My research interests are in student understanding and application of chemistry in biological contexts, and strategies to increase writing assessments in undergraduate STEM courses. In specific, my research questions focus on how students use fundamental chemistry concepts to explain biological processes at this level.
As project leader of the AACR research group, I examine the use of computerized tools to help evaluate student writing. These tools enable both exploration of emergent ideas in student writing as well as building statistical models to predict expert scores of student responses. In addition, these tools are powerful in that they can be used to discover and "show" heterogeneous student-thinking; when students harbor some mixture of both scientific and non-scientific ideas.
Using these computerized tools to investigate student writing about chemistry in biology, I was able to identify described mental models of acid-base behavior. Interviews with students revealed that students often relied on heuristics instead of molecular properties to reason about acid-base behaviors. In addition, the identified mental models (both scientific and non-scientific) were consistent between student writing and verbal responses.
I have also used these computerized tools to investigate student evaluations of peer writing in chemistry. The analytic models showed good validity in that they were able to detect ideas relating to the assignment learning goals and evaluation rubric, as well as novel emergent ideas in student writing. This research has also begun to look at the effect of including limited semantic information into the analytic models.
Most recently, I have been involved with the AACR research group in expanding many of these developed computerized evaluation models to facilitate formative feedback reporting to instructors about their own students' writing.
I earned a B.S.in Chemistry from Wayne State University in 2001 and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Michigan State University in 2007. After completing my Ph.D. I decided to explore my interest in teaching and learning in undergraduate science courses as a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Research in College Science Teaching and Learning at MSU.