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Research to Establish a Scientifically Informed Society


We conduct educational research that seeks to identify instructional strategies that improve the scientific literacy of nonscientist members of the public and pre-service teachers. We investigate how understanding of natural phenomena can inform everyday life, how citizens become motivated to make science-informed decisions, and how future teachers learn to think scientifically and extend scientific thinking into their classrooms.

​Addressing Science Denial

​An emerging area of research in the RESIST Lab seeks to design instruction that allows students to successfully overcome science denial, which is the “systematic rejection of empirical evidence to avoid undesirable facts or conclusions” (p. 129, Lui 2012). The RESIST Lab is ​beginning a design-research​ endeavor to produce instructional tools that bring together the literatures in motivation theory (motivated reasoning and self-determination theory) as well as evidence-based strategies for fostering conceptual change (model-evidence-link diagrams). New graduate students are being accepted to work on theses that fall within this area of research.

Preparing Preservice STEM Teachers for Modern, Diverse Classrooms

Modern teachers are tasked with the challenge of delivering instruction that is profoundly different than the instruction they received as students, due to both the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and the changing demographics of US schools. We investigate several questions that relate to this challenge, such as how do preservice science and math teachers come to understand the practices of their discipline so that they may engage their students in those practices? Similarly, how do future STEM teachers come to understand opportunity gaps as causes of STEM achievement gaps, and how can opportunity gaps be closed through teacher agency? The ISU Noyce Scholarship Program serves as contexts in which these questions are investigated.

ADESSA: Asynchronous Discussions to Engage Students in Scientific Argumentation

The purpose of ADESSA (NSF DUE 1712261) is to explore various aspects of scientific argumentation as it occurs both face-to-face and on asynchronous online discussion boards. Online discussion boards are potentially valuable instructional tools, but little is known about the science learning that occurs via discussion boards. This project’s goal is to bridge the intellectual circles examining scientific argumentation and online learning. ADESSA is a collaboration with Dr. James Wolf in ISU’s School of Information Technology and Dr. Kristine Callis-Duehl​ at Danforth Plant Science Center. Master’s student, Iresha Jayasinghe, is the ADESSA research assistant.

Project EDDIE: Environmental Data-Driven Inquiry & Exploration

Project EDDIE (NSF DEB 1245707 and DUE 1821567), led by PI Catherine O’Reilly, comprises an interdisciplinary team of faculty and research scientists who have developed flexible classroom modules that aim to expose undergraduate students to real-world data analysis.​ Through engagement in EDDIE modules, students develop skills required to manipulate large datasets, conduct inquiry-based investigations, develop students’ reasoning about statistical variation, engage in authentic scientific discourse, and learn the nature of environmental science. Over the course of three years, we developed and field tested 10 classroom modules that cover lake ice phