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Faculty - Michelle Smith

Michelle K. Smith
Assistant Professor, School of Biology and Ecology
msmith and member of the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education

Office #: 205 Murray Hall


  • 1998  B.A. Biology, Hanover College (magna cum laude)
  • 2000  M.S. Biology, University of Dayton
  • 2006  Ph.D. Biology, University of Washington
  • Post doc Science Education Initiative, University of Colorado – Boulder


Michelle Smith’s work focuses on how to help students learn biology and teachers adopt promising educational practices in their classrooms. Specifically, she is interested in investigating the origins of pervasive misunderstandings in genetics, determining what aspects of peer discussion make it an effective learning tool in both large-lecture and small-enrollment courses, and collaborating with biology teachers on science education research questions in an effort to facilitate course transformation.

Selected publications

Batz Z, Olsen CB, Dumont J, Dastoor J, Smith MKHelping Struggling Students in Introductory Biology: A Peer  Tutoring Approach that Improves Performance, Perception, and RetentionCBE-Life Sci Edu, 2015, 14:1-12.

Smith MK, Vinson EL, Smith JA, Lewin JD, Stetzer M.  A Campus-Wide Study of STEM Courses: New Perspectives on Teaching Practices and Perceptions. CBE-Life Sci Educ2014, 13:624-635.

Smith MK, Merrill S. Why do Some People Inherit a Predisposition to Cancer? A small group activity on cancer genetics. CourseSource. 2014,

Freeman S, Eddy SL, McDonough M, Smith MK, Okoroafor N, Jordt H, Wenderoth MP.  End of lecture: Active learning increases student performance across STEM disciplines.  PNAS.  2014, 11(23):8410-8415.

Smith MK, Jones FHM, Gilbert SL, Wieman CE.  The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): A New Instrument to Characterize University STEM Classroom Practices.  CBE-Life Sci Educ.  2013 Winter, 12(4):618-627.

Knight JK, Wood WB, Smith MK. What’s Downstream? A Set of Classroom Exercises to Help Students Understand Recessive Epistasis. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education. 2013, 14(2).

Smith MK, Wenderoth MP, Tyler M. The teaching demonstration: what faculty expect and how to prepare for this aspect of the job interview. CBE – Life Sci Educ.  2013, Spring 12(1):12-18.

Smith MK, Annis SL, Kaplan JJ, Drummond F.  Using peer discussion facilitated by clicker questions in an informal education setting: enhancing farmer learning of science.  PLoS-ONE.  2012, 7(10): e47564. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047564

Smith MK, Thomas K, Dunham M. In-class incentives that encourage students to take concepts assessments seriously.  Journal of College Science Teaching.  2012, 42(2): 57-61.

Smith, MK and Knight, JK. “Using the genetics concept assessment to document persistent conceptual difficulties in undergraduate genetics courses”. Genetics. 2012, 181(1): 21-32.

Smith MK. A fishy way to discuss multiple genes affecting the same trait. PLoS-Biol. 2012, 10(3): e1001279. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001279

Semsar K, Knight JK, Birol G, Smith MK.  “The Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) for use in Biology”. CBE – Life Sci Educ. 2011, Fall; 10(3):268-278

Smith MK, Wood WB, Krauter K, Knight JK. Combining peer discussion with instructor explanation increases student learning from in-class concept questions. CBE – Life Sci Educ. 2011, Spring; 10(1):55-63. Also featured in the Highlights of 2011 print edition.

Smith MK, Trujillo C, Su TT. “The benefits of using clickers in small enrollment seminar-style biology courses”. CBE – Life Sci Educ. 2011, Spring; 10(1):14-17.

Smith MK and Perkins KK. “At the end of my course, students should be able to …: The benefits of creating and using effective learning goals”. Microbiology Australia. 2010, 31(1):35-37.

Knight JK and Smith MK.  “Different but equal?  How non-majors and majors approach and learn genetics”. CBE – Life Sci Educ. 2010, Spring; 9(1):34-44.

Smith MK, Wood WB, Adams WK, Wieman C, Knight JK, Guild N, Su TT.  “Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions”.  Science. 2009, 323(5910):122-124.

Smith MK, Wood WB, Knight JK. “The Genetics Concept Assessment: a new concept inventory for gauging student understanding of genetics”.  CBE – Life Sci Educ. 2008 Winter; 7(4):422-430. Also featured in the Highlights of 2008 print edition.

Videos that discuss Michelle and her work:

iBiology video on Michelle’s Research

Links to News Stories that discuss Michelle and her work:

A Real Life Look Into Genetics

Michelle’s Career Path

News story on Clicker Research

SBE Professors bring Clickers to Blueberry Growers

Smith Leads a Science Transformation


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