Announcing a new paper in International Journal of Science Education

A new paper that blends science and art (STEM to STEAM) and evaluates a new technique for analyzing drawings has been published in International Journal of Science Education by GRL Director Libarkin and colleagues:

Factor Analysis of Drawings: Application to College Student Models of the Greenhouse Effect, co-authored by Libarkin, Thomas, and Ording

Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify models underlying drawings of the greenhouse effect made by over 200 entering university freshmen. Initial content analysis allowed deconstruction of drawings into salient features, with grouping of these features via factor analysis. A resulting 4-factor solution explains 62% of the data variance, suggesting that 4 archetype models of the greenhouse effect dominate thinking within this population. Factor scores, indicating the extent to which each student’s drawing aligned with representative models, were compared to performance on conceptual understanding and attitudes measures, demographics, and non-cognitive features of drawings. Student drawings were also compared to drawings made by scientists to ascertain the extent to which models reflect more sophisticated and accurate models. Results indicate that student and scientist drawings share some similarities, most notably the presence of some features of the most sophisticated non-scientific model held among the study population. Prior knowledge, prior attitudes, gender, and non-cognitive components are also predictive of an individual student’s model. This work presents a new technique for analyzing drawings, with general implications for the use of drawings in investigating student conceptions.

Paper in Press, available online: Visual Representations on High School Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physics Assessments

The GRL is pleased to announce that a new publication “Visual Representations on High School Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physics Assessments” is in press and available through Springer’s online pre-publication system: Congratulations to the paper’s first author, former graduate student and now Assistant Professor Nicole LaDue.

Where Should A DBER Scholar Publish?

A couple of years ago the question of where discipline-based education research (DBER) should be published came up in conversation, and I did an informal survey of DBER faculty at my institution to determine where they publish and what they read. In essence, which journals are part of their scholarly conversations? I compiled the list of unique journals that my colleagues suggested, and wanted to share it more broadly. I also added in a few additional and reputable publishing opportunities that have arisen in the meantime. Note that this is NOT a comprehensive list of all good journals. Rather, this is a list that originated from a consensus of top journals used by DBER scholars. Email me if you think a top or high quality new journal needs to be added!

*Interestingly, only a subset (65%) of these journals are indexed by Thomson Reuters – anyone else wish they would expand their offerings or abandon the practice of assigning impact altogether? My institution seems like it wants to discount my scholarship because my field has a non-ISI journal as its main journal. Whether indexed by Thomson Reuters or not, always check Beall’s list to make sure your work is published in the highest quality places!


Advances in Physiology Education
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
CBE Life Science Education
Evolution: Education and Outreach
Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education
Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education (also listed in Earth System Science)

Chemical Education Research and Practice
Chemical Engineering Education (also listed in Engineering)
Journal of Chemical Education

Earth System Science/Environmental Science
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Environmental Education Research
Geosphere (special theme)
International Journal of Environmental and Science Education
Journal of Environmental Education
Journal of Geography in Higher Education
Journal of Geoscience Education
Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education (also listed in Bioscience)

Advances in Engineering Education
Chemical Engineering Education (also listed in Chemistry)
International Journal of Engineering Education
Journal of Engineering Education

The College Mathematics Journal
Journal for Research in Mathematics Education
Research in Mathematics Education
Notices of the American Mathematical Society

American Journal of Physics
The Physics Teacher
Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research

Active Learning in Higher Education
American Educational Research Journal
Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
British Journal of Educational Psychology
Cognition and Instruction
Educational Researcher
International Journal of Higher Education
International Journal of Science Education
Journal of Educational Psychology
Journal of Research in Science Teaching
Journal of Science Education and Technology
Journal of Science Teacher Education
Journal of the Learning Sciences
Research in Science Education
Review of Educational Research
Science Education
Teaching and Teacher Education

NEW Geocognition Research Lab Publications!


1. How much do insects bug you?

Graduate student AMANDA LORENZ has published a new paper related to people’s perceptions of insect disgust:

Lorenz, A.R., Libarkin, J.C., Ording, G., 2014, Disgust in Response to Some Arthropods Aligns with Disgust Provoked by Pathogens: Global Ecology and Conservation, v. 2, p. 248-254.

2. Should weathermen use their hands?

Former PhD student ROBERT DROST has published a new paper, available online in advance of print publication, that uses eye tracking to evaluate whether or not weathermen should gesture during forecasts:

Drost, R., Trobec, J., Steffke, C., Libarkin, J., in press, Eye Tracking: Evaluating the impact of gesturing during televised weather forecasts: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

3. Can testing be attentive to culture?

Former postdoc EMILY GERAGHTY WARD has published a new paper describing a collaboration between researchers and tribal colleges that produced culturally valid assessments:

Geraghty Ward, E.M., Semken, S., Libarkin, J.C., 2014, The design of place-based, culturally informed geoscience assessment: Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 62 (1), p. 86-103.

