The Center for Research in Education & Learning
& the Hampshire Center for Research in Science
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.
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.