STEM+ Teaching Essentials

The STEM+ Teaching Essentials workshop series is focused on helping current, new, and future STEM faculty and academic staff (including post-docs and graduate students) develop their instructional practices. MSU faculty lead these lunchtime workshops that explore essential topics in teaching and learning. The series is sponsored by the APUE

Fall 2022

December 7th – DEI&B Storytelling in the Classroom: a fairytale ending? 

So, there I was at 2 a.m. in the middle of a wind tunnel in the cool moist cotton fields of Arizona. I was watching the elusive mating behavior of the pink bollworm, one of the former ravegers of the cotton industry, when out of the blue…

Storytelling. Often described as central to the human experience, storytelling plays a role in many of our classes. But similar to other pedagogical practices, we rarely receive training in its use. Earlier this Fall, 20 faculty and staff attended an all day workshop on storytelling from Story Collider, a national organization that helps scientists (e.g. World Health Organization, American Ornithological Society, and the American Chemical Society) communicate their work.

In this STEM+ Teaching Essentials, we will try some of the exercises from the Story Collider workshop, look at some of the literature discussing the benefits of storytelling in the classroom, and brainstorm/troubleshoot approaches for use of storytelling in our own classes. Come join us for lunch and hone your storytelling craft!

Facilitator: Stephen Thomas, Assistant Dean for STEM Education Teaching and Learning

* STEM Building Generator Room 2110: To reach, go to the stairs at the entrance facing Red Cedar Rd. and Wells Hall (across from the BioSci offices and next to the lecture hall, 1130) and go to the second floor. The room is on the right at the top of the stairs. If you need non-stair access, you can enter through the Undergraduate Research Office located in the middle of the 2nd floor and accessible by either elevator in each end of the building.

November 2nd – Research Informed practiceModel Based Learning in the Undergraduate Classroom: Tips for engaging learners.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 2nd
    • Time: 12-1:30
    • Location: STEM Building Generator 2110
    • Speakers: Steven Gray, Rebecca Jordan, and Tammy Long
    • Abstract: Models are central to science education practice. To implement model-based learning in the science classroom, however, instructors often rely on external lessons that are often not designed for their classroom. We suggest a 3 principle approach that can be positioned on current competency-based instruction. From there we will explore examples where model based instruction has resulted in positive learning outcomes. We will conclude with ideas for assessment.
    • We are attempting to move these sessions to be hybrid and dealing with new spaces and technology. We ask for your patience with delays and glitches. To attend virtually, please register here:
    • To join us in person with lunch provided, please register here:
    • Speaker bios:
      • Tammy Long is an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Biology where she serves as Undergraduate Program Director and Co-Director of NSF NRT-IMPACTS, an interdisciplinary graduate training program in computational plant science. Research in her lab aims to better understand the mechanisms by which students use, interpret, and reason with biological models. In particular, she is interested in the cognitive and neurological bases that link model-based learning to long-term conceptual retention.
      • Rebecca Jordan joined the Department of Community Sustainability at MSU as chair in 2018. Her research focuses on understanding how individuals reason with scientific data. In particular, she seeks to understand how individuals generate and test explanations for complex phenomena. Dr. Jordan has worked with several audiences (e.g., grade 6-12 students, undergraduate and graduate students, and the public involved in citizen science) to test general research questions about causal reasoning with regard to individual decision-making in environmental contexts.
      • Steven Gray is an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability. His research focuses on socio-environmental modeling and understanding how individuals and groups make decisions about complex social-ecological systems. Currently his lab is developing a participatory modeling software called Mental Modeler, which he, his students, and colleagues are applying in a variety of environmental planning and research contexts.

October 5th – Student successStudent outreach, Academic Coaching and Holistic Student Support in the Math Department.

  • Wednesday, October 5th
    • Time: 12-1:30
    • Location: STEM Building Generator 2110
    • Speakers: Rachael Lund, Andy Krause, Samara Chamoun, Sydnie Burnstein
    • Abstract:
      • During the pandemic, it was necessary to connect with students more, as they needed to feel there was a person behind the computer screen. As a result, an outreach program was implemented across some of our Math courses in an attempt to bring back disengaged students. Members of the teaching team, called “Student Support Specialists”, connect students with different resources, support their development of coping strategies, and foster deeper connections. In the aftermath of the pandemic, this necessity seems even more important than ever. 
      • In this workshop, we will share details of the program along with students’ testimonials and feedback. The outreach program will be discussed in terms of how it translates to courses with varying modalities and flexibilities, as well as how instructors can incorporate elements of outreach into their classes in ways that align with their own personal and teaching goals. In addition, we will discuss challenges posed by different course structures, pedagogical approaches, and modality types.  
      • We are attempting to move these sessions to be hybrid and dealing with new spaces and technology. We ask for your patience with delays and glitches. To attend virtually, please register here:
      • To join us in person with lunch provided, please register here:

September 23rd – Community event: Meet, greet, and report out! Come build your community post Covid.

