting student success means helping instructors use evidence-based teaching practices. We investigate the factors that influence faculty decision-making about teaching. These include individual factors like attitudes and self-efficacy, social factors like the influence of teaching evaluations and peer conversations, and contextual factors like the setup of classrooms on campus. 

Increasing Quality Instruction in K-12 Classrooms. Just as university faculty need support and professional development to improve their teaching practice, so do K-12 teachers. We provide professional development to rural Utah science teachers to support three-dimensional science instruction—teaching that incorporates disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. We study the impact of our novel professional learning strategy called Technology-Mediated Lesson Study on teachers’ classroom practice.