Implementation Faculty FAQ
What does Treatment Instructor mean? How is it different from Control Instructor?
The Bridges Across Eastern Queens HSI-STEM grant is supported by the Department of Education and aims to improve student retention in part by redesigning the landing courses that students interested in STEM take early in their college experience. Part of the redesign process is verifying that modified activities in the course redesign are beneficial to students, thus, the course sections are randomly assigned as either treatment sections (including new modifications) or control sections (taught normally, business as usual). Both treatment and control sections are taught by assigned faculty in each department and the instructors should be notified by the Redesign faculty of their assignment.
Control Instructors will teach control sections the same way that they have been taught most recently. Think of this as 'business as usual'. Treatment Instructors will be given materials and resources to use and guidelines to follow by the Redesign Team in their department. These materials and guidelines indicate what the modifications to the treatment course entail and should be followed as closely as possible by the Treatment Instructors. If you are assigned to a treatment section but have not found the materials you need, please reach out to any of the HSI- STEM Team (contact information below) or your department's Redesign Team (https://hsistem.qc.cuny.edu/course-redesign/redesign-teams)
What is RCT and why is it important to follow RCT?
Randomized Control Trial (RCT) designs involve comparison of data between treatment and control groups. In this project, treatment groups are sections (lecture, lab, recitation) that have been modified and enhanced through course redesign by each department's redesign team. RCT randomizes who receives the intervention and who doesn’t, thereby reducing bias, and allowing for an valid estimation of treatment impact.
Random assignment helps protect against the potentially confounding influence of factors that cannot be measured and controlled in the analysis. Throughout the semester, the HSI-STEM Team will check in implementation faculty (both treatment and control instructors) to see how their section is progressing and which redesign activities have been implemented (or not) in the course. This data is important for verifying compliance of each section to RCT assignment and to help validate the data collected at the end of the semester.
What is my role in the HSI-STEM grant?
Whether you are a Treatment Instructor or a Control Instructor, you are an integral part of making sure that the grant's aims move forward and that we all help improve student learning. As a Treatment Instructor, it's up to you to implement the modifications to the course that were chosen by the Redesign Team. As a Control Instructor, you should teach your course as usual so that we have appropriate data to determine modification efficacy. Both roles are important for the function of the grant and it's vital to fulfill your role as assigned for the semester.
How do I know if I am supposed to teach a treatment or control section? Might I teach both types?
Before the semester begins, you should be contacted by a member of your department's Redesign Team to notify you of your RCT assignment. In some cases you might be teaching both a treatment and control section. In this case, it is especially important to understand the modifications assigned to the treatment section and to ONLY implement these modifications in your treatment section and not in your control section.
How do I obtain redesigned materials for my class?
Your Redesign Team will provide you with all of the materials and resources you need. Often these materials will be shared digitally, so make sure you are checking your official campus email accounts as well as your personal email accounts. Some materials may also be put in your department mailbox, so please make sure to check that regularly as well. If you have found out that you are assigned a treatment section, but cannot find the materials, reach out immediately to the Redesign Team or the HSI-STEM Team and we will all do our best to help you as soon as possible.
What do I do if I haven't heard about this project earlier or haven't gotten materials but have been just told that my class has been assigned as a treatment section?
Sometimes emails get lost or kicked into spam or an email gets drowned with dozens of other emails and doesn't get read. If you have found out that you are assigned a treatment section, but don't know what's going on, the first thing you can do is read this FAQ!
Next, if you cannot find the materials or don't know what the treatment modifications are, reach out immediately to the Redesign Team or the HSI-STEM Team and we will all do our best to help you as soon as possible.
Can I switch my RCT assigned treatment section to a control or my RCT assigned control section to treatment?
No. Doing either of these things is considered “non-compliance” and is detrimental to the overall study. Whenever possible, instructors assigned to offer treatment versions of sections should be supported in doing so by the redesign faculty and the HSI-STEM team. Until the treatments are proven effective, the control condition provides necessary data with which to measure the impact of the treatment.
I'm getting emails from people in the HSI-STEM team about some surveys. What is that about?
To ensure that the redesign is being implemented in your treatment section, the HSI-STEM Team sends out two surveys during the semester: One about halfway through the semester and a second one at the end of the semester. We simply want to see which modifications you included in your treatment course through the semester. Surveys are also sent out to Control Instructors at the end of the semester to just verify that there is no implementation of modifications that are used in the treatment sections. These data will be used for summary reporting purposes when analyzing the overall effectiveness of the course redesign.
The surveys should take less than 5 minutes to complete. Please make sure you fill them out!
What is a peer mentor and why might I have one in my treatment section?
Peer mentors are upper level students who know the content of your course and attend lectures, labs and/or recitations throughout the semester and hold office hours outside of class time to assist students. Regular office hours are scheduled for meeting with individuals or groups of students to help with course content, but more importantly they are to help students better learn how to learn while developing better study skills and learning strategies.
RCT is used to randomly assign peer mentors to some treatment sections. They will attend class each week and can assist the Treatment Instructor during class time. This assistance may come in the form of taking attendance, handing out quizzes, assisting the instructor with proctoring an exam, walking around and helping students during lab activities, helping students figure out the next steps during in class problem solving exercises, or facilitating group work. Your Redesign Team may have other more specific ideas about how to utilize a peer mentor in class.
For more information about peer mentors, please click HERE.
I don't have a peer mentor assigned to my treatment section, and I want one. Can one be assigned now?
The peer mentors, like the treatment and control sections, are randomly assigned by the HSI-STEM grant's external evaluator. We are thrilled that you want a peer mentor in your section, but may not be able to accommodate that request this semester.
Can peer mentors grade assignments or enter grades?
Peer mentors are all undergraduate students themselves. As such, according to FERPA laws, they cannot grade or enter assignment grades for other students and cannot have access to protected information. If you are unsure if a task you wish to have a peer mentor complete is acceptable, please check our Student Privacy page or contact one of the HSI-STEM team members for clarification.
Who is in charge of redesigning classes at my campus/ in my department?
Each STEM department at QC and QCC has their own redesign faculty. The current list of these faculty sorted by department can be found HERE.
How do I get in contact with my redesign team?
The Redesign Team page includes the email addresses of each redesign faculty member. You can use that address to contact them. Additionally, you can contact a member of the HSI-STEM Team, or check with your department for further contact details for individual faculty.
Who do I contact for more information about the HSI-STEM grant?
The HSI-STEM team has a number of members who specialize in different parts of the grant. Jennifer Valad is the team's Lead Coordinator and is the Director of Learning Collectives. Sabrina Avila is the Director of Course Redesign, Dr. Patrick Johnson is the Senior Researcher in charge of Articulation Agreements, and Dr. Corinna Singleman is the Director of Communications and Special Projects.
For course redesign inquiries, contact Sabrina Avila, for questions about peer mentors contact Jennifer Valad or Corinna Singleman, and for implementation surveys contact Patrick Johnson or Corinna Singleman. You can also see the other members of the HSI-STEM Team HERE.