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  1. Barbara Reisner
  2. https://www.jmu.edu/chemistry/people/all-people/faculty/reisner-barbara.shtml
  3. Professor
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. James Madison University
  1. Anne Bentley
  2. https://sites.google.com/a/lclark.edu/bentley/
  3. Associate Professor
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. Lewis & Clark College
  1. Shirley Lin
  2. Professor
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. United States Naval Academy
  1. Justin Pratt
  2. Postdoctoral Scholar
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of South Florida
  1. Jeffrey Raker
  2. http://www.rakerresearchgroup.org
  3. Associate Professor
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. University of South Florida
  1. Sheila Smith
  2. Associate Professor
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of Michigan - Dearborn
  1. Joanne Stewart
  2. https://hope.edu/directory/people/stewart-joanne/index.html
  3. Professor
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. Hope College
Facilitators’
Choice

Collaborative Research: Improving inorganic chemistry education through a com...

NSF Awards: 1726162, 1725822, 1726133

2020 (see original presentation & discussion)

Undergraduate, Adult learners

The field of inorganic chemistry is one of the broadest in chemistry, covering the entire periodic table of the elements, yet is heavily specialized into subdisciplines. For inorganic faculty with deep yet narrow training within a subdiscipline, curricular innovation and adoption of evidence-based practices face considerable barriers. IONiC, the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists, was formed to enhance the inorganic chemistry classroom and laboratory experience for students and faculty members through the development of a vibrant, supportive community and a rich set of easily accessible teaching resources. Our website VIPEr (Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource, http://www.ionicviper.org) serves both as a repository of teaching materials and hub for our community. We are studying the role that our community of practice plays in encouraging effective faculty practices, and how changes in faculty practices impact student learning. Our research team works with two cohorts of VIPEr Fellows who are interested in reforming their foundation inorganic chemistry class. We collect data on classroom practice, student learning, and student motivation, achievement, and enjoyment. The Fellows are provided with the time and tools for reflection and the support of the IONiC community.

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Original Discussion from the 2020 STEM For All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Barbara Reisner

    Barbara Reisner

    Lead Presenter
    Professor
    May 4, 2020 | 03:27 p.m.

    Thank you for watching our video on the VIPEr Fellows Project! We are in the third year of this NSF-IUSE project and have encoiled our first cohort of VIPEr Fellows. Our Fellows collected baseline data on their foundation inorganic chemistry course, participated in a workshop to redesign their course with the support of the Fellows community, and taught their revised course. We are analyzing data to look at the role participating in the community plays in shaping faculty beliefs and practices. Our second cohort of VIPEr Fellows will be starting in the 2020-2021 academic year. Our video focuses on the supportive role that the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists (IONiC) plays for our community. 

    We are most interested in discussing faculty change and strategies for keeping faculty engaged in fully virtual communities. Consider these questions when learning about our work:

    1. What events / experiences / communities have promoted change in your professional life? 
    2. From your experiences, what keeps you involved with professional learning communities? 
    3. What structure or techniques can help keep a virtual community active?

    We look forward to your feedback, insights, and suggestions. Come join us!

     
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    Kristin Flaming
  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Research Program Coordinator
    May 5, 2020 | 02:31 p.m.

    Community formation around science! Is there anything better?!?

    This is a phenomenal project and I'd love to see more like this with all branches of science!

  • Icon for: Sheila Smith

    Sheila Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 5, 2020 | 02:34 p.m.

    This community has been a lifesaver and a lifeline for me with the quick switch to online modes of instruction due to the pandemic. Communities of Practice have so much to offer.

     
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    Saira Mortier
  • Icon for: Alison Mercier

    Alison Mercier

    Researcher
    May 5, 2020 | 04:20 p.m.

    Wow! So, VIPEr is the group of fellows who collaboratively design content and the flexible course and IONiC is the professional learning community? I LOVE this! This has so many possibilities for educators even outside of inorganic chemistry. What design principles or specific facets of IONiC do you think have made the most impact on the collaborative, supportive, lasting nature of the learning community? Are most people like Flo? Do most people actively participate and continue with the community? 

  • Icon for: Sheila Smith

    Sheila Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 5, 2020 | 05:22 p.m.

