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Teaching STEM Students with Dawn Tamarkin

Welcome to Episode 110 of the Think UDL podcast: Teaching STEM Students with Dawn Tamarkin. Dr. Dawn Tamarkin is a Biology Professor and Chairperson in the Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at National University which has multiple campuses with its main campus in San Diego, California. Almost half of the enrolled students at National University are in the military and many are first generation college students with an average age of 33 years, and most students attend National University online. Dawn is also the founder and CEO of CellZone, Inc., a company that makes models and other manipulatives for science instructors to help students better understand and connect with learning complex science concepts. We will discuss how Dawn accidentally became a business owner through her own UDL teaching journey. In today’s conversation, Dawn will explain her theories about how STEM students learn a bit differently from, let’s say humanities students, because of the course material, how she started making models because of a particular need in her class, how using hand-held manipulatives has changed her teaching, and what shifts we need to make in our own teaching to help our students thrive. She also provides several free resources that she created with a National Science Foundation grant that outlines how to teach STEM courses using UDL. You’ll be able to find those resources on the website.


Guidebook for Studying and Learning in STEM (for Students)

Guidebook for Studying and Learning in STEM (for Teachers)




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Dawn Tamarkin, Lillian Nave

Lillian Nave  00:02

Welcome to Think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian Nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 110 of the Think UDL podcast, teaching STEM students with Dawn Tamarkin Dr. Dawn Tamarkin is a biology professor and chairperson in the Department of Mathematics and natural sciences at National University, which has multiple campuses with its main campus in San Diego, California. Almost half of the enrolled students at National University are in the military and many are first generation college students with an average age of 33 years and most students attend National University online. Dawn is also the founder and CEO of Cell Zone, Inc, a company that makes models and other manipulatives for science instructors to help students better understand and connect with learning complex science concepts. We will discuss how Dawn accidentally became a business owner through her own UDL teaching journey. In today’s conversation, Dawn will explain her theories about how STEM students learn a bit differently from, let’s say humanity students because of the course material, and how she started making models because of a particular need in her class, how using handheld manipulatives have changed her teaching, and what shifts we need to make in our own teaching to help our students thrive. She also provides several free resources that she created with a National Science Foundation grant that outlines how to teach STEM courses using Universal Design for Learning. You’ll be able to find those resources on the think website under episode thank you so much for listening to our conversation on the think UDL podcast. Thank you to our sponsor Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood, it has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace, and education sectors, including K 12. right through to higher education for the last three decades. So welcome Dawn to the Think UDL podcast.

Dawn Tamarkin  03:00

Thank you.

Lillian Nave  03:01

I’m so glad to have you. I’m so glad to talk about some STEM courses. And first I want to ask you, what makes you a different kind of learner.

Dawn Tamarkin  03:12

So one way that I’m a different kind of learner is I’ve always been the person that prefers to learn the big picture and struggles with the details, okay? I mean, I can get to all the details. But I prefer to see how whatever I’m learning matches with what I’ve learned before and connect things. And then also, as I have, I don’t want to say gotten older. So let’s see, as the years have gone by Yes. I’ve also found that I have a harder time staying focused if my hands aren’t busy. So I often during meetings, I knit throughout the meetings so that my hands are busy, and I don’t check emails or do anything else that is distracting so I can stand to stay on topic and stay focused, very,

Lillian Nave  04:07

very useful information for me too, because I’m finding that myself and I used to never be that way. And I remember being a young professor teacher, and having students doing other things with their hands and thinking how rude like I had this whole very wrong way of perceiving that I had students who doodled and did other things. And yeah, it was just a misperception that that I thought they weren’t paying attention. Turns out they were much better attuned to the class or the conversation than my students who were looking kind of blankly at me.

Dawn Tamarkin  04:44

Definitely, definitely. 

Lillian Nave  04:47

Yeah. So you’ve got a lot of experience with teaching STEM courses and yeah, and stem learners. So I’m interested to hear what do you think is different or maybe notable? about student learning in STEM.

Dawn Tamarkin  05:03

So I think one of the main things is that when, so when a student’s learning about something like history, let’s say they’re learning about a war, everything that they hear about, they can picture in their minds. They picture someone running out onto the battlefield, someone shooting someone, you retreating, they can picture horses, they can picture whatever it is about the battle. But when we talk about two molecules interacting, hmm, yeah, it’s hard to picture. And so what ends up happening is that students retreat to memorization, that’s like the fall back, they can’t see it, they can’t picture it, they can’t really have a way to think about it. So they tend to memorize it. And that means that they don’t ever really understand it. So, learning in STEM really does require some different approaches. Because what works when you can already picture something, when you can visualize it, when you can imagine it, however it is that your head works. It doesn’t happen that way in STEM. And so things have to be made real. You have to students have to find a way to make what they’re learning about seem real to them. And then they’ll be able to understand and there are some extra steps in there. Yeah, I find that very often, students have never learned how to study in STEM. So they use the studying techniques that work in other fields when they’re in a STEM class. And they get frustrated, because they get A’s and B’s in their other classes. And they have this history of poor grades in STEM, and has nothing to do with ability. It has nothing to do with whether someone is a stem person or not. It’s just simply how they’ve learned to learn. Wow,

Lillian Nave  07:07

yeah, I learned a little bit about this. In reading one of Ken Baines books about what the best college students do about that sounds like a lot growth mindset, right? If, if you believe you can learn it, you’re, you’re more likely to unless you think, Oh, I’m just not good at math, or

Dawn Tamarkin  07:25

that’s part of it. Also, that’s definitely part of it. Because when somebody really believes that they just can’t do well, in certain subjects, they shut themselves out. Yeah. And so, growth mindset is a really important thing in STEM classes. Because there are always going to be in a math class are going to be math phobic students, and in a science class, they’re gonna be science phobic students. So some people will want to be nurses, but they’re terrified of the science I have to take to become a nurse. And it shouldn’t be that way. It just requires work. And one of the challenges is that if you have gotten studying patterns down that worked for you in other fields, changing those patterns for STEM is a behavioral change. And for anyone like myself, who’s ever tried to diet, you can somebody can tell me as much as often as they want. Don’t eat the chocolate, right? Yeah, I just can’t stop myself. It’s a behavior that I can’t change. So behavioral changes are some of the hardest things for us to do that a student is willing to try some new methods, then they’re good. An example is when students learn about studying techniques. One example is that students are often told this reading and learning strategy called SQ3R, which is they’re supposed to survey the chapter question and read recite, review. And so the survey is often looking at all the headings throughout the entire chapter, then they’re supposed to read the entire chapter. So a student who does that in a science book or math book, they’re not going to get very far. Yeah, well, the headings don’t mean anything. They’re all crazy terms. And then once you start reading, you get lost pretty fast. And if you keep reading when you’re lost, you’re just wasting your time. Yeah. So you know, you might have learned SQ 3R as you were going through other courses as a reading approach. But bringing it into STEM doesn’t work. Yeah. So there are a number of ways to change things around to make sure that you can learn when you’re learning stem, and most of the approaches are very active. I teach anatomy and physiology. If you’re talking about a part of the body if you’re not also touching it while you’re talking about It, it’s useless. Like you have to always touch the part of the body so that that kinesthetic action becomes part of that term. So just become so clear all the time and terminology so much easier to learn.

Lillian Nave  10:17

Yeah, so if you’re reading about it, maybe your radius or oh, now you’re touching that part of your arm and right, not necessarily having a cadaver there or, or a model, but that would be great. But at least figuring it out on your own bodies that were saying,

Dawn Tamarkin  10:35

okay, and now I have been made fun of in the classroom. By non majors class, we were talking about meiosis, which is the cell division to make gametes to make sperm and eggs. And every time I said gamete, or gonad, which is the ovary or testis, every time I sit, go net, I was pointing to my own ovaries. Yeah. And they didn’t know I was doing it. And my whole class is starting to laugh. And they were getting louder and louder and louder. And what am I doing? Every time you’re putting it, you’re over.

Lillian Nave  11:09

It’s memorable, though, isn’t it? Wow, I hadn’t really thought I’m not in the STEM field. So I hadn’t really thought about how different it is. It’s it’s almost like philosophy in an essence, because you can’t see a molecule that small, we can’t actually, you know, see it, imagine it. We can’t imagine it, but we can’t see it unless we’re at the microscope, right? Or we have all these other interventions to get there. And that real different than art history, because we just start with that we are always looking at something. Yeah. And discovery

Dawn Tamarkin  11:45

levels, too. So there’s the molecular level, there’s the cell level, there’s the tissue level. So there’s all these levels that we’re not used to looking at. And they’re really tiny, or as you get into astrophysics, they’re really huge. Yeah, so they’re larger than you can imagine. And either way you go, if you can’t relate how big something is to something else. Like, we all know that the tire on a car is smaller than the car. And it’s part of what goes into building a car, you need a tire if you’re gonna go anywhere. So but with molecules and cells, students don’t know what fits into what, what’s part of something else. And so putting the whole story together becomes challenging. If everything is just in that pile of well, I can’t see it.

Lillian Nave  12:41

Yeah. Right. So I see how important this is to provide this for students. So well, what have you seen then in your teaching and your research, when students have the chance to really understand what they’re learning about maybe using model, maybe a handheld model, right, something that brings that thing that’s so tiny to life? Or something that’s so huge down to size or scale? What have you noticed about when you introduce that to your stem students?

Dawn Tamarkin  13:17

Well, before I developed the cell models that I now have, before I developed those, I would teach a lab where students would look at cells. And then as they leave, you know, you can hear students as they’re walking out, what are they saying? Yeah, and usually I’d hear somebody say to someone else, I have no idea what we just looked at, do you? And they said, No, I have no idea. How could they have no idea we just spent two hours looking under the microscope. So I had developed these UDL SEL models, because I had a student who was going to be in my class, who had a visual disability. And what I found is that instead of just making something so that she could understand what other students could see in the microscope by touching models, that I found that there was a large percentage of students that couldn’t understand how to interpret the microscopic field. Okay, so the field itself, the light that comes through to your eyes is a circle. It’s a circular area. And so it turns out that at least a quarter of the students think that the entire circle is a cell, oh, even though they change magnifications and the circle stays the same, or they move things around the circles. I mean, it’s just it’s so hard to interpret for some people. So when I’d have students in groups, and I tell them here are parts of cells, put it together and model what you’re looking at, so a whole lab bench like four to six students. would be looking at the same thing and somebody would know how to start to model it. And then everyone else would look in their microscope to see what they were modeling. And then you hear them go, oh, and then by the second cell, they could all model it. It was that first one, just starting to figure out what is a valid component of a cell? And what is a cell? So it’s a huge difference. And I never heard anyone leave my class after that thing. I have no idea what I was just looking at. Yeah, because they could now interpret the microscopic field, it’s just a skill that is very challenging, initially. So I think the fact that things go from confusing and opaque to very clear and understandable and real, when they use a physical model more, or even a virtual model. That’s a huge improvement.

