CREATE Presentation: Mike Stieff


Thursday, December 15, 2016 - 3:45pm to 5:15pm


133E Erickson Hall

Presenter: Mike Stieff, Professor Department of Chemistry, Learning Sciences Research Institute, University of Illinois-Chicago

Title: Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Pedagogical Tools for Improving Visual Literacy

Abstract: Visual literacy is a core disciplinary skill common to all STEM fields. Regardless of the disciplinary content, STEM students must learn to interpret and use visual representations to learn and problem solve effectively. Correlation studies have demonstrated that students with high spatial ability more easily interpret visual representations to attain higher levels of performance in STEM courses. These studies have fueled deficit models of who can succeed in STEM fields and motivated educational interventions that aim to train general spatial ability independent of disciplinary content. Using the domain of chemistry as a context, this talk will explore the fallacy of deficit models and review the design of multiple interventions we have developed in our lab that target visual literacy in undergraduate chemistry courses. These interventions are diverse and include alternative strategy training, modeling activities, sketching, embodied interfaces, and inverted instruction. Despite the significant differences in their designs, each intervention we have developed and deployed has yielded significant improvements in student achievement in chemistry. Our findings show that visual literacy is highly responsive to instructional conditions and demonstrate that students who might otherwise be excluded from STEM degree programs based on their spatial ability can attain successful learning outcomes with appropriate support.

Bio: Mike Stieff (Ph.D., Northwestern University) is Associate Professor of Learning Sciences and Chemistry at the University of Illinois-Chicago. His research focus on the development of new pedagogical and curriculum innovations to improve STEM learning. This work addresses three specific goals: (i) identification of the task-specific use of visuo-spatial strategies in scientific problem solving, (ii) characterization of the interaction of visuo-spatial ability and scientific expertise, and (iii) the development of visualization software for teaching high school and college chemistry. He is an expert in the design and evaluation of learning environments, particularly those in undergraduate STEM courses. His current projects explore new theoretical frameworks regarding the role of visualization and diagrammatic reasoning at multiple levels of science instruction and the design of simulations and animations for teaching science.