I investigate how to support college biology instructors as they incorporate reformed teaching strategies into their practice. Reformed teaching strategies are strategies that have been shown to improve student outcomes, such as conceptual understanding, problem solving, retention, engagement, and attitudes about science. For example, I participate in a multi-institution, interdisciplinary effort to explore faculty adoption and use of assessments developed for the Automated Analysis of Constructed Response (AACR) project (www.msu.edu/~aacr). I also study the adoption and use of case study teaching (http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/), a type of reformed teaching that involves stories of real-world scenarios to prompt students to solve a problem or make a decision. My research aims to identify the factors that influence college faculty to change their teaching and the types of support faculty need to succeed as in the changes they attempt.
A second area of research in my lab is problem solving among undergraduate biology and biochemistry students. Undergraduate biology students solve problems differently than expert biologists. For example, students tend to classify problems based on surface features rather than underlying concepts. Building on this knowledge, my research seeks to uncover the cognitive processes undergraduates use to solve problems, such as comparing their ideas to ideas from class or using evidence from a graph to support a claim. Simultaneously, I am working to create resources for teachers and students that will improve problem solving among undergraduates. For example, I have created a guide to writing good biology problems for teachers and an online problem-solving tutorial for students (www.solveit.uga.edu).