Lillian Nave  16:06

Yeah. Yeah, it sounds like it. And and so you’ve already kind of had this anecdotal evidence of students are not as saying, I don’t know, what I was looking at, or I have no idea. And what have do you have any other data about what happens when you introduce these models? And how students perform or succeed in the classes when you see? Yeah,

Dawn Tamarkin  16:33

I do. I have also developed molecular puzzles. So in introductory biology, students have to learn about the biological molecules, lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, and nucleic acids. And they typically resisted, because they say I’m in biology class to learn biology, and you’re teaching me about chemistry, these are molecules. But in addition, chemistry is even more abstract, because now you’re going to get to the level of atoms, which nobody can see in the numbers, just a crazy number of atoms to make anything that’s even visible. So. So I created these molecular puzzles to teach the biological molecules. And basically, for each of the biological molecules, there are components that can come together or be broken off. And there’s one chemical reaction that’s always used to build and when it’s always used to break these molecules, and it all involves water. But when students learn it, they’re looking at molecular models on the page of a textbook, or on a PowerPoint presentation, with all these balls and sticks, or all these lines and letters, which are really meaningless. And they have a hard time figuring out what the what the chemical reaction is. And once they’ve seen it with carbohydrates, for example, then they go on to proteins, and they think it’s completely new chemical reactions, they’re exactly the same. It’s that there’s so much with the molecules beyond where the chemical reaction is happening. They’re trying to see all of the chemical components, and not focusing in on that area of importance to understand the reaction. And it’s hard to focus. So my molecular puzzles have only that atoms for water, just oxygens and hydrogens that are separate. And all of the rest of the molecules are just individual pieces. When they use those, they can see how it’s the same chemical reaction. No matter whether it’s a carbohydrate or protein, a lipid or nucleic acid, they can see the chemical reactions. What happened in my classes is that prior to making these, the test in those classes, where they were tested on the biological molecules, was always the lowest grade my students ever received. And that’s why I created the molecular puzzles, because I couldn’t figure out how I could get them to learn this better. So if you look at the class average, it was usually 10 points under the average was that test? Wow, that’s a lot. That was a lot. Yeah. And then after using the molecular puzzles, the highest test grade in the class was always on the biological molecules. Wow, it made the most sense to them.

Lillian Nave  19:35

Wow. So they really understood finally, rather than just the memorizing and hoping they got the right question, yeah.

Dawn Tamarkin  19:42

Right. And the molecular puzzles are colorful for people who need that visual stimulation. There kinesthetic for people to put them together and take them apart. The letters for all of the atoms are raised so that you can feel them So students, when we’re talking, they’ll hold them in their hands and just rub them. So they know there’s this tactile component. They do it in groups. So they’re talking to one another. So they’re learning from each other and figuring it out together and seeing that no one else knew what it was before they started playing with it either. So they’re not the only ones who don’t know this. So like, all of the components of UDL are built into it. And, and then I made them with dishwasher safe plastic, which I didn’t realize how valuable it was till the pandemic.

Lillian Nave  20:32

Yeah. Right. Yeah, to keep these things clean. And so you can use them over and over again, for all your classes. Yeah, they’re pretty durable.

Dawn Tamarkin  20:42

Yeah, I was my husband said to me, can you make something and sell it with a company that teachers have to buy every year instead of buying one and never buying it again? And they said, No, I cannot? Ethically, yes, nothing money?

Lillian Nave  20:57

Yes. You’re not in the economics department or business department. Right. Yeah. So that’s a really huge games. And you’ve been able really to mark how that’s changed. In your students learning, right? Yes. Amazing.

Dawn Tamarkin  21:16

Everybody who uses the molecular puzzles has come back to tell me how huge of a difference it is. Even something simple, I make these mitosis sequencing cards. And it’s a very simple idea. But I had someone who was a very traditional teacher, who wasn’t getting good teacher reviews. Yeah. And he started with those. And from then on, his students liked him every time he taught, he start with those. And he came up to me to tell me, it’s completely changed the way his class works. Class community grows, trust in Him grows. And he just does one thing different. You know, it’s, there’s something very valuable to making sure that students know how much you care about their learning.

