Understanding the cognitive, developmental and neuroscience underpinnings of STEM thinking and reasoning, particularly science
My work on scientific reasoning and science learning is classroom-based research that explores ways to enhance middle school students' science learning by supporting their scientific reasoning skills. I lead projects that examine the role of executive functions in scientific reasoning and the use interactive visualizations to support science learning.
My current work in this area explores how to use digital and board games to support science learning by providing opportunities for middle school students to engage in scientific practices and practice critical thinking skills related to science learning. Current studies are exploring the relationship between executive function, hypothetico-deductive reasoning exhibited in board games and scientific reasoning.
I lead the ESPRIT project with Julie Brown, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. This collaborative project looks at ways to use a social media learning environment to help mediate the achievement gap by increasing parental and/or familial involvement in middle school science education.
GopherMath is a collaboration between Generation Next, Minneapolis Public Schools, and faculty from the Department of Educational Psychology, the Institute for Child Development, and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and is led by Kathleen Kramer, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. For GopherMath, I lead a team designing a new program to help parents from the Somali community better understand how to encourage productive mindsets in learning mathematics. The program helps parents understand why fraction instruction is taught using concrete models and other representations and their role in supporting their children’s education in general.
Jeremy's research interests surround application of cognitive science to science education, with an emphasis in scientific reasoning and learning of complex science concepts and skills. His dissertation focuses on how implicit learning approaches can be applied to understand cognitive processes in conceptual change.
Jean Baptiste is interested in the different roles of cognitive modes (convergent and divergent thinking) and executive functions during scientific reasoning. What role does the construct of cognitive flexibility, and more particularly contextual focus, play during scientific reasoning? How does it manifest during each phase of the scientific reasoning process (i.e. problem space search, hypothesis space search, experiment space search, final solution)?
Nicolaas' research is primarily to study learning in digital game environments. Specifically, he is interested in how people learn in complex multiplayer environments, where learning predominantly occurs as a result of social interactions. To perform this research, Nicolaas uses logged player behavior that is automatically collected while people are playing digital games to track changes in behavior over time.
Tayler is involved in both the Yonas Lab through the Institute of Child Development and Dr. Keisha Varma's lab through the Educational Psychology department. In the Yonas Lab, the main focus is on vision and perception development in humans (mainly infants and right now individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder). In Dr. Varma's lab, she is currently exploring the relationship between scientific reasoning ability, executive function, and motivation in middle school students with graduate students.
Drake is interested in how psychology and neuroscience affect educational achievement. By understanding these relationships, he hopes to improve science education in order teach all academic capabilities effectively. He is currently working in Dr. Varma's lab, narrowing down pivotal executive functions for scientific thinking as well as understanding how game-playing can improve these executive functions.
Jonathan is focused on video games and is interested to see how they can be used as a tool of research, as they provide complex scenarios that nonetheless can be fully understood by researchers. Currently, he works with graduate student, Nicolaas VanMeerten, on the Battle School Study research project regarding use of video games. Jonathan and Nic utilize the game, League of Legends, to see what effects different forms of communcation have on the performance of players of the game.
Anna Rafferty is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Carleton College, and her work combines ideas from computer science, education, and cognitive science. Her research focuses on applying and developing machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to improve educational technologies and better understand human learning. One current project focuses on developing algorithms to automatically assess learners’ misunderstandings from their actions and using these assessments to provide personalized feedback. She has applied the core technologies in this project to several domains, including game-based assessments for experiments about concept learning and interpreting learners’ algebra solving strategies. Other recent projects include exploring how reinforcement learning algorithms can be used for experimentation within online courses and materials in a way that meets the goals of both teachers and researchers, and examining how middle school students use and interpret interactive models about science content. Other general areas of interest include automated scoring and feedback for students, especially about strategies and non-written work; individualizing instruction in educational technologies; and how to draw on the strengths of both human teachers and machine learning to most effectively help students learn.