    Yep!  We've had more success than most at establishing and maintaining an online CoP than most.  With the generous support of NSF (and NITLE before them) and the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry, we've kept the website and the community evolving and growing.  We've focused on content, curricular change and most recently on the professional development factors that support faculty change.  

    We have certainly learned from other educators and groups, and we've worked hard to share with other groups that things that we think have contributed to our success.

    While not all users/members are as active as Flo, it is definitely true that a lot of users/members are.  We have tried to keep a variety of ways to stay active in the community so that there is something for everyone but the most hermetic.  We have an active presence on Facebook and Twitter (mostly in response to requests by and managed by more recent additions to the community) in addition to fora on the VIPEr site.  Most recently, we've been using a Discord Channel to try to recreate in the broader community the same sense of belonging that the Leadership has shared through a persistent Skype chat for going on ten years.

    The level of discussion and participation has increased dramatically since COVID19, but we've has a long snake-y tail of participation slithering along for years now.

     
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    Stephen Alkins
  • Icon for: Barbara Reisner

    Barbara Reisner

    Lead Presenter
    Professor
    May 6, 2020 | 08:33 a.m.

    Alison, many years ago we wrote a piece on community building for Academic Commons that you might find interesting. (The piece is also the origin of the name of this video.)

    https://academiccommons.org/come-for-the-content-stay-for-the-community/

    It discusses the most critical elements for building the community.

    I agree with everything that Sheila has said. Here are some of the elements that I think are most important to the success of our community.

    1. the focused nature of the community
      We are closely focused on a topic that is relevant to all of us.
    2. the low barrier to participation
      You can be very involved or be a lurker. The website is our entry point with materials that any faculty member (and in many cases truly anyone) can use. It's okay to just come for the content. 
    3. different ways to participate in the community
      As Sheila pointed out, there are many ways to participate in the community online. We've had relatively low barrier face-to-face ways to participate in the community such as social events, introductory workshops, and symposia at professional meetings. (We hope to resume these in the not too distant future because face-to-face really helps to build connections.) We also have many entry points to help faculty step up their involvement. Some of the most intensive are things like the Fellows projects or our multi-day content development workshops. We have more advanced workshops at professional meetings. Online, we've had Learning Object development parties (our next one is scheduled for early June) where we commit to working on LOs one day knowing that people will be there on Discord to support us. We've also done Community Challenges where we ask community members to develop LOs on a specific topic in a defined time range.
    4. community
      IONiC is all about community. We appreciate the help we get from other people and we like helping each other out.   
     
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    Stephen Alkins
  • May 8, 2020 | 12:35 p.m.

    Barbara, as an ViPER lurker (background in Inorganic but mainly teaching general chemistry), I love how the ViPER community is so accessible and welcoming to all. This is a great project! I might not use most of the materials but I have found some of them useful for general chemistry.

     
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    Barbara Reisner
  • Icon for: Shirley Lin

    Shirley Lin

    Co-Presenter
    May 8, 2020 | 01:03 p.m.

    Hi, Cynthia,

    We love our lurkers! But hopefully you have lurked enough to be request faculty privileges? When you're elevated to faculty on the site, you can access content that non-faculty cannot.

    And your comment highlights an important point...many inorganic faculty teach general chemistry as well. As a consequence, we do have general chemistry-specific learning objects on the site. You are invited to share some of your own activities and teaching materials when you have a chance or make comments about the LOs you've used on the site. All the interaction is what makes VIPEr really useful.

  • Icon for: Renee Cole

    Renee Cole

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 5, 2020 | 05:45 p.m.

    I'm very impressed with level of community building - that's one of the biggest struggles we've faced with a different faculty development project I'm involved with. Certainly what keeps me engaged with a community is when I feel like I have something to contribute and that I get value from the interactions - it's just hard to get a critical mass of sustained activity. Finding time and an easy way to interact is another struggle. 

  • Icon for: Sheila Smith

    Sheila Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 5, 2020 | 06:11 p.m.

    Hi Renee! It’s so nice to see you Here. It would be nicer to see you in person, maybe at BCCE ,but I guess that’s not to be this year. 

    I totally understand what you’re saying. I was not a member originally a member of the leadership of this project and when I joined I was amazed how well it worked. I think it in the beginning that there was a little bit of “cult of personality”, But I’m really proud of the work that the group has done to bring on new leadership. In fact we are currently training  up our replacements.

