Merryn Cole is a science education doctoral student in the STEM Education Department working with Dr. Jennifer Wilhelm. Cole recently received a travel grant from the Science Teaching and Learning Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association, which is awarded to an outstanding doctoral student to attend the organization’s annual conference and present scholarly work. Cole presented this year at both the National Association for Research in Science Teaching and the American Educational Research Association on the relationship between the ways in which teachers adapt and assimilate the Realistic Explorations in Astronomical Learning curriculum and students’ understanding of lunar related spatial-scientific concepts.
Previous research in the field has focused on either the development of student understanding or the ways in which teachers adapt and implement curriculum, but few studies have explored the link between the two. Cole collaborated on this project with Wilhelm and another science education doctoral student, Mary Lamar. Cole is also part of Wilhelm’s Council on Postsecondary Education grant titled “Designing Mathematics and Science Project-Based Environments: Spanning Astronomical and Atomic Spaces” in which middle school teachers will be introduced to and experience interdisciplinary project-based science, including Realistic Explorations in Astronomical Learning, both as learners and instructors. The curriculum and a chemistry unit designed by Cole incorporate current mathematics and science content while also providing opportunities for teachers and students to develop their spatial reasoning skills. Cole will continue this research in her dissertation, which will focus on the correlations between spatial reasoning and understanding middle school chemistry content.