Evidence-based approaches to improving chemistry education are the focus of Dr Cooper's research. One of the prime outcomes of this research is the development and assessment of evidence-driven, research-validated curricula. For example: Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything is a new general chemistry curriculum that uses the emergence and evolution of life as the scaffold to teach chemical principles. The materials under development are a text, interactive applets where students explore difficult concepts, guided tutorials, and a variety of assessments — ranging from formative concept inventories, to criterion-based assessments, and problem solving materials. All of these materials are based on research (ours and others) about how students learn and develop the cognitive skills that will allow them to develop a robust understanding of chemistry concepts and problem solving — rather than rely on memorization and algorithms that are not transferrable to new situations.
The development of new curriculum materials is based on our research in a number of areas:
The Effect of Interventions and Educational Environments on Problem Solving and Metacognition: We have developed a number of assessments that allow us to probe student problem solving ability, strategy, and metacognition as they change over time. These tools allow us to assess the effects of specifically designed interventions and research-based curricula on these constructs.
Investigation of Representational Competence: The relationship between structure and properties is fundamental to a deep understanding of chemistry, yet little is known about how students learn to construct and use different types of representations. We are investigating this using OrganicPad a tablet-based program that allows us to observe and model how students draw different types of structures.
BeSocratic: A free-form interactive system to investigate the development of representational competence: (http://besocratic.chemistry.msu.edu/). Our previous research has produced a large database of information on how students construct and use representations, and we propose to further develop and deploy a flexible, web-based system, BeSocratic, that can recognize and respond to free-form student input in the form of graphical representations, including chemical structures, and graphs, and simple diagrams. We are developing tutorials and formative assessment activities that pose students with a problem that they must answer by constructing a representation. The system can recognize the input and respond accordingly with appropriate tiered contextual feedback.