  • Details
    • Time:  3-5pm
    • Location: Flat Classroom STEM Building 2130
    • Description: Eating pie, drinking coffee/tea/water. Sharing what we are doing in STEM+ Education on white boards…having fun.

Spring 2022

Welcome to the Winter/Spring semester!

This semester we will be continuing to explore the idea of belonging in STEM classrooms. This semester’s workshops will focus on DEI, invisible disabilities, and the use of Universal Design for Learning in fostering a sense of belonging. These workshops will bring in facilitators from across the university and within our community of practitioners. We hope that you will be able to join us.
As MSU is moving to more in person modes of teaching, we will be looking to have the STEM Teaching Essentials workshops in-person, but for this semester, we will continue to meet virtually to provide a bit more flexibility for participants and facilitators.

Splicing DEI and belonging into the genetics of your course.

Facilitator: Dr. Ellen Moll
Dr. Ellen Moll is the Director of the Center of Integrative Studies in Arts and Humanities (CISAH/IAH). Her work often connects many of the following: interdisciplinary and integrative pedagogy, faculty development, online pedagogy, general education, diversity in the curriculum, and community-based learning. Dr. Moll’s courses include “Gender, Race, Technology, and Science,” “Global and Multicultural Identities in Contemporary Literature and Film,” and “Living in a World of Big Data,” among others.


As the University begins to implement its strategic plan, one of the main thematic pillars faculty are being asked to incorporate is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Instead of taking this call for DEI as an additional separate item to tack on to an ever-increasing STEM curriculum, how can we individually reframe our courses to weave these concepts into courses to develop students’ understanding of science as a body of knowledge, a set of practices, an institution, and an ethical calling? Participants will walk away from this workshop with examples of how to incorporate DEI in multiple dimensions of scientific inquiry and the ability to see why integration of DEI in STEM content may increase a student’s sense of belonging and enthusiasm in the classroom.

When: Wednesday, February 16th 12:30-2:00 p.m.

Video upon request @sthomas

Accommodating Students with Invisible Disabilities

Facilitators: Shelby Gombosi and other members of the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities


A discussion around teaching students with invisible health conditions and other neurodiverse learning impacts. How are accommodations determined and more importantly, how are they to be implemented in the ever-changing academic environment? This discussion will help to shed light on the ways accommodations can be implemented in partnership with the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to aid in learning for all students.

When: Wednesday, March 23rd 12:30-2:00 p.m.

Video of session

The Importance of Universal Design for Engineers Looking at a Diverse Population

Facilitator: Dr. Michele J. Grimm

Michele J. Grimm, Ph.D., is the Wielenga Creative Engineering Endowed Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Michigan State University. She joined MSU in 2019 after a 25-year career at Wayne State University, where a significant portion of her responsibilities involved curriculum design and assessment. She has a longstanding interest in engineering design, and implemented a 4-year curriculum in user-centered design for biomedical engineering students at Wayne State University. During her transition from Wayne State to MSU, she spent 3 years as a program director for biomedical engineering-related programs at the National Science Foundation. While at the NSF, she served as co-chair of the White House Taskforce on Technology for Aging, which identified needed areas for investment to support advancement of independence-enabling technologies for the growing aging population. She is currently concluding three years of service on the National Academy of Medicine Commission on a Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity. Her role in both of these entities was to establish a design framework through which the groups’ goals could be examined.


Identifying “user needs” is a key step when engineers are designing a new device, component, or system. In some cases, the user needs will be tightly controlled – such as when an engineer is designing a component to fit into an existing system, like a replacement wheel. But other times, the potential group of users is broad and quite diverse. This is especially true when designing consumer products or medical devices. The principals of universal design drive engineers and other design professionals to consider the full range of individuals who might use a device – over a range of ages, races, and functional ability. This seminar will explore the principals of universal design and how it can be integrated into engineering practice, along with a discussion of how it can influence other fields that (knowingly or unknowingly) implement design practices on a regular basis.