Lillian Nave  22:06

Yeah, yeah, it’s a real change. If you’ve got a bunch of students who are very scared, and as you mentioned, they could be phobic math phobic, or science phobic whatever. And then they’re just really worried that anxiety about how to accomplish whatever task in the class, and will I even understand what’s going on. And so to make it so accessible, and here, we’re talking physically accessible, but and also, as an academic, like entering into something that can be really treacherous for first timers, how a novice brain works, I think about that all the time, you as an expert, you know how all these things interact. And in any field, we often think, Oh, it’s this is pretty easy, because we’ve been working in it for 20 years, I know how, you know, this light effect works in a painting, or you know, what’s for whatever it is, but then the novice does not have any idea how those things work together. So anyway, we can help those students to make that connection is going to be super helpful for them in their learning and confidence building. Right, all of that stuff.

Dawn Tamarkin  23:20

Exactly. Exactly.

Lillian Nave  23:23

Yeah. So and you’ve you’ve made actually quite a few of these, the cell model, the molecular model, what sort of things I know, you started out when you had a student with a visual impairment, right, that was the impetus. Yes. Yeah. So can you tell me more about these really fantastic manipulatives, I guess you could call them or

Dawn Tamarkin  23:47

even some simple things that anyone can do in the class, simple sorting activities with little cards, I print out words, Kevin, up, give every group a set of words. And they can just sort them. But the there are so many things that can be done little acting out of molecules and cells and processes. Even sequencing of stuff, just a regular process, that when I had early on when I was first learning about Universal Design for Learning, I did have this student who was a student with visual disability and she was coming into my class. So I first made my dynamic sell models out of clay, okay, it was weeks in one of those make your own pottery place. But the problem was it was sharp, some of the pieces were sharp, and she was being tactile with it. So then I submitted a grant application to develop the cell models in plastic, so I did those. And at the end of that I had cell models Not remaining. And I didn’t know what to do with them. And I was told by the National Science Foundation that starting a business was the ultimate and dissemination. So I have been a professor, a scientist, not a business person. And I said to her, I don’t really know how to do a business. It’s not my thing. She said, Well, you could learn. So I started a business. And then I made molecular puzzles with the help of a colleague in mechanical engineering technologies. We figured out well, mostly, he figured out how to make a mold from my designs. And then we started making that and the business only took off because I found an injection molder, whose wife was a second grade teacher, and said to him, You have to help her. So he started doing all my injection molding for me. Wow. And so the business has grown and I have now I have six products, sort of a seven. It’s a UDL you D product in a different way for chemistry labs. But I make this the items that go into a classroom for, for teaching to be more students centered. Yeah. So a teacher only has to bring these things into the room, put them in front of the students, and the students learn. And then I throw in things like to make it easier for the teacher and handouts if they want to give handouts and that kind of stuff. But that’s only part of what I do for UDL, I mean, other stuff is just all the other things you do in class, to make sure that your students are able to learn. So whatever activity, I can come up with something that gets them moving and thinking, because it turns out the best way for a student to learn is to be learning actively, yes, most students just read, sometimes they highlight now that it’s online, they don’t even highlight. So to come up with a way to turn what they’re doing into a physically active approach, whether it is speaking it out loud, which they do when they’re talking to each other. Or they can do at home by themselves, whether it’s touching the parts of your body that you relate to, that you’re learning about, whether it’s taking all the terms that you’ve just learned, and figuring out which of the big categories in which of the things that fit in it and organizing all the terms. Those kinds of active things are really important.

Lillian Nave  27:47

Yeah, you know, and when you created this cell, right, the first model, did you find that you had to teach differently with that cell model? Or just the did it become automatically just more student centered? What happened there?

