Science Ed

My interest in science education is motivated by my general interest in the application of developmental psychology to education as well as by my more specific interests in spatial concepts, graphic representation, and gender.

Both spatial concepts and graphic representations are highly relevant to science disciplines in many ways, and thus science disciplines are an excellent domain in which to study the way that such concepts affect thinking and learning. For example, the geo-spatial distribution of phenomena is an essential part of data collection, hypothesis generating, and problem solving (e.g., mapping disease in epidemiology; mapping outcrops in geology; mapping nesting sites in ecology). Spatial representations (e.g., maps, graphs, scientific visualizations, structural diagrams) are used widely (e.g., in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering). Three-dimensional thinking is often essential (e.g., in imagining or conceptualizing the structures lying beneath an outcrop in geology or the dynamic relationships in a storm system). Thus, some of my research is directed toward understanding how spatial skills or concepts are involved in students’ understanding and pursuit of science.

Gender is of interest because there continues to be a striking gender imbalance in “STEM” fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Where do such differences arise? One answer appears to lie in societal gender stereotypes about what men and women “should” do. Thus, some of my work addresses educational and occupational interests in sciences in relation to the role of gender identity (a concept that refers to the way in which one’s own sense of self is defined by gender) and of gender stereotypes (beliefs about men and women in general).