DISCIPLINE-BASED
EDUCATION RESEARCH

Understanding and Improving Learning in
Undergraduate Science and Engineering

Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of
Discipline-Based Education Research

Board on Science Education

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Susan R. Singer, Natalie R. Nielsen,
and Heidi A. Schweingruber, Editors

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
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DISCIPLINE BASED EDUCATION RESEARCH Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research Board on Science Education Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education Susan R. Singer, Natalie R. Nielsen, and Heidi A. Schweingruber, Editors

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Govern- ing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineer- ing, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropri- ate balance. This study was supported by Contract/Grant No. 0934453 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research. Discipline-based education research : understanding and improving learning in undergraduate science and engineering / Susan R. Singer, Natalie R. Nielsen, and Heidi A. Schweingruber, editors. ; Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research, Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council of the National Academies. pages cm Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-0-309-25411-3 (paperback) — ISBN 0-309-25411-6 (paperback) 1. Science—Study and teaching (Secondary)—United States. 2. Engineering—Study and teaching (Secondary)—United States. 3. Science—Study and teaching (Higher)—United States. 4. Engineering—Study and teaching (Higher)—United States. 5. Universities and colleges—Curricula—United States. I. Singer, Susan R., editor. II. Nielsen, Natalie R., editor. III. Schweingruber, Heidi A., editor. IV. Title. Q183.3.A1N3585 2012 507.1’173—dc23 2012027266 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2012). Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. S.R. Singer, N.R. Nielsen, and H.A. Schweingruber, Editors. Com- mittee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research. Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Acad- emy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineer- ing programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is presi- dent of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Insti- tute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sci- ences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Coun- cil is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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COMMITTEE ON THE STATUS, CONTRIBUTIONS, AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS OF DISCIPLINE-BASED EDUCATION RESEARCH SUSAN R. SINGER (Chair), Department of Biology, Carleton College ROBERT BEICHNER, Office of the Provost and Department of Physics, North Carolina State University STACEY LOWERY BRETZ, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Miami University MELANIE COOPER, Department of Chemistry, Clemson University SEAN DECATUR, Department of Chemistry, Oberlin College JAMES FAIRWEATHER, Department of Educational Administration, Michigan State University KENNETH HELLER, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Minnesota KIM KASTENS, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University MICHAEL E. MARTINEZ, Department of Education, University of California, Irvine DAVID MOGK, Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University LAURA R. NOVICK, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University MARCY OSGOOD, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of New Mexico TIMOTHY F. SLATER, College of Education, University of Wyoming KARL A. SMITH, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota and School of Engineering Education, Purdue University WILLIAM B. WOOD, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado NATALIE R. NIELSEN, Study Director HEIDI A. SCHWEINGRUBER, Board Deputy Director MARTIN STORKSDIECK, Board Director MARGARET L. HILTON, Senior Program Officer ANTHONY BROWN, Senior Program Assistant DOROTHY MAJEWSKI, Senior Program Assistant (until January 2011) REBECCA KRONE, Program Associate v

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BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION HELEN R. QUINN (Chair), Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University PHILIP BELL, Learning Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle (until May 2011) GEORGE BOGGS, American Association of Community Colleges (retired), Washington, DC WILLIAM B. BONVILLIAN, Washington, DC Office, Massachusetts Institute of Technology JOSEPH FRANCISCO, Department of Chemistry, Purdue University ADAM GAMORAN, Department of Sociology and Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison JERRY P. GOLLUB, Natural Sciences and Physics Departments, Haverford College MARGARET A. HONEY, New York Hall of Science, New York JANET HUSTLER, Partnership for Student Success in Science (PS3), Synopsys, Inc., Mountain View, California SUSAN KIEFFER, Department of Geology, University of Illinois, Urbana BRETT D. MOULDING, Utah Partnership for Effective Science Teaching and Learning, Ogden (until May 2011) CARLO PARRAVANO, Merck Institute for Science Education, Rahway, New Jersey SUSAN R. SINGER, Department of Biology, Carleton College (until May 2011) WILLIAM B. WOOD, Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder (until May 2011) Joined May 2011: RODOLFO DIRZO, Department of Biology, Stanford University BRIAN REISER, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University SUZANNE WILSON, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University MARTIN STORKSDIECK, Director HEIDI A. SCHWEINGRUBER, Deputy Director MICHAEL A. FEDER, Senior Program Officer (on temporary assignment with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) MARGARET L. HILTON, Senior Program Officer THOMAS E. KELLER, Senior Program Officer vi

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NATALIE R. NIELSEN, Senior Program Officer SHERRIE FORREST, Associate Program Officer REBECCA KRONE, Program Associate ANTHONY BROWN, Senior Program Assistant vii

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Acknowledgments This report is made possible by the important contributions of National Research Council (NRC) leadership and staff, and many other organi- zations. First, we acknowledge the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation. We particularly thank Myles Boylan, a program director in the Division of Undergraduate Education, who supported and encouraged the development of the report. This study had its origins in two workshops in 2008 on promising practices in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathemat- ics. The committee thanks Carl Wieman, who was the chair of the Board on Science Education (BOSE) at the time, for his vision and leadership to help turn those workshops into this consensus study. We also thank Heidi Schweingruber and Margaret Hilton for serving as the institutional memory and helping to build as many connections as possible between those work- shops and this study. Over the course of this study, members of the committee benefited from discussion and presentations by the many individuals who participated in our four fact-finding meetings. We acknowledge the efforts of the 22 authors who prepared background papers. Janelle Bailey (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), George Bodner (Purdue University), Karen Cummings (Southern Connecticut State University), Robert DeHaan (Emory Univer- sity), and Jack Lohmann (Georgia Institute of Technology) with Jeffrey Froyd (Texas A&M University) were asked to describe the developmental histories of education research in astronomy, chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering, respectively. We also commissioned literature reviews of research on teaching and learning from Janelle Bailey (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) in astronomy, Clarissa Dirks (The Evergreen State College) in ix

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x ACKNOWLEDGMENTS biology, Jennifer Docktor and Jose Mestre (both of University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign) in physics, Michael Piburn (Arizona State University), Kaatje van der Hoeven Kraft (Mesa Community College) and Heather Pacheco (Arizona State University) in the geosciences, Marilla Svinicki (Uni- versity of Texas) in engineering, and Marcy Towns (Purdue University) with Adam Kraft in chemistry. To facilitate our examination across disciplines and into cognitive science, Elliott Sober (University of Wisconsin–Madison) was asked to prepare a paper on epistemological similarities and differences in the sciences. Richard Mayer (University of California, Santa Barbara) prepared a paper that applied the science of learning to undergraduate sci- ence education, and Mary Hegarty (University of California, Santa Barbara) prepared a paper on spatial thinking and the use of representations in the sciences. Ann Austin (Michigan State University) prepared a paper on the factors that influence faculty members’ instructional decision making, and Noah Finkelstein (University of Colorado) with Julie Libarkin (Michigan State University) analyzed the role of the National Science Foundation’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Tech- nology Program as a pathway for discipline-based education researchers. At our fourth meeting, Kathy Perkins (University of Colorado) discussed the University of Colorado’s Science Education Initiative and its role in advancing discipline-based education research. We also are deeply grateful to the many individuals at the NRC who assisted the committee. The success of a consensus study such as this report involves the efforts of countless NRC staff members who work behind the scenes. In particular, this report would not have been possible without Heidi Schweingruber and Margaret Hilton, who helped to shape the meeting agendas and the project’s overall trajectory, and participated in committee deliberations. They also made profound contributions to the report by editing individual chapters, providing feedback on the report as a whole, participating in regular meetings with the committee chair, and generally making themselves available to provide advice and guidance. We are grateful to Anthony Brown, Dorothy Majewski, and Rebecca Krone, who arranged logistics for our meetings and facilitated the proceedings of the meetings themselves. We also appreciate Anthony Brown’s assiduous efforts to compile the reference lists in each chapter of the report. And we thank Kirsten Sampson Snyder, who shepherded the report through the NRC review process; Amy Smith, who edited the draft report; and Yvonne Wise for processing the report through final production. The report also benefitted from the contributions of several affili - ates of the NRC. Rochelle Urban and Kristina Mitchell, participants in the NRC’s Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Gradu- ate Fellowship Program, provided research support. Tom Foster, a phys- ics education researcher who spent his sabbatical from Southern Illinois

