STEM Education Research


How can we best help our students develop as scientists, critical thinkers, and effective communicators?  This is the question that is central to my work in STEM education.  There is a broad literature about how to accomplish these goals in higher education and yet there remains a chasm between what is happening in many college classrooms and what science education says is most effective.  I am concentrating on implementing teaching strategies that we already know are effective while also concentrating on assessing how effectively I am putting these strategies into practice.  At the same time, we always have more to learn about learning and teaching and to that end I have been working on several projects related to understanding how to better teach students at the college level.  I am particularly interested in science process skills and how actively implementing learning objectives around these skills in lecture courses can improve student learning, improve STEM identity, and increase STEM persistence for all students. 


Collaborators: Susanna E. Honig, Tamara Ball, and Lisa Hunter

final class day spring 16Constructing good scientific explanations is a core scientific skill that must be mastered to effectively do science.  Yet, this complex skill is rarely explicitly taught to undergraduate science students.  Rather, we expect that students will pick this up through course assignments that are aimed at other learning objectives or informally during their undergraduate or graduate careers.  In the active learning version of my development and physiology course, we developed an intervention to explicitly help students practice the scientific skill of constructing scientific explanations through reading scientific papers in the core content areas of the course.   We assessed learning gains by using a previously published instrument based on the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning framework and a rubric that we modified to separate the content from the practice of constructing scientific explanations.  We found that students made significant gains especially in their ability to use scientific reasoning.  This work is currently in preparation for publication.

Collaborator Affiliations:

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Honig,S., Dunkin, R., Ball, T., Hunter, L. (In prep) Claim, evidence, and reasoning: students improve their ability to articulate scientific explanations in an active learning context



Collaborators: Susanna E. Honig

lectureWhen we think of teaching scientific skills often our minds go to lab courses where we learn skills like pipetting, plotting data, running gels, and other lab bench skills that are stereotypical “science” skills. Yet we know that while the lab and field-based skills vary considerably from one scientific discipline to the next, the critical thinking skills, reading and analyzing data, communication skills, writing skills, and many others are universal across scientific disciplines.  There is also good evidence that when students improve their scientific skills they also improve their self-efficacy and STEM identity.  This new project is aimed at assessing strategies for explicitly incorporating scientific skills into large lecture courses.



Collaborator Affiliations:

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More information coming soon