Summary of “The impact of screen-free zones in an undergraduate psychology classroom: Assessing exam performance and instructor evaluations in two quasi-experiments”

Summary of Rhinehart, L., Vazquez, S. R., & Greenfield, P.M. (2021). The impact of screen-free zones in an undergraduate psychology classroom: Assessing exam performance and instructor evaluations in two quasi-experiments. Teaching of Psychology,

Many undergraduates look at screens during lectures. The instructor in Psychology 133G, Prof. Patricia Greenfield, and two long-term TAs, Dr. Laura Rhinehart and Salvador Vazquez, became concerned about the distraction produced by screens in class and decided to address the issue through both research and practice. Two quasi-experimental studies in Psychology 133G, Culture and Human Development, explored results of restricting screens to one area of the classroom on exam performance and instructor evaluations. Their results have been recently published in Teaching of Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association. (

In both studies, these policies improved exam scores in the class. Students who chose to sit in the screen-free zone did better on exams. Horizontal division of the classroom where students could use their laptops only if they sat in the back few rows of the classroom produced student pushback in the form of qualitative comments on their evaluation forms and lower evaluations in quantitative instructor ratings. In contrast, vertical division of the classroom where one side was for screens and the other side was a no-screen section was accepted without comment by students. Together, these studies show that students who sit in screen-free sections tend to do better on assessments. Additionally, students accept vertical division of a classroom into screen and screen-free zones. Now that we are returning to classroom teaching, these studies can be useful for students and instructors alike; they imply that students will do better if they attend at least some lectures in a screen-free section. While screens are of course central to remote learning, the findings also imply that students should listen and view remote lectures with notifications turned off and without multitasking online, like checking email or social media.

Read the full article



Research Collaboration Highlights the Role of Undergraduate Research in Building Career-Related Skills for Humanities and Social Science Majors


New research published in the summer 2021 edition (Volume 4, Number 4) of the journal Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research (SPUR) highlights the important role that participating in undergraduate research plays in helping humanities, arts, and social science students develop important skills desired by today’s employers.

While many studies on undergraduate research outcomes are focused on STEM fields, the widely variable experiences in the humanities, arts, and social sciences are less known and harder to study. The structure and standardization of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP) and Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP), both offered through UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Center – Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (URC-HASS), however, provide a unique opportunity to study the outcomes of these students. Compared with a quasi-control group of non-research students, students engaged in research reported statistically significant better outcomes on average in attaining skills related to critical thinking/problem solving, professionalism/work ethic, and oral/written communication, three of the top four competencies desired by hiring employers, as ranked by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

This study and publication are the result of an ongoing collaboration between the URC-HASS and the Center for Educational Assessment (CEA). The authors of the paper are Drs. Kelly Kistner (Assistant Director, URC-HASS), Erin M. Sparck (Postdoctoral Scholar, CEA), Amy Liu (Research Analyst, CEA), Hannah Whang Sayson (Assistant Director of Data Analytics, CEA), Marc Levis-Fitzgerald (Director, CEA), and Whitney Arnold (Director, URC-HASS).

The full article can be accessed on the Council of Undergraduate Research’s website for Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research (SPUR) in Volume 4, Number 4.

Center for Educational Assessment Receives Racial and Social Justice Grant to Increase the Sense of Belonging within the UCLA Community

As the nation grapples with the impact of historical and structural racism, UCLA seeks to create systemic change on campus and within the community. As part of a larger effort, the Center for Educational Assessment (CEA) recently received the Racial and Social Justice Grant, funded by UCLA’s Institute for American Cultures (IAC) and the Office of Research and Creative Activities (ORCA). The project, “All Bruins Belong: Addressing Inequities Through Positive Academic Engagement,” will work with underrepresented minority (URM) students and faculty to explore factors related to inequities and positive engagement in the classroom. In doing so, the project will identify best practices that encourage critical thinking and respectful dialogue to increase the sense of belonging at UCLA.

“All Bruins Belong” will bring together a team of researchers from across campus, including Adrienne Lavine (Associate Vice Provost, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching; Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), Charles J. Alexander (Associate Vice Provost for Student Diversity; Director, Academic Advancement Program), Paul Barber (Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), Molly S. Jacobs (Coordinator for Curriculum Assessment, CEA), Marc Levis-Fitzgerald (Director, CEA), Victoria Marks (Professor, Department of World Arts and Cultures; Associate Dean, School of Arts and Architecture; Chair, Disability Studies minor), and Vilma Ortiz (Professor, Department of Sociology). For more information on the grant, visit the RSJ program information page here.

Lessons Learned: UCLA Symposium on Remote Teaching during COVID-19

The 3rd annual UCLA Teaching Symposium took place from April 12-16, 2021, and focused on the theme “what we learned from remote teaching that we can apply to the future when we are back in person.” Sessions were hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) as well as our campus partners, the Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS), Excellence in Pedagogy and Innovative Classrooms (EPIC), and Online Teaching & Learning (OTL). Read more about the symposium in the UCLA College article.

Figure A 1st gen vs. non 1st gen and urm vs. non urm students

New Research Shows the Impact of Remote Instruction on URM Students in STEM and the Opportunity to Expand Course-Based Research

A new study published in The Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education’s special edition, “Teaching in the Time of Crisis” looked at the impact of the rapid shift to remote teaching at the start of 2020. Students enrolled in UCLA’s HHMI Health Disparities and Environment Program developed a survey that was administered to students during the Spring 2020 quarter. Survey findings indicated that there were significant disparities in remote learning that disproportionately impacted underrepresented minority (URM) and first-generation students.

