Case studies


Eleanor C Sayre

These are the case studies used in this handbook

Arthur and Baseline Data

Arthur’s department teaches an introductory class with 8 different instructors and 10 different GTAs. Many students are struggling with the mathematical formalism, so the department is going to revise the curriculum to support students’ math skills and problem solving. Arthur plans to collect some baseline data so that they will know if the changes are working.

Data and Access Iterative design Theory: a Primer

Sanjay and Science Club

Sanjay is the faculty coordinator for Science Club, an after school activity for elementary school children ages 6-10. Children meet in Science Club, where undergraduate students are responsible for different activity stations, such as building with Lego or writing code or checking on plants in the garden. Sanjay wants more undergraduates to participate in Science Club more regularly, but he’s not sure how to make that happen given his limited budget.

Becoming a PI Evaluation and Research Theory: a Primer

Imani and Concept Inventories

Imani wants to develop a concept inventory for how biology students think about human anatomy. She wants to use the inventory at the beginning and end of her second year Anatomy & Physiology course to show how much students learn. She would also like to use it as a diagnostic in her first year introductory biology course to see if students from different health-related majors think differently about anatomy.

Theory: a Primer

Alyssa and her Dissertation

Alyssa is a second year PhD student, and she would like to study how introductory courses in biomedical engineering affect undergraduate students’ motivation to continue in the field. Alyssa plans to conduct interviews with students towards the end of their first year, looking for a variety of experiences across different genders and grades.

Advisory Boards Interviews: a primer

Hassan and Simulations

Hassan developed some simulations to help undergraduate biology students visualize ion transport through cell membranes. Students can control physical characteristics of the cell membrane as well as the environments inside and outside the cell. He would like to investigate how these simulations help students think about biochemistry concepts, and improve the simulations. Eventually, he would like to have other faculty use his simulations in their classes.

Advisory Boards Design-based research

Blaise and Bridging

Blaise teaches a course on differential equations, and he noticed that his students aren’t learning as much as he would like. Blaise’s goal is to help his students learn more, and he starts thinking more carefully about the best ways to do that.

Theory: a Primer

Kai and Graduating Seniors

Kai worries that their graduating seniors aren’t well prepared for professional life after graduation. Their department has asked them to make recommendations about how the department could better support students about planning for post-grad life.

Data and Access Interviews: a primer

Maria and Computational Thinking

Physics graduates need computational skills, but Maria’s departmental curriculum doesn’t cover computation. She would like to add training in computational skills, but her department is unwilling to require a new course for everyone.

Becoming a PI Data and Access Design-based research

Julian and Multiple Representations

Julian is curious about how students in general chemistry connect diagram representations of molecules with their chemical formulas. His department has 15 sections of general chemistry which enroll 30 students each. He plans to collect students’ homework from 3 sections to see how they use diagrams or formulas to understand chemical properties.

Interviews: a primer Iterative design

Morgan and Mentoring Undergrads

Morgan wants to study how first-year undergraduates, particularly neurodiverse students, navigate STEM majors. Their department requires a senior thesis for all majors, and two rising seniors have asked if they can work on this project with Morgan. Morgan wants to mentor them to do this kind of research, but is worried about how to get started.

Becoming a PI Theory: a Primer

Eleanor and Research Interests

I am curious about how people develop professional identity as scientists. I’m not particularly interested in student learning of specific topics in physics, except inasmuch as they are indicative of student learning across multiple topics.

Statement of research interests

Rory and Students’ Old Work

Rory has been teaching upper-level quantum mechanics for several years and always scans written homework, quizzes, and exams for their records before grading them. They have decided that they would like to use this written work to explore what resources students bring to quantum mechanics in order to design activities to build on these resources. They hope to publish their findings in The Physics Teacher so other instructors can also benefit from their work.

Design-based research Evaluation and Research IRB Regulations

Jack and Cheating

Jack is conducting classroom observations in an introductory calculus class to learn about student understanding of function and derivative. Two students in the class discuss in detail their plans to cheat on the next exam. Based on their conversation, he suspects they cheated on the last exam. Jack has their conversation on video, and he also has copies of their last exams which covered his research topic.

IRB Regulations

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For attribution, please cite this work as:
Sayre, Eleanor C. 2024. Case Studies.