What SEER researchers study

Developing Compelling Case Studies of Computer Programming in K-16 Classrooms
Lead researcher: Amon Millner,
Visiting Assistant Professor of Computing Innovation

This study involves synthesizing data collected from K-16 classroom teachers who are using a pilot curriculum that involves introducing computing concepts using multiple visual programming tools. The goal is to grow a body of interview and classroom observation data by conducting additional interviews with teachers and to write up case studies to communicate the ways in which teachers covered programming topics using separate tools that enhanced their students' learning.


Self-Efficacy in First-Year Design Courses
Lead researcher: Debbie Chachra,
Associate Professor of Materials Science

This study focuses on how self-efficacy (that is, confidence in one’s engineering skills) is developed in first-year, team-based engineering design classes. The researchers are collecting and analysing  quantitative data and qualitative data (interviews with students) to understand how student background and experiences shape what they get out of building engineering prototypes.


Using Video to Improve Engineering Team Experiences
Lead researcher:  Nick Tatar,
Assistant Dean of Student Life

This study focuses on whether videotaping team meetings and self-reflection papers can be used together as an effective pedagogical tool for improving undergraduate engineering team experiences. Researchers read self-reflection papers from students and watch recordings of team meetings to help determine which video-supported reflection prompts, if any, promote deeper learning and flow within the team.


Factors in Teaming Roles within Projects
Lead researcher: Lynn Andrea Stein,
Associate Dean for External Engagement and Initiatives; Professor of Computer and Cognitive Science; Director of the Initiative for Innovation in Engineering Education

This research project looks at data from a team-based project course to evaluate whether gender, major, technical background, or other factors correlate with the roles individual students take on within an interdisciplinary team project. It will also examine whether interventions in team role selection in early (student) career experiences change these correlations in late (student) career projects. The project involves statistical analysis of previously collected data, background research, and the potential design of a new experiement.


Individual Experiences and Institutional Factors Shaping Degree Completion for African American Female Engineering Students
Lead researcher: Ellise LaMotte, Director, Academic Services and Doctoral Candidate, Higher Education Administration, University of Massachusetts-Boston

The purpose of this phenomenological study is to examine the lived experiences of successful African American engineering students as they persist through the program toward degree completion.  The study involves analysis of qualitative data (interviews and institutional information) to determine themes, differences and commonalities.


Project-Based Learning in First-Year Engineering Courses
Lead researcher: Yevgeniya Zastavker,
Associate Professor of Physics

This mixed-methods comparative study provides a glimpse at the effectiveness of innovative vis-à-vis traditional curricula. With a focus on project-based learning as an example of an innovative curriculum/pedagogical structure, this project investigates how teaching methods and curricula may relate to gendered patterns of performance, interests, and participation in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics introductory courses that are part of engineering programs. Other dependent variables include self-efficacy and engineering identity formation.


Spatial Skills, Self-Efficacy, and Student Learning
Lead Researcher: Meghan Maclean,
Assistant Professor of Science, Babson College
Co-Researcher: Debbie Chachra, Associate Professor of Materials Science

Developing good spatial skills – the ability to understand how objects relate in space – is a necessity for engineering students and a highly useful skill for everyone. The focus of this project is the design of a study to evaluate spatial skills in engineering and non-engineering students, to see how the level of skills changes over time, and to understand how one’s confidence in spatial skills develops.


Recruitment of Teachers through Mindful and Reflective Learning
Lead researcher: Yevgeniya V. Zastavker,
Associate Professor of Physics
Co-Researcher: Rebecca Christianson, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics

While the goal of Olin College has always been to generate exemplary engineers through our educational programs, it has been noted that an unintended, but very welcome consequence has been to generate in students a considerable interest in education, and a large percentage of alumni/ae are currently engaged in teaching activities. This project involves instrument design, data collection and analysis to understand which aspects of the unique Olin experience have had the most impact in recruiting students into teaching activities.