Cognition and Learning in Science Education

REESE investigators used examples from their own research to discuss children’s reasoning biases, the conceptual underpinnings of evolution, cyber-enabled measurement of cognitive models of natural selection, local manifestations of institutional agency, and the grand challenges of learning and teaching about evolution. Presentations of REESE research included:

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About the Speakers

Sarah Brem is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Arizona State University. A cognitive scientist, her research focuses on public use and understanding of scientific and technical information. She is the author of a number of journal articles, book chapters, and technical reports, and the recipient of a National Science Foundation Early Career Award.

Margaret Evans is an Assistant Research Scientist at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan (UM). She examines knowledge acquisition as a function of: a) the emergence of intuitive causal explanations and b) the influence of diverse contexts, such as belief system (e.g., religious belief), culture (East Asian, Western), and learning experience (e.g., museums, schools). Her Ph.D. in developmental psychology (from UM) focused on the emergence of evolutionary concepts in children and adults from diverse religious communities; her subsequent work, funded by the Spencer Foundation, NAE, and NSF, has built on this foundation. Most recently, she has integrated these studies into several research projects and exhibit development for three different exhibitions on evolution, funded by NSF and NIH. Currently, she is investigating developmental learning progressions for evolutionary concepts.

Deborah Keleman is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Director of the Child Cognition Lab at Boston University and PI on the National Science Foundation (REESE) project The Development of Children’s Teleo-Functional Bias. Her research focuses on children’s and adults reasoning about biological and non-biological natural phenomena and the development of artifact concepts. She is currently investigating K-2 children's ability to understand evolutionary mechanisms such as natural selection. After completing a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at the University of Arizona with Paul Bloom, she was a post-doctoral associate with Ann Brown in the Graduate School of Education, University of California Berkeley.

Kathleen Metz is an Associate Professor in Cognition and Development at Berkeley Graduate School of Education. She received her BS in Psychology at Earlham College, a MS in Education from University of Pennsylvania, and an Ed.D in Human Development and Teacher Education from University of Massachusetts. Kathleen E. Metz is interested in young children's scientific cognition, from both developmental and instructional viewpoints. She was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in Cognitive Science at Carnegie Mellon University and a member of Barbel Inhelder's research team at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. She recently completed an NSF-sponsored project investigating the power and limitations of elementary school children's scientific inquiry. Building on this work, she and her research team are now engaged in a new NSF-funded project, investigating the extent to which second and third graders can develop an understanding of the conceptual underpinnings of evolution.

Ross Nehm is an Associate Professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology and the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at Ohio State University. He holds a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, an Ed.M. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He was the recipient of an NSF Early Career Award and was named an education fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the editor (with Ann Budd) of Evolutionary Stasis and Change in the Dominican Republic Neogene (Springer, 2008). He has published extensively within the fields of evolution education and macroevolution. His educational research interests include evolutionary reasoning, problem solving, and assessment methodologies.

Gale Sinatra is a Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Editor of the APA, Division 15 journal, Educational Psychologist, Fellow of APA and AERA, and Vice President Elect of AERA’s Division C, Learning and Instruction. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research explores the role of motivation in conceptual change (Sinatra & Pintrich, 2003, Sinatra, 2005). Along with her colleagues, Sarah Brem (ASU) and Margaret Evans (University of Michigan), she is currently co-PI on a National Science Foundation grant exploring the challenges of teaching and learning about biological evolution in the US, which include emotional and motivational barriers. She is also co-PI of an interdisciplinary team funded by the Nevada NSF/EPSCoR Sustainability Initiative. The Losing the Lake Project team is designing an educational computer simulation game to teach middle-schoolers about the effect of climate change on water resources in Southern Nevada.