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xi ACKNOWLEDGMENTS University–Edwardsville as a consultant to the NRC, provided valuable assistance during the report writing. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen by their diverse perspective and technical expertise, in accordance with pro- cedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the delib- erative process. We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Alice M. Agogino, Mechanical Engineering, University of Califor- nia, Berkeley; Mark R. Connolly, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Roger M. Downs, Department of Geog- raphy, Pennsylvania State University; Mark Dynarski, Pemberton Research Associates, LLC, East Windsor, NJ; Gary Gladding, Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign; Paula Heron, Department of Physics, University of Washington; Thomas Holme, Chemistry Depart- ment, Iowa State University; C. Judson King, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (Emeritus), University of California, Berkeley; Michael Klymkowsky, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmen- tal Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder; Joseph Krajcik, College of Natural Science and College of Education, University of Michigan; Cathryn A. Manduca, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College; Robert D. Mathieu, Department of Astronomy, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Lindsey Richland, Department of Comparative Human Development, Uni- versity of Chicago; Lorrie A. Shepard, School of Education, University of Colorado at Boulder; and Vicente Talanquer, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arizona. Although the reviewers listed above have provided constructive com- ments and suggestions, they are not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. Susan Hanson of Clark University and Adam Gamoran of the Uni- versity of Wisconsin–Madison oversaw the review of this report. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institu- tional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. Susan R. Singer, Chair Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research Natalie R. Nielsen, NRC Study Director

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Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 Defining DBER 2 Synthesis of the Literature 2 Increasing the Use of DBER Findings 3 Advancing DBER as a Field of Inquiry 4 SECTION I. STATUS OF DISCIPLINE-BASED EDUCATION RESEARCH 1 Introduction 7 Defining Discipline-Based Education Research 9 Overview of the Study 14 Focus and Organization of This Report 17 2 The Emergence and Current State of Discipline-Based Education Research 19 The Emergence of Discipline-Based Education Research 19 The Current State of DBER 31 Summary of Key Findings 42 xiii

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xiv CONTENTS SECTION II. CONTRIBUTIONS OF DISCIPLINE-BASED EDUCATION RESEARCH 3 Overview of Discipline-Based Education Research 45 Scope and Focus 45 Methods 50 The Role of Learning Theories and Principles 52 Strengths and Limitations 53 Organization of the Synthesis 55 4 Identifying and Improving Students’ Conceptual Understanding in Science and Engineering 57 Different Perspectives on Conceptual Understanding 58 Overview of Discipline-Based Research on Conceptual Understanding 60 Undergraduate Students’ Understanding of Science and Engineering Concepts 66 Instructional Strategies to Promote Conceptual Change 68 Summary of Key Findings on Conceptual Understanding 72 Directions for Future Research on Conceptual Understanding and Conceptual Change 72 5 Problem Solving, Spatial Thinking, and the Use of Representations in Science and Engineering 75 Problem Solving 75 The Use of Representations and Spatial Thinking in Promoting Conceptual Understanding and Problem Solving 97 6 Instructional Strategies 119 Overview of Discipline-Based Education Research on Instruction 120 Instruction in the Classroom Setting 122 Instruction in the Laboratory Setting 130 Learning in the Field Setting 135 Effects of Instructional Strategies on Different Student Groups 136 Summary of Key Findings 137 Directions for Future Research 137

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xv CONTENTS 7 Some Emerging Areas of Discipline-Based Education Research 140 Science and Engineering Practices 141 Applying Knowledge in Different Settings (Transfer) 149 Metacognition 153 Dispositions and Motivation to Study Science and Engineering (The Affective Domain) 157 SECTION III. FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR DISCIPLINE- BASED EDUCATION RESEARCH 8 Translating Research into Teaching Practice: The Influence of Discipline-Based Education Research on Undergraduate Science and Engineering Instruction 165 The Current State of Teaching in Undergraduate Science and Engineering 166 Efforts to Promote Research-Based Practice in the Sciences and Engineering 169 Putting Reform Efforts into Context 177 Summary of Key Findings 183 Directions for Future Research 184 9 Future Directions for Discipline-Based Education Research: Conclusions and Recommendations 186 Defining and Describing Discipline-Based Education Research 187 Synthesizing Discipline-Based Education Research 190 Translating Discipline-Based Education Research Findings into Instructional Practice 194 Advancing Discipline-Based Education Research Findings as a Field of Inquiry 195 Recommendations 197 REFERENCES 205 APPENDIX: Biographical Sketches of Committee Members and Staff 257

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In Memoriam Michael Edward Martinez, 1956-2012 A scholar in cognition, intelligence, and science and mathematics learning, Michael Martinez brought an expansive mind, good humor, humility, and a consensus-building approach to our committee and many other National Research Council activities. His diverse career path included teaching high school science; developing computer-based assessments in science, architecture, and engineering at the Educational Testing Service; serving as a Fulbright Scholar in the Fiji Islands; and managing the National Science Foundation’s role in the Interagency Educational Research Initiative. He made great contributions in all of these capacities, and this study was no exception. We benefited enormously from his work with us, and we were deeply saddened by his death shortly before this report was released. We dedicate this book to a wonderful scholar, intellect, and friend. xvii

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