Dawn Tamarkin  28:06

So it does become more student centered automatically. But the problem is that we’re not used to teaching the cell in a student centered way. Okay. When I had the National Science Foundation grant, I had a number of institutions that were all willing to test it out in their classroom, and in their cell unit. And it turns out that no, two classes have the same cell unit. And almost nobody has been looking at more than one or two cells, and even try to explain what they’re seeing. There’s a lot of memorization with the cell. And that goes all the way back to middle school. When kids first learned about cells. Yes. I knew someone who one of my students, his his middle school son wanted to show me something. And so I got to see his middle school son had made a cell out of clay. Yeah. And it turns out that all he did was exactly copy the drawing of the cell in his book. So when I said why is this part green? And he said, because it’s green in the book.

Lillian Nave  29:22

Okay, yeah. I understand why he says that answer, but that’s not really why is it?

Dawn Tamarkin  29:28

Right. So I had been trying to think about how to have students really gain understanding of what cells are and what components they have. And so when anyone would bring this into their class, they would have to change what they’re doing, to turn it into a student centered classroom where students are engaged differently with cells. And so that actually, although it’s been a remarkable product, In my classes, and in any class where it goes, it’s been a harder class a harder product to sell. And it’s not even expensive. And they even reduced the cost recently, because I just want people to be able to use it. And they’re just not getting it because they don’t understand the the need for it. They haven’t heard their students leaving the classroom saying, Oh, no, yeah.

Lillian Nave  30:29

I mean, you’re really looking for, for understanding and not just memorization. And I know, and in my tenure so far in academia, there’s a lot of questions around the grades, that what do they really actually tell us? It tells us they’ve memorized it for a certain amount of time, but may not tell us that they really fully understand something. And yeah, so if you really want them to understand, you might be doing things differently than just trying to satisfy what the GPA or the grading system is. So yeah, that’s, that’s a little bit of what a lot of the the folks I talked to, in Universal Design for Learning are really interested in that actual learning part. That’s a bit outside of the formal systems that that we have. And that sometimes can’t be quantified, you know, with with the grades. So in the same way that it’s always been. So yeah, I totally get that. And by the way, I will have in the resources section, not only your your information about your NSF grant, and you’ve got some great resources, but also the sell zone, your your company in case people are interested as well. But you, we talked about this whole understanding thing, and you have said, I want to know what you mean by it, when you say you want to turn things from memorize to learning process, from complex to focused, and obscure to real. So tell me about this kind of philosophy you have.

Dawn Tamarkin  32:07

So, in college, when I get a student who comes into the class, and I say we’re going to learn about the cell, they’ll tell me I learned about the cell in high school, I learned about the cell in middle school. I even learned about cells in elementary school, why am I learning it again? And I’ll say what do you know, and they’ll spout out some things like the mitochondria, and it’s the powerhouse of the cell. Now, they don’t know what a powerhouse is. But they can tell you that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. No one knows what a powerhouse is. I mean, you can ask probably 100 kids and they may be five, but you Yeah. So um, so the challenge is that there are these catchphrases, and they’re not even all correct, that people learn. And there’s a lot of memorization. I think some of it for standardized test performance, they, they’re memorizing stuff. But there’s more value into learning something and gaining an understanding so that you can apply it in the next level, of course that you take. One thing was sciences that it does build, it builds from one thing to the next. So someone taking an introductory biology course, would then go on into genetics. Yeah, after they finished biology. Genetics is just taking one part of what they learned in biology and expanding on it. But if by the time they get to genetics, they already have forgotten what they learned in introductory biology, they can’t expand on it. And actually, I know someone that did a study and found that that’s why they are not learning in genetics. Oh, really, they don’t remember the other stuff. Got it. So the idea is, science seems to be very complex to students. Well, instead of letting it be complex, focus on one thing at a time, gain information on it. And instead of memorizing things, there’s no point in memorizing, you’re gonna have to look it up again later. So just learn what’s important about it, try to understand where the value is, I tell my students to always ask, Why should I know this? What’s, you know? Where is this important? How does this relate to my goals? All of those questions, because if they can’t, they’re never going to have tried to learn it. But if they can find a reason, because they shouldn’t be just being taught something because they’re supposed to be taught something because it’s in a syllabus, they should be taught something because it’s valuable. And where’s the value? Yeah, so that’s what I mean. They really have to turn something from completely abstract to something real and a value to themselves.

