RIT's Science and Mathematics Education Research Collaborative (SMERC) is leading the way with new research on how students create and use different representations—graphs, pictures, and/or equations—in a variety of topics in physics, chemistry, and mathematics.
"There are numerous opportunities to combine previous work in educational modeling and community learning with expertise in specific scientific fields to improve the overall assessment of how STEM students learn," notes Scott Franklin, professor of physics and a member of the SMERC team.
A key focus of SMERC, which also includes RIT professors Dina Newman, Tom Kim, Bob Teese, and Kate Wright, is the utilization of education research tools to study different facets of STEM teaching. This includes a project by Newman and Wright to assess methods for improving the teaching of meiosis in introductory biology classes.
"Meiosis, the main avenue for cell repro- duction, is a central component in biology, biochemistry, and genetics, and understanding this process is extremely important for students in these fields," Wright says. "Undergraduate biology majors are exposed to the process of meiosis numerous times during their presecondary and postsecondary education, yet understanding of key concepts does not improve substantially with repeated exposure," Newman adds.
Wright and Newman observed multiple introductory biology classes and conducted interviews of teachers and students to assess how the meiosis concept was presented and how students retained it. This included having students diagram the process based on information provided in a standard textbook as well as the use of word models to analyze the phrases and terminology used to describe how meiosis works.