Colloquium – Dec. 3 – Guest Speaker – Sam Pazicni, University of New Hampshire

The Maine Center for Research in STEM Education
and the University of Maine


Sam Pazicni, Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry, University of New Hampshire

“From theory to practice: Research on the teaching and learning of chemistry”

Our research explores teaching/learning issues in the chemistry classroom and develops intervention strategies rooted in theory so as to circumvent these issues. This seminar will focus on two such issues: low comprehension ability and illusions of competence.

According to the structure-building framework, a model of comprehension that describes how new information is incorporated into one’s existing knowledge base, low-skilled comprehenders are at a distinct academic disadvantage for several reasons. First, low-skilled comprehenders have poorer access to recently comprehended information. Second, they develop too many mental substructures during comprehension, creating fragmented knowledge that is difficult to retrieve. Third, low-skilled comprehenders inefficiently suppress irrelevant information. Our work demonstrates a robust and generalizable correlation between measures of comprehension ability and performance in general chemistry. We also designed a multiple-quizzing strategy consistent with the structure-building framework that effectively closes the achievement gap between low- and high-skilled comprehenders.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias that plagues a particular population of students – the unskilled. This population suffers from illusory competence, as determined by inaccurate ratings of their own ability/performance. These mistakenly high self-ratings (i.e. “illusions of competence”) are typically explained by a metacognitive deficiency of the unskilled – they simply can’t recognize their own mistakes. Our work confirms the Dunning-Kruger effect in general chemistry and explores the efficacy of a self-assessment strategy to aid low-skilled students.


Monday, December 3, 2012
3:00 pm
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium
Room 165, Engineering and Science Research Building

Refreshments will be served in the ESRB Lobby at 2:45 pm