Michelle Smith

C. Ann Merrifield Professorship in Life Science Education

Associate Professor, School of Biology and Ecology

Member of the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)

204 Murray Hall
(207) 581.2604
Email Michelle Smith

Michelle’s Recent CV


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


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.


Pelletreau KN, Andrews T, Armstrong N, Bedell MA, Dastoor F, Dean N, Erster S, Fata-Hartley C, Guild M, Greig H, Hall D, Knight JK, Koslowsky D, Lemons PP, Martin J, McCourt J, Merrill J, Moscarella R, Nehm R, Northington R, Olsen B, Prevost L, Stoltzfus J, Urban-Lurain, Smith MK. A clicker-based case study that untangles student thinking about the processes in the central dogma.  CourseSource, 2016. http://www.coursesource.org/courses/a-clicker-based-case-study-that-untangles-student-thinking-about-the-processes-in-the

Prevost LB, Smith MK, Knight JK. Using student writing and lexical analysis to reveal student thinking about the role of stop codons in the central dogma. CBE-Life Sciences Education.  2016, 15:ar65.

Smith MK, Wood WB. Teaching Genetics: Past, Present, and Future.  Genetics.  2016, 204:5-10.

Lewin J, Vinson EL, Stetzer MR, Smith MK.  A campus-wide investigation of clicker implementation: The status of peer discussion in STEM classes. CBE-Life Sciences Education.  2016, 15:1-12. http://www.lifescied.org/content/15/1/ar6.full

Barth-Cohen L, Smith MK, Capps D, Shemwell J, Lewin J, Stetzer MR. What are middle school students talking about during clicker questions?  Characterizing small-group conversations mediated by classroom response systems.  Journal of Science Education and Technology, 2016, 25:50-61. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10956-015-9576-2.

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

Smith, M.K., Vinson, E.L., Smith, J.A, Lewin, JD, Stetzer, M.  A Campus-Wide Study of STEM Courses: New Perspectives on Teaching Practices and Perceptions. CBE-Life Sci Educ.  2014, 13:624-635.

Smith, M.K., Merrill, S. Why do Some People Inherit a Predisposition to Cancer? A small group activity on cancer genetics. CourseSource. 2014, http://coursesource.org/courses/why-do-some-people-inherit-a-predisposition-to-cancer-a-small-group-activity-on-cancer

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

Smith, M.K., Jones, F.H.M., Gilbert, S.L., Wieman, C.E.  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, J.K., Wood, W.B., Smith, M.K. What’s Downstream? A Set of Classroom Exercises to Help Students Understand Recessive Epistasis. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education. 2013, 14(2).  http://jmbe.asm.org/index.php/jmbe/article/view/560

Smith, M.K., Wenderoth, M.P., 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, M.K., Annis, S.L., Kaplan, J.J., 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, M.K., 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, M.K. and Knight, J.K. “Using the genetics concept assessment to document persistent conceptual difficulties in undergraduate genetics courses”. Genetics. 2012, 181(1): 21-32.

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

Smith, M.K., Wood, W.B., Krauter, K., Knight, J.K. 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, M.K., Trujillo, C., Su, T.T. “The benefits of using clickers in small enrollment seminar-style biology courses”. CBE – Life Sci Educ. 2011, Spring; 10(1):14-17.

Videos that discuss Michelle and her work:

iBiology video on Michelle’s Research

Links to News Stories that discuss Michelle and her work:

Smith to mentor JAX postdoc about active learning techniques

Click. Michelle Smith leads charge for active learning in science education

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