Mini-Grant Recipients

The UCI Education Research Initiative is pleased to support multiple projects that explore ways to improve various aspects of undergraduate education for diverse populations. The 2019 funded mini-grant projects are included below.

penelope collins - mini grant

Penelope Collins, Education

The Affordances of Infographics for Undergraduates’ Writing Development

Writing is a demanding cognitive task for undergraduate students because it requires an in-depth understanding of rhetorical and domain knowledge, genre conventions, and linguistic principles. Teaching writing to students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds in a way that fosters competence and confidence is equally challenging. However, carefully integrating technological tools into curriculum can help support developing writers. Considering the complexity of writing from students’ and instructors’ standpoints, this exploratory pilot study seeks to examine the affordances of infographics in process-based writing in an upper-division undergraduate writing course. The instructional approach proposed uses infographics as a means of scaffolding the cognitive demands of writing, while acknowledging students’ motivational factors. The curricular integration of infographics in upper-division writing courses is grounded in the process-based writing approach that involves careful and iterative planning, writing, and revising processes. This study seeks to first explore the teaching and learning affordances of integrating infographics as a tool for planning and communicating during writing-intensive courses. It also seeks to test the efficacy of this approach for improving students’ writing motivation and outcomes. This study has theoretical and practical implications for writing instructors, writing researchers and policymakers.

David Schaefer mini grant

David Schaefer, Sociology

Understanding Social Networks in Undergraduate Biological Sciences

Learning communities (LCs) have shown great promise in facilitating academic performance and the transition to post-secondary education, particularly for at-risk populations. Many of the processes through which LCs are believed to promote student success are relational in nature. The current project draws upon methods from social network analysis to examine several such mechanisms. In particular, there is a focus on the Enhanced Academic Success Experience (EASE) initiative, which is an LC targeted toward freshman majors in biological sciences at UCI. Patterns of friendship formed by incoming freshman are evaluated to see how these change over the course of their first year, and the mechanisms responsible for those changes. Several mediating factors hypothesized are tested to explain the positive impact of the EASE program, including social network integration and peer influence on academic practices and performance.

sei lee mini grant recipients    Sei Lee, English       qian du mini grant recipients Qian Du, English


Second Language (L2) Students’ Conceptualizations of an “Effective Teacher” in L2 Writing Classes: A Study of Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs)

Given the growth of international students across the U.S., many of whom are non-native English speakers, English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Programs have played a significant role in the instruction of English for this population. In such programs, student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are frequently used to measure teacher effectiveness and student learning. Prior research in education has been helpful in exposing how SETs are problematic in terms of their capacity to function as valid or reliable measures of teaching effectiveness. Such limitations are further complicated by additional research that shows how SETs may specifically disadvantage faculty from marginalized backgrounds (e.g., faculty of color, women faculty, faculty who are NNES, Non-Native English Speakers). Despite the vast literature on SETs, there is a lack of research on second language (L2) students’ responses on SETs in the context of L2 writing classes. This study aims to understand how L2 students in L2 writing courses define “teacher effectiveness” as reflected on the SETs and whether the SETs are accurate in reflecting students’ general perceptions of an effective teacher. This study will use descriptive and inferential statistics: a 2×2 Factorial ANOVA to examine the main and interactional effects of instructor variables, such as nativeness in English and gender, in relation to course variables, including class size, duration of class, class time, and course level, on SET ratings, supplemented by a qualitative thematic analysis of focus group interviews. The findings of this study will have broad implications for EAP administrators, instructors and stakeholders in U.S. higher education.

rachel baker mini grants recipients

Rachel Baker, Education

Increasing Cross-Enrollment between local CCCs and UCI

California Education code 66750 – 66754 ensures that “Any student enrolled  in the California Community Colleges, the California State University, or the University of California may enroll without formal admission and payment of additional fees, in a maximum of one course per academic term at a campus of either of the other systems on a space available basis.” For students at California Community Colleges (CCC), cross-enrolling at a California State University (CSU) or University of California (UC) campus could potentially increase a student’s likelihood of transferring by altering their perception of their own ability to succeed in CSU and UC classes or by familiarizing the student with the campus, faculty, and peers at the host institution. Additionally, success in a cross-enrolled course could potentially help a student’s chance of being accepted as a transfer student. However, evidence suggests that relatively few CCC students take advantage of this opportunity to enroll in CSU or UC courses; over the course of the five most recent academic years (2013-14 to 2017-18), only 155 unique CCC students enrolled in UCI classes using the cross-enrollment process. The reasons for these low take-up rates have not been fully explored.

