Neil A. Stillings
Professor of Psychology, Emeritus
School of Cognitive Science


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The Center for Research in Education & Learning

& the Hampshire Center for Research in Science Education

In the 1990s and early 2000s I did research in science learning under the aegis of  two centers at Hampshire: The Center for Research in Education And Learning (REAL) and the Hampshire Center for Science Education (HCSE). Professor Laura Wenk at Hampshire was my main collaborator and was largely responsible for our best work. The work at REAL and HCSE was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, and by a grant to Hampshire's 4th President, Greg Prince from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Model-based Reasoning in Introductory Biology

Under a grant from the NSF, I collaborated with Professor Randy Phillis at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst on orienting large introductory biology courses toward teaching  model-based reasoning. An early paper arguing for this kind of partnership between researchers in the learning sciences and university faculty is here. An argument for teaching model-based reasoning and for its formative and summative assessment is here.

Epistemology & Inquiry-oriented Instruction in College Science Learning

Under two grants from the NSF we initiated research on changes in college students' scientific reasoning skills and in their views of the nature of science. One aspect of the research was an extensive longitudinal interview study of students' scientific epistemologies as they progress through college. The following paper describes the interview protocol and the initial results:

Smith, C. L. & Wenk, L. (2006). Relations among three aspects of first-year college students' epistemologies of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(8), 747-785.

A short early paper describing our approach can be found here. Some early results on scientific reasoning can be found here. A summary of our first NSF project on inquiry-oriented instruction is here, and of our  NSF project on students' reasoning skills and conceptions of science is here.


Educational Software:
Research & Development

Under our grant from the National Science Foundation to study inquiry-oriented instruction, we also conducted several proof-of-concept software development projects. These projects are briefly described here. CHAT was an inquiry-oriented linguistics learning environment in which students built and tested their own grammars of English. Students could share sentences that their gammars generated and rule systems with each other. Geo Observer, a case-based inquiry environment, prompted to students to describe physical features of natural scenes from photographs and to propose theories of the origins of those physical features, which could be tested against field data that had been collected at the scenes.   FOREST was an inquiry-oriented forest ecology simulator that allowed students to vary a set of environmental parameters and simulate forest growth for hundreds of years under differing sets of parameters. The FOREST project was developed further under a further NSF grant. The software and associated instructional approaches were described in a brief conference paper.

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