When: Wednesday, April 20th 12:30-2:00 p.m.

Fall 2021

The STEM Teaching Essentials workshops are back with two sessions for this semester. As MSU moves into growing into its new strategic mission, two of the six themes of the strategic mission include DEI and Student Success. For the rest of the fall and into the spring, we will be exploring how these concepts play out in the classroom and how we might grow our practice.

As for format, in recognizing our goals for the workshops to be both a venue to share effective practices and engaging theories as well as community-building event among educators , we have dedicated one session to discuss educational theory and practices around equitable grading (completely digital) and one session for sharing a meal during finals week (completely in-person).

Our two sessions include:

Equitable Grading: Case studies and examples from the community.

  • Wednesday, November 10
  • 12-1:30pm


Equitable grading is often described as providing fair, meaningful grades to students with diverse backgrounds. Dr. Casey Henley and Dr. Kirstin Parkin will provide two case studies of revisions to assessment for the purposes of increasing equity. Participants are asked to consider sharing examples from their own teaching for how they try to make grading a more equitable process and to make a one-slide summary to share in small group discussion (although not required). The session will end with a broad ranging discussion of potential barriers and promises to adoption.

Additional Resources:

Grub for grading!

We are almost at the end of the semester…and the of grading finals. To keep your energy and spirits up, please come grab a free bite of pizza with colleagues at the STEM Teaching and Learning Facility. You can either literally grab and go and meet us online, or if you feel comfortable you can sit and eat with others.

For this event, you must register and give us your pizza order as everything will be packaged to allow you the flexibility to eat where you are comfortable. Use this Google Form to choose from 4 types of pizza and reserve your food.

We will submit the order on Monday the 13th at noon to get the order in to Georgio’s Pizza. So please submit before then.

You can pick up the pizza (and eat there if you wish)

  • on the 4th floor of the STEM Teaching and Learning Facility
  • from 12-1:30pm
  • Wednesday Dec. 15th
  • or on Zoom (if you are joining from your office)

The 4th floor is one large open space and we will have tables and seats available for those who wish to stay and eat. Otherwise, you can grab your food, return to your office and join a group of us online to discuss how things are going and catchup in general.

Course Crafting: how to adopt a multimodal lens with your future courses.

April 20th, 2021 at 9:00 AM

Over our last three STEM Teaching Essential sessions,

  • We heard from faculty about some strengths to teaching online that they hope to move continue using;
  • We heard from students that there are some digital approaches that they hope continue, and
  • We discussed ways to make the digital experiences more humane.

Based on those experiences, the question is, “How will these items live out in the future of your course.” In April’s session of the STEM Teaching Essentials, the Enhanced Digital Learning Initiative (EDLI) team will be working with us through a series of prompts that helps you to identify what digital elements you might adopt in your future classes, what theories might you work with to improve your efficacy, and how these adoptions might affect your course policies. So, come and do some course crafting with the EDLI team!

Building Community in a Multimodal World.

March 16th, 9am

Whether students are online or face-to-face, we want them to feel like a valued member of their course community and the larger STEM community. We’ll explore strategies that work well for building community and inclusion in digital spaces as well as in-person spaces. Then we can discuss how to leverage best practices across multiple modalities and identify concrete actions for Fall 2021.

Link to video for Building Community in a Multimodal World

More than a square: Students add dimension to their digital learning experiences during the pandemic.

February 23rd, 9am

Events of the past twelve months have been unprecedented in so many ways; professional, cultural/societal, and personal impacts have differentially affected individuals in higher education. In the face of the pandemic, campuses boot-strapped distance learning models literally overnight.   Estimates suggest that undergraduate enrollment fell by 2.5% in Fall of 2020 amid college students reporting record levels of anxiety and depression, with  42% reporting difficulty remaining motivated in the face of mounting financial challenges, lost opportunities, and a growing digital divide.   

Our February 23 panel will feature STEM students who will share a range of perspectives, experiences and insights regarding the online learning space. Our purpose is to hear the voices of the learners to optimize learning as we find our “new normal” and incorporate best practices in higher education. Students will provide their perspectives on what worked and what didn’t, what to toss and what to keep.

Video for session on Student Panel on Pandemic Experience


Lessons learned from pandemic teaching. 

December 15th

Online discussion facilitated by Cori Fata Hartley, Neeraj Buch, Georgina Montgomery, Daina Briedis, and Stephen Thomas.


Posted in STEM Education.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.