Current research projects focus on the following three areas. We draw not only on our understandings of science, but also from work in the cognitive sciences and education to systematically investigate and understand how people learn (bio)chemistry and molecular biology.
Visualization and visual literacy in the molecular sciences
Research in my lab currently explores visualization and visual literacy in the molecular sciences (organic chemistry and biochemistry). Specifically, we are curious about (1) how students make-sense of and utilize spectra in organic chemistry, (2) common reasoning patterns in scientific visualization, and (3) characterizing visual literacy for undergraduate chemistry, biochemistry and biology majors.
Nature of student questioning
Science is a dynamic discipline driven by questions about the natural world. Consequently, good science begins with good questions. However, it is seldom an explicit goal of undergraduate science curricula to develop our students’ abilities to pose meaningful questions. Currently we are investigating students’ inherent questioning abilities and how they develop (or not) throughout the undergraduate curriculum.
Assessment for understanding
With recent reform efforts in science education and a shift toward teaching for understanding, the traditional view of assessment as a vehicle for making judgments about the outcomes of teaching is no longer adequate. Teaching for understanding requires that instructors establish clear learning objectives that stem from key concepts, actively engage students in applying and synthesizing their understanding, and utilize formative assessment techniques to monitor student learning and performance. Our group develops and tests formative assessments that support teaching for understanding in large-lecture biochemistry courses.
Offerdahl, E.G. & Impey, C. (2012). Assessing general education science courses: A portfolio approach, J. Coll. Sci. Teach., 41(5), 19-25.
Offerdahl, E.G., Balser, T., Dirks, C., Miller K., Momsen, J., Montplaisir, L., Osgood, M., Sirum, K, Wenderoth, M.P., Wood, W., Withers, M. & Wright, R. (2011). Meeting report: Society for the advancement of biology education research (SABER), CBE-Life Sciences Education, 10(1), 11-13. doi: 10.1187/cbe.10-11-0135
Offerdahl, E. G. & Tomanek, D. (2011). Changes in instructors’ assessment thinking related to experimentation with new strategies. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, doi:10.1080/02602938.2010.488794
Miller, M., Montplaisir, L., Offerdahl, E., Cheng, F., & Ketterling, G. (2010). Comparison of views of the nature of science between natural science and nonscience majors, CBE Life Sci Educ, 9(1), 45-54. DOI: 10.1187/cbe.09-05-
Baldwin, T.O., Elfring, L., & Offerdahl, E. (2008). Ph.D. in biochemistry (education)!, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 38(4), 251-252.
Offerdahl, E.G., Baldwin, T., Elfring, L, Vierling, E., & Ziegler, M. (2008). Reading questions in large-lecture courses: Limitations and unexpected outcomes, J. Coll. Sci. Teach. 37(4), 43-47.