INVISIBLE LIGHT CONCEPTIONS: New paper published in Astronomy Education Review (2011)

A new paper, led by GRL Director Julie Libarkin, documents conceptions of invisible light held by middle and high school students as well as teachers. This paper identifies common issues students have with infrared and ultraviolet radiation, including ideas that persist into adulthood.

READ AT THE PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE: Invisible Misconceptions: Student Understanding of Ultraviolet and Infrared Radiation

Invisible Misconceptions: Student Understanding of Ultraviolet and Infrared Radiation

ABSTRACT. The importance of nonvisible wavelengths for the study of astronomy suggests that student understanding of nonvisible light is an important consideration in astronomy classrooms. Questionnaires, interviews, and panel discussions were used to investigate 6–12 student and teacher conceptions of ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR). Alternative conceptions about the characteristics and human sensual perception of visible light, UV and IR, were observed in many students and in a subset of teachers. Instruction involving electromagnetic radiation should first address preexisting alternative conceptions, and conceptual questionnaires such as the one used here can help teachers to identify student ideas prior to instruction.


GRL scholars have produced two reports related to college students’ conceptions of genetics. The first, led by Sarah Jardeleza, investigates student ideas about the location of genes and DNA in the human body. The second, led by Terri McElhinny, reviews the state of genetics curriculum and assessment in the U.S. and makes suggestions for a next generation Genetics Concept Inventory Suite.


PLATE TECTONICS CONCEPTIONS: New paper published in Journal of Geoscience Education (2011)

A new paper, led by former GRL postdoc Scott Clark (now of University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire), documents conceptions of plate tectonics held by undergraduates. This paper identifies common issues students have with terminology, plate motion, and subsurface melting. The potential for common images to cause misunderstandings is also discussed.

READ AT THE PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE: Alternative Conceptions of Plate Tectonics Held by Nonscience Undergraduates

Alternative Conceptions of Plate Tectonics Held by Nonscience Undergraduates

ABSTRACT. The theory of plate tectonics is the conceptual model through which most dynamic processes on Earth are understood. A solid understanding of the basic tenets of this theory is crucial in developing a scientifically literate public and future geoscientists. The size of plates and scale of tectonic processes are inherently unobservable, necessitating the use of images and models in instruction. To explore plate tectonics conceptions held by undergraduates, we designed and administered a postinstruction survey instrument centered on a common schematic representation of plate tectonics. We report results from a sample of n = 60 nongeoscience majors enrolled in five different introductory Earth-science courses taught at a major research university and a community college. Students held a number of alternative conceptions associated with terminology, plate motion, and plate-related subsurface melting. We also note that some aspects of figures commonly used to teach plate tectonics are problematic for students and may actually result in reinforcement of alternative conceptions. Further work at both the K–12 and college levels directed at innovative approaches to address student conceptions regarding plate tectonics, including designing images that support key scientific messages, is needed. This research can inform curriculum development for entry-level geoscience courses as well as the use of images to convey complex science.

CAPTURING COGNITION: New paper published in Computers & Geosciences (2011)

A new paper, led by GRL graduate student Sheldon Turner, documents the value of Tablet PCs for capturing cognition. This paper documents the unique data sets that Tablet PCs, coupled with video capture technologies, now allow us to collect.

READ AT THE PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE: Novel applications of Tablet PCs to investigate expert cognition in the geosciences

Novel applications of Tablet PCs to investigate expert cognition in the geosciences

ABSTRACT. In this paper, we present new methodologies developed to investigate cognitive processes related to perceiving and interpreting Earth phenomena. This area of study, known as geocognition, is an emerging and vital aspect of geoscience. Geocognition gives geoscientists an understanding of how people conceptualize earth processes. For example, geocognition research can be used to generate effective strategies for increasing public scientific literacy in this new era of climate change and energy crisis. We collected spatial visualization and working memory data using a Camtasia add-on for PowerPoint to generate a unique set of static drawings and videos of the drawing process. Analyzing these data provides unique insight into the underlying cognitive processes. For example, quantitative patterns that emerge within a subpopulation of novices or experts show us the common errors and patterns in how objects are drawn, including drawing order and time spent drawing. We believe that these unique data will contribute to the ongoing efforts to generate new understanding of the nature of geoscientific expertise.