The goal of this study is to determine students’ perceptions of the barriers to, and benefits of, cross-enrollment. Focus groups and surveys with current CCC and UCI students, staff and administrators that will examine current practices, challenges, and potential improvements to the process.  First focus groups will help get a sense of common concerns, beliefs, and barriers. Then a survey will be designed to distribute broadly, based on the findings of the focus groups. The findings from the surveys and focus groups will lead to the development of a series of interventions that will aim to increase cross-enrollment, and hopefully transfer, between local CCCs and UCI.

Heidi Hardt   Heidi Hardt, Political Science  Amy Erica Smith Amy Erica Smith, Political Science, Iowa State University


Impact of the Gender Readings Gap on Female Graduate Student Experiences

Women are increasingly joining Ph.D. programs in STEM. However, they continue to leave academia at higher rates than those of men. To investigate the leaky pipeline phenomenon, Ph.D. coursework is examined as an important but poorly understood factor that shapes student experiences. Specifically, assigned readings in course syllabi affect students’ interest – and likely their willingness to stay – in a given program. This project therefore asks: how does the underrepresentation of female-authored scholarship in Ph.D. course syllabi affect male and female students’ experiences in Ph.D. programs? We posit that such underrepresentation negatively affects female graduate students’ attitudes about their own role in academia – as well as both male and female graduate students’ evaluation of research authored by their female peers. If female students have negative experiences with coursework (typically during Year 1 and 2), they are in turn more likely to drop out of a Ph.D. program – contributing to the “leaky pipeline” phenomenon. Expectations are tested via a survey experiment involving 300 political science graduate student subjects. Results will be used as a proof of concept for a proposal for a larger study to NSF program solicitation 19-508.

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson, Studio Art

STEAM Outreach Class

The Beall Center for Art + Technology, Department of Art, and the Emergent Media + Design program, in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA), jointly request a mini grant of $15,000 to support a new course in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) Education for UCI undergraduate students – structured as an intervention for Education Research at UCI. Evolving the existing STEAM Outreach program offered by the Beall Center for Art + Technology, this proposed undergraduate class for UCI students would primarily focus on developing STEAM-focused campus tours, workshops, lesson plans, and hands-on activities for K-12 students. Led by a graduate teaching assistant (with supervision from CTSA faculty), students enrolled in this class (tentatively called Art 130A: Projects in New Technologies) will work with the representatives of the Beall Center’s STEAM Outreach Council to develop STEAM content for K-12 students, interface with visiting students, lead tours and workshops, and create pre and post-visit assessment tools to gauge their experiences and interest in STEAM careers and majors. With this structure, undergraduates will be equipped to take on student teaching roles and experiment with curriculum ideas, graduates will help refine the assessment process, and CTSA will serve more K-12 students than it is currently able to accommodate; a major priority given the level of demand that exists for these free community programs. Enrolled undergraduates of the class would also be required to prepare a final reflection paper that analyzes their self-developed assessment tools, curriculum ideas, and experiences with the K-12 students. The primary research question to be addressed is: Can undergraduate students be trained to deliver an effective STEAM outreach curriculum consisting of tours and workshops for K-12 students? The qualitative data will be used to develop future K-12, collegiate and professional development programs in STEAM, with the potential for broader applicability as evidence of the needs and interests of future university students.

Duncan Pritchard, Chancellor’s Professor of Philosophy

Enhancing Intellectual Virtue Development

This project will be devoted to exploring the development of students’ critical intellectual capacities–their intellectual virtues–as part of a dedicated range of educational activities that are currently being integrated into the heart of the UCI curriculum and co-curriculum. The project thus constitutes a unique opportunity to bring cutting-edge interdisciplinary research on the role of the intellectual virtues in education to bear on a university curriculum. The three principal research goals of this project are:

(i) To draw together the latest research on intellectual virtue development and its relevance for university-level education;

(ii) To employ this research base to inform the development of UCI-wide educational initiatives;

(iii) To evaluate the effectiveness of these educational initiatives at developing intellectual virtue, with a view to refining them and further extending their reach.

The project will lead to important interdisciplinary research publications and will serve as a pilot to attract large interdisciplinary grants from external funding bodies. It will also stimulate a wider conversation–initially within the UC system as a whole, but ultimately nationally–about the intellectual role of the university. The project would help establish UCI as a beacon when it comes to ambitious pedagogical initiatives of this kind.