Lillian Nave  34:58

Those are very UDL questions, absolutely, right. The why the how the what? Exactly? Yes, that’s certainly the the things I talk about all the time that are so important. And you know, that whole understanding about, I’m thinking of like the student in a STEM class on the very first day. And they might be thinking it’s overwhelming. And why would I need to learn this and we need to be, I think it’s part of our job to make those connections. Like, if you want to go into this field, you really have to understand these building blocks, and not just memorize them, like really know their function and know what needs to happen to make this process work. And we are often just so focused on I need to get through this class, or I need to check a box for my transcript or, yeah, or, you know, this is what you have to do to go pre med or whatever it is. And we need to really focus our students, because it’s really, I think, hard as the novice to really understand how that process goes, how we move through those things. I certainly didn’t know it, I was just there to drink from a firehose is what I, you know, felt like, and didn’t see how all those pieces fit together until really years later. I mean, it was pretty late.

Dawn Tamarkin  36:25

We get a lot of students who, especially now that there are assessments online, that are concerned that their ideas don’t sound sciency enough. And so they look for some other place online to copy information from, not because they’re trying to plagiarize, not putting blame on that. But because they really don’t think that what they’re saying sounds like a scientist said it. And yet, scientists don’t talk all the time, the way you read a scientific book, the book has to be condensed. And so it’s very dense. And it’s full of the terminology. And when people talk, they talk like people and scientists talk like normal people. And so there shouldn’t be this need to feel like every other word has to be a long term. It doesn’t have to be I mean, I haven’t said that many long terms in this conversation. Yeah. And I teach anatomy and physiology, which is full of terms. Yes. Right. So it has to be something that students keep in mind that they can be a scientist without talking and sounding like a scientist all the time.

Lillian Nave  37:40

Yeah. Right. I know. It’s a totally different animal when I’m teaching. And then when I’m trying to write something for publication, it’s two very different ways of talking and a lot more thinking about my word choice, that’s for sure. So, so you have some resources that you created, and some free things I know that that are helpful for our listeners, especially those listeners who have has said, Lillian, are you going to have somebody who does stem? You know, and and so you have actually created a whole UDL and NSF guidebook, and I was wondering what resources can you point us to for using more UDL interventions and teaching STEM courses.

Dawn Tamarkin  38:32

So I put together a UDL, studying and learning guidebook and for studying and learning in STEM. And it’s mostly written for students, there’s a one page bid for the teacher that can be eliminated when given to students. But we put that guidebook together, because in our second NSF grant, I’d said that we were going to teach studying and learning methods. And so I figured I should get the best studying and learning methods. So I surveyed over 400, teachers in STEM, about what they thought were the best methods for studying and learning. And then I went ahead and surveyed almost the same number of students and found that the student answers were very different than the teacher answers. So the student answers were not as active. But one of the things that a teacher can do is model those learning methods. So I can point my, my students in the direction of the guidebook, I can give them the guidebook, but will they do anything? Maybe not because changing behavior is difficult. But if during class, the teacher gives them an opportunity to carry out one of these activities, or if the teacher gives an assignment Like, read this one section of the book, which is maybe one or two pages, and take notes, in your own words on what was said in that section and what it meant. And give me also a sentence about why it should matter. And turn that in is an assignment. Well, now the teacher is training the students in the studying and learning method, and the students will have already done it. So they don’t have to figure it out on their own. So modeling the appropriate learning behavior is really important for a teacher.

Lillian Nave  40:40

That’s fantastic. This, this guidebook is now like freely available to to anyone

Dawn Tamarkin  40:47

it is, it is. And I know that it’s used in multiple school districts in the country. But I don’t know exactly how many I just keep giving it out and letting people share. So that’s something that I’ve done. As far as other resources. I have a few on the website, for sale zone, on a resources page. But I’m always happy to put more on there. And Lillian, the podcast is on there now to good. You’re limited on the resources page.

