Action Research in STEM Classrooms

Overview: We collaborate with individual faculty members to 1) identify challenges to effective student learning, and 2) develop, implement, and evaluate evidence-based interventions to address these challenges.

Outcomes: We contributed to collaborative teaching practices and classroom interventions for addressing barriers to effective student learning. From Spring 2021 to Spring 2022, we supported two faculty members, each teaching an introductory science course (in biology and mathematics respectively), impacting 850 undergraduate students in total. We will present our research in MTH 101 at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

EDLI team members, leveraging their expertise in pedagogy and action research in online and blended settings, collaborate with individual faculty members to 1) identify challenges to effective student learning, and 2) develop, implement, and evaluate evidence-based interventions to address these challenges. 

For example, since Spring 2022, Jun and Stephen have been working with a faculty member teaching an introductory math course (MTH 101) asynchronously online to implement and evaluate a structured support program for mitigating attrition among at-risk students. The support program is designed to 1) periodically reach out to each student in this course through learning assistants, 2) identify individual students’ needs and align their needs with relevant guidance and resources, and 3) develop relationships with students such that they could feel comfortable and connected in the learning environment. To meaningfully support the over 550 students enrolled in the course, two learning assistants are specifically dedicated to carrying out support-related activities such as reaching out to their peers through emails, facilitating online help hours for students, as well as obtaining and communicating student voices back to the instructor.

We are currently analyzing data from our research in this course to evaluate the impact of this program on students’ engagement and retention. Based on previous research, effective learning experience in a single introductory STEM course was positively associated with student persistence in STEM majors (Gasiewski et al., 2012). As this specific math course is a mandatory introductory course for students across all majors at MSU, results from this research may contribute to our understanding of how to better support students’ academic engagement and retention, particularly for the at-risk students.

“I already mentioned how this class has helped me at my job but it’s really astonishing how knowledgeable I’ve become now that I understand the data in the paperwork. I currently work as the assistant manager of … as a part of my job I must fill out the deposits, go on bank runs, fill out the payroll, daily sales sheet, and the bill-tracker. I’ve had the responsibility of these tasks for over two years now and only up until recently was I able to comprehend what the data means. I’m now much better at my job and have hence been recognized for it. When I realized I finally understood the data, I realized that I often just go through the motions of life without taking the time to look beyond to find a deeper understanding. This instance has taught me not only that math is accessible in my daily life, but it also taught me to take the time to find deeper connections, understandings, and perspectives.”

Feedback from a student in the MTH101 Course

Publication: Fu, J., Lund, R., & Thomas, S. (2022, August). Meaningfully support at-risk students in an online undergraduate math course: A case study. Poster accepted to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Minneapolis, MN.

Author/Personnel: by Jun Fu; Stephen Thomas

Partners: Rachael Lund, MTH 101, Kirstin Parkin, Samara Chamoun, Andrew Krause


  • Gasiewski, J. A., Eagan, M. K., Garcia, G. A., Hurtado, S., & Chang, M. J. (2012). From gatekeeping to engagement: A multicontextual, mixed method study of student academic engagement in introductory STEM courses. Research in Higher education, 53(2), 229-261.

Jun Fu

Dr. Jun Fu joined the EDLI Team from Oklahoma State University, where she earned a PhD in Educational Psychology and served as an adjunct faculty member at the School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Aviation. Dr. Fu specializes in program evaluation, research and assessment for the EDLI team.