     

    I do think that the inorganic community has an advantage since it’s already such a smaller community than say general chemistry or organic chemistry.

     

    we probably also been helped a little by the fact that no one in inorganic chemistry really feels like they know what they’re doing. All of us are teaching something that’s outside of our wheelhouse. We need this community of practice.

    Which makes it easier to make time to participate and to contribute.

  • Icon for: Stephen Alkins

    Stephen Alkins

    Facilitator
    May 5, 2020 | 09:51 p.m.

    This network is great!  I definitely agree with others that this network could be expanded to other disciplines.

    I think my major question is if you have convened a small network or focus groups of students to support the network.  This seems like it would align with having a student-centered approach where you are engaging their opinions and feedback to incorporate into new teacher practices.

    Great job!

     
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    Eleanor Close
  • Icon for: Anne Bentley

    Anne Bentley

    Co-Presenter
    May 5, 2020 | 11:11 p.m.

    That's a really interesting idea, Stephen.  I think many of our students are aware of VIPEr, especially because we cite the source of the learning objects that we adapt from the site. And I think many of us would say that the student-centered strategies we've learned from being a part of the IONiC community have been carried into all the courses we teach. Our current VIPEr Fellows project does include a number of measures of student motivation and self-efficacy, but we haven't yet tried focus groups.  We'll keep that in mind!

     
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    Stephen Alkins
  • Icon for: Michael Daley

    Michael Daley

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 6, 2020 | 07:31 a.m.

    I like how content specific your approach is. Faculty rarely have the opportunity to engage with other faculty teaching the same course. At our home institutions, there will be other science faculty and that is typically our support structure. It can still feel very isolating. Some of the best PL experiences for me have occurred at sessions at professional meetings with others focused on teaching the same subject.

     
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    Stephen Alkins
  • Icon for: Barbara Reisner

    Barbara Reisner

    Lead Presenter
    Professor
    May 6, 2020 | 08:06 a.m.

    Michael, I think you've hit on a few of the features that help our community. IONiC is a Community of Practice in a very focused domain. We are all able to bond around teaching a very specific course; we have something in common from the get go. When we get together - be it in workshops, meetings, or socials - we are focused on the same materials so all of the examples we use are things that apply directly to our course.

    One of the other benefits to the community is being able to work closely with people at other institutions. I have a much better idea of the how things are done at different institutions which broadens my perceptions of my course (and the higher education landscape). Also, when I'm talking with people at other schools, I'm not as worried about asking 'off-the-wall' or 'silly' questions, making mistakes, and putting things out there because my inorganic chemistry colleagues at other institutions are not part of my institutional structure. 

     

     
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    Stephen Alkins
  • Icon for: Kristin Flaming

    Kristin Flaming

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 6, 2020 | 07:47 p.m.

    This sounds like a supporting community for inorganic chemistry teachers. You asked "what keeps you involved with professional learning communities?"

    As a partner with https://passiondrivenstatistics.com I have found the winter, summer, and fall partner updates the PI sends out keeps me engaged with the community of partners, informs me on ways I can get involved and new resources available. This also prompts me to share the new information with interested audiences to spread the word.

     
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    Stephen Alkins
  • Icon for: Barbara Reisner

    Barbara Reisner

    Lead Presenter
    Professor
    May 7, 2020 | 06:52 a.m.

    Thanks for this idea, Kristin! We send out a newsletter several times each year and it has a decent click through rate. I really like that you call it a partner update because the name highlights that everyone is a part of the community.  

  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 08:06 p.m.

    The VIPER community in IONIC seems to be a fantastic resource for inorganic chemistry professors. In working with other faculty who are trying to improve their teaching, sometimes they come up against departmental cultures that actively discourage faculty from spending time to improve their teaching. Do you have advice for conversations interested faculty could have with their more reluctant peers or dept chairs?

  • Icon for: Barbara Reisner

    Barbara Reisner

    Lead Presenter
    Professor
    May 7, 2020 | 07:17 a.m.

    That's a great question, Wendy! I've found that everyone is in a different place on their teaching journey and at some institutions, the reward structure isn't set up to reward the time spent on reflecting on and improving teaching. That said, everyone can usually identify a point of dissatisfaction in their course, especially one related to wishing their students had a deeper understanding of X, were more proficient with Y, or had a greater pass rate on program assessment Z.