Another unique aspect of this paper comes from the research project itself, which was a novel course-based research experience (CURE) for students in the HEDP. Traditionally, CUREs are bound by a need to have lab space. This study showed that it is possible to scale up access to CUREs even in the context of remote instruction. As one student noted, “a lot of us were…upset a little bit…that we weren’t going to be able to go out into the field, but I think that kind of turned into, like, excitement because…we started to do COVID research, especially because that’s…really relevant now” (p. 18). The study and resulting publication were led by Professor Paul Barber with the assistance of researchers at the Center for Educational Assessment (CEA), including Casey Shapiro, Molly Jacobs, and Marc Levis-Fitzgerald. Additionally, 14 undergraduate students and two graduate students were involved throughout the process, further demonstrating the potential for engaging students impactfully in research experiences.

Figure A 1st gen vs. non 1st gen and urm vs. non urm students

Figure C 1st gen vs. non 1st gen and urm vs. non urm students



Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree key

Figure 1. Responses to two of the questions from the remote instruction survey show significant differences between: 1st Generation and non-1st Generation students and URM and non-URM students.

The full article can be accessed here:

Materials Chemistry GE Course

Teaching Scientific Literacy and Critical Thinking in a Chemistry GE Course

A recent article by Roshini Ramachandran, CAT’s Assistant Director of Curricular Initiatives, discusses the pedagogical strategies and assessment results from her CHEM 3: Material World general education course.

Taught remotely in Fall 2020, the course activities focused on problem-based learning utilizing case studies to make chemistry relevant to current real-world situations. Furthermore, social justice themes (e.g., underrepresentation in science, war on drugs, nuclear proliferation, climate change, etc.) were weaved through several topics. The various course components were assessed using survey instruments, and student feedback demonstrated that this multifaceted approach enabled them to engage, evaluate, and communicate science with one another.

Roshini Ramachandran is the Assistant Director of Curricular Initiatives at UCLA’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching. She leads the assessment of UCLA’s General Education Foundation of Scientific Inquiry (GE FSI) curriculum and conducts education research to enhance teaching and learning in STEM courses. She also teaches undergraduate chemistry courses and enjoys mentoring undergraduate students on independent research projects. This teaching-as-research project was done in collaboration with Alex Spokoyny (Chemistry department).

Read the article in the Journal of Chemical Education.

Materials Chemistry GE Course

PEERS grad school figure

New Research from CEA Highlights Impact of PEERS Program in PhD and MD Enrollment for Underrepresented Students in Science Majors

A new study published in the Spring 2021 issue of CBE – Life Sciences Education features the UCLA Program for Excellence in Education and Research in the Sciences (PEERS), an academic support program that serves first- and second-year science majors from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds. Study findings show that students in PEERS enroll in Ph.D. and M.D. programs at significantly higher rates than similar peers in a matched comparison group, and are also more likely to participate in undergraduate research. Taken together, the results indicate that the PEERS program has not only been able to support students during their first two years as science majors at UCLA, but that these students have been successful throughout their undergraduate years and beyond as they pursue careers in high-skill STEM fields. This study is the product of a long-term partnership between researchers at the Center for Educational Assessment (CEA), including Marc Levis-Fitzgerald and Brit Toven-Lindsey, and the PEERS leadership team, including Professor Paul Barber and Tama Hasson, Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Research.

PEERS grad school figureThe full article can be accessed here:

Students Are Positive About Learning Experience in Remote Instruction

Though both faculty and students found the sudden shift to remote instruction last Winter very challenging, a survey conducted by CAT yielded encouraging news about student opinions of remote instruction at UCLA.

At the end of spring quarter, CAT, in collaboration with the College FEC, surveyed students about their experience with remote instruction. Students were remarkably positive about the learning experience and the responsiveness of their instructors. Unfortunately, the response rate was not very high (less than 10%). We wondered if the respondents skewed to students who tended to be “happier” or if perhaps students were especially forgiving in spring given the tumultuous circumstances. So, this fall we conducted a similar survey of all students in each of their courses, but changed the way we administered the survey and got an astounding response rate of around 46%!

Similar to spring, students remain very positive about their learning experience in remote instruction. To be sure, they hunger for a greater sense of community, which is only to be expected.

Here are the summary results aggregated over the entire population of respondents, which includes undergraduate and graduate students from every corner of campus.

  Sum of Agree and Strongly Agree
The instructor(s) incorporated activities and practices that helped me to learn effectively (consider, for example, the use of synchronous and/or asynchronous lectures, discussion boards, breakout rooms, videos, etc.). 89%
The instructor(s) incorporated assessments and deadlines that enabled me to demonstrate my learning effectively (consider, for example, the format and weighting of assignments or exams, the timing provided to complete them, etc.). 89%
The instructors(s) made sufficient accommodations given my personal circumstances (consider, for example, the response to issues with technology, time zone differences, inadequate space for learning, etc.). 91%
The instructors created opportunities for me to connect with others in the course (consider, for example, the use of activities or practices for getting to know classmates and the instructor(s), platforms that encourage students to engage with one another outside of class, etc.). 77%
Please select the statement that best reflects your opinion of remote learning in this course, recognizing that none may perfectly reflect your views: % selecting each option
I missed the social aspect of the classroom, but still learned the course material. 45%
I found it difficult to learn without being in a classroom with the instructor and other students. 18%
The flexibility of remote learning made it easier to succeed in this class. 23%
Remote instruction can never be as effective as regular classroom instruction for this course no matter how hard the instructor tries. 10%

We are putting together a dashboard to share the results. In the coming weeks we will be analyzing the data for different demographic groups (self-reported) and course types as well as extracting themes from some of the open-ended comments.