CURRENT PROJECTS

Higher education consulting

www.empoweredconsult.com 

I support individuals and teams in making positive change in higher education. My projects include facilitating teams to develop processes and culture that support them in reaching their goals, intentionally planning for change efforts to achieve success, and communicating complex science to a general audience. I am always looking for new partners - please contact me for more details. 

Departmental Action Team (DAT) Project

www.dat-project.org 

From increasing diversity to retaining students, there are many challenges in undergraduate education. Educational materials and practices have been developed to address specific concerns, but adoption rates are poor. Instead of focusing reform on the scale of one course or instructor, the Departmental Action Team (DAT) project considers the entire department as the locus for change. A DAT consists of a group of students, staff, faculty, and external facilitators who work collaboratively to improve undergraduate education. The DAT model focuses on helping teams consider and plan for how these changes can be sustained within the department. Part of this work includes incorporating best practices of high functioning teams as part of every meeting to attend to how the DAT operates as a team. To find out more information about the history and work of this project, please visit the DAT Project website.

RECENT PROJECTS

Chemical Thinking Learning Progression Project 

Characterizing chemical identity thinking

We interact with hundreds of substances on a daily basis, as both pure substances and mixtures. If you are in a lab, you might work with organic solvents such as acetone and methanol. Knowing the difference between these two simple molecules is important when designing experiments and carrying out reactions. Outside of the lab, we encounter substances in many forms - from the food you eat to the fibers that make up the clothes you wear. Usually, we don't think twice about the types of substances we encounter, but there are many situations when we need to identify and differentiate the substances around us. For example, in the winter we need to heat our homes - do you rely on a wood-burning stove? How about natural gas? Do you prefer oil? There are many factors that we use to differentiate between these fuels.

Chemical identity encompasses the assumptions, knowledge, and practices used in the analysis of substances (Hoffman, 1995).  There are typically two main questions involved when considering chemical identity:

  1. What is this substance?

  2. How is this substance different than other substances?

 

Chemical identity concepts are foundational to solving many problems in chemistry - it is essential to identify the substances you begin with before subsequent transformation. Because more complex chemical concepts (e.g. reaction mechanisms, benefits-costs-risks associated with chemical processes) rest on understanding of chemical identity, it is important to understand how chemical identity thinking develops. In order to assess if chemical identity thinking evolves with training in chemistry, it is necessary to characterize different types of chemical identity concepts and how these concepts are used by students. My doctoral work focused on understanding students' chemical identity thinking using qualitative methods to investigate how students classify and differentiate a variety of substances. To accomplish this, I developed the Chemical Substance Identification (CSI) Survey, and analyzed 400+ student responses open-ended questions designed to elicit chemical identity thinking. This work is part of a larger project: the Chemical Thinking Learning Progression.

To find out more or discuss possible future work  >>