    We are educators because we want our students to learn. Small conversations about  dissatisfactions can be a gateway to larger conversations about improving teaching. It's easy to make small changes.

    Another conversation starter that I've used is to invite colleagues to my class to ask specific advice on my teaching. (Some programs use this as part of their teaching evaluations.) By asking for advice, I can create space for a conversation about teaching. Often this leads to a two way conversation about teaching.

    Neither of these approaches are going to lead to wholesale change, but change is hard and takes time. Lots of little things get the ball rolling and can prepare a department for eventual change.

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Stephen Alkins
  • Icon for: Joanne Stewart

    Joanne Stewart

    Co-Presenter
    May 7, 2020 | 07:23 a.m.

    Thanks for the question, Wendy. To be honest, even the IONiC leadership faces reluctant peers and department chairs, and they are part of the reason the group formed in the first place! But I can tell you a few things we suggest. 1) Summer workshop attendees walk away as published VIPER authors, and VIPEr Learning Objects (LOs) are reviewed so they go on my CV, albeit in their own category. 2) VIPEr is a global resource, so contributing to the site is a sign of national/global leadership in the inorganic community. 3) LOs are given Creative Commons licenses, so when others adopt/adapt your LO, your name and institution remain with it, thus spreading the recognition of the contribution. 4) The IONiC community does a lot of mentoring, so if you have a particularly challenging colleague, we’re here to give advice, write a letter, or recommend you for an award! That really works! I hope other community members will weigh in with additional ideas. 

     
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    Stephen Alkins
  • May 7, 2020 | 10:29 a.m.

    Great project! Thank you for sharing! I shared it with our chemistry faculty as well.

  • Icon for: Barbara Reisner

    Barbara Reisner

    Lead Presenter
    Professor
    May 7, 2020 | 10:30 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing with your faculty!

  • Icon for: Feng Liu

    Feng Liu

    Facilitator
    May 7, 2020 | 01:56 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this great project and the great resource for chemistry educators! IONiC, is very similar to one online community, CSForAllTeachers (https://www.csforallteachers.org/), managed by American Institutes for Research (AIR) for Computer Science (CS) educators. I am on the management team😊 The difference is CSForAllTeachers is an online community targeting CS educators at K-12 level. I do agree a supportive online community can greatly help educators with respect to their teaching practice and professional development, which can, in turn, increase student learning outcomes. Could you share more information on how you are evaluating the impact of participation in IONiC on student-level (e.g., student learning, student motivation, as you described) and teacher-level (e.g., faculty belief, instructional practice) outcomes. What type of study design are you using during the evaluation? How are you going to measure these outcomes?

  • Icon for: Shirley Lin

    Shirley Lin

    Co-Presenter
    May 7, 2020 | 02:35 p.m.

    Hi, Feng,

    Thanks for your comment and for your important work in CS education.

    To answer your insightful questions about evaluating the impact of IONiC, our group is currently in the third year of an NSF-sponsored project to observe changes in faculty practices and student learning as a result of "VIPEr-ized" foundational undergraduate inorganic courses. The experiment is designed to look for pre-post differences. We have recruited ~60 faculty (VIPEr fellows) who will teach their inorganic course without intervention and then they will attend a series of online meetings and in-person or virtual workshops to incorporate active, student-centered learning objects from the VIPEr website into teaching a revised inorganic course the following academic year.

    Changes to student outcomes will be measured through the use of the ACS inorganic exam, analysis of free-response questions, and survey instruments to capture motivation and self-efficacy. Concurrently, the research team is also documenting the faculty change component through interviews, written reflections, and analysis of classroom observations. If you're interested to learn more about the latter, please see our recently published paper https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jchemed.9b01066.

    Please feel free to continue this thread or contact us with any other questions.

  • Icon for: Feng Liu

    Feng Liu

    Facilitator
    May 11, 2020 | 07:00 p.m.

    Hi Shirley, thanks for sharing these details. The within-group pre-post difference design would give you the ability to interpret the correlational relationship between the treatment/intervention under investigation and outcomes to be affected. If feasible, adding a matched comparison group would increase the rigor of the study.

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