Lillian Nave  41:23

Excellent. And similarly, Harvard University has something called lab exchange. And they do a lot of STEM resources. And it’s in its kind of free little plug for them as well, because they also have the podcast on on their website as well. And I’m trying to get more and more stem episodes specifically on the think UDL podcasts. So

Dawn Tamarkin  41:50

so there’s yeah, there’s one other important thing for I think for STEM teachers with UDL. And that is that there’s a typical way that UDL is taught, right. So multiple means of representation, multiple means of engagement, multiple means of action and expression. And sometimes those seem very abstract, especially to a STEM teacher who has very concrete things that they know and learn and teach. So in workshops I do with STEM teachers, I typically tell them to think about it in a different way, they can always come back to that. But when a teacher thinks about their own class, if they think about, what do I have my students do that someone who can’t see can’t do or someone who is mobility restricted? Can’t do or someone who can’t hear can’t do? Or someone who is ADHD can’t do or someone who’s dyslexic struggles with? So if they think about what it is that that I teach, or have students do that, they prevent some of my students from being fully involved. Now think about what could you do. And I was just talking about this today with some chemistry instructors. There’s a thing in chemistry called chirality, where a molecule can be right handed or left handed, it has all the same atoms, but its arrangement is slightly different, right handed or left handed. And that difference is a big deal. Like with glucose, which is sugar, one of the fake sugars that we can put in our food is the left handed sugar, because the right handed sugar is the one our body and Jasson uses. So the left hand is sugar kinda tastes like sugar, but our body can’t use it. And that’s one of the fixtures. So anyway, with morality, though, you have to be able to tell left from right. And I had a really good friend who was dyslexic, and a, and a chemistry major, who struggled with chirality. That was like the hardest thing to do. And when I brought this up with these chemistry instructors, they said, Yeah, you know, if we have the actual model in front of us when we’re teaching this, and we can show them and show them how they come together don’t come together and have. So, you know, they started to brainstorm how they could do it differently. Just because they said chirality is hard for someone who’s dyslexic. And those kinds of things. What can you do just to include more people? And that will make your class much more UDL?

Lillian Nave  44:44

Absolutely, yeah. And there are like just multiple ways to make that difference, like even just a different color or like you said, you had some tactile, you know, the molecule was raised on those you know, Having multiple ways to make that difference rather than just let’s say the mirror image that could flip around,

Dawn Tamarkin  45:06

right. And a lot of science textbooks use red and green as distinguishing colors. Like, my nephews,

Lillian Nave  45:16

yes, my nephew. Yeah, the the, that’s the most common colorblindness is the red and green. Yeah. So, yeah, I learned a lot about that early on in my UDL journey, and especially like, and not just using color as a way to show a difference have a different pattern, you know, checks or, or stripes, rather than just three different colors that somebody with a color blindness, wouldn’t really be able to distinguish those different colors. So that’s great. So you’ve got quite a lot that I think any STEM field can learn from here. And I’m really excited to have your resources and a link to the models that you’ve created and and the NSF guidebook on the web page for this episode. So thank you so much, Dawn, for joining me today on the thing, you know, yeah, thanks so much. You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released. And also see transcripts and additional materials at the think website. Thank you again to our sponsor, Texthelp. Texthelp is focused on helping all people learn, understand and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Texthelp and its people are working towards a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers to learning and succeeding, with over 50 million users worldwide. The Texthelp suite of products include Read and Write equates to an orbit note, which work alongside existing platforms such as Microsoft Office and G Suite, and enabling them to be integrated quickly into any classroom or workspace with ease. Texthelp has changed the lives of millions worldwide, and strives to impact the literacy and understanding of 1 billion people by 2030. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez, and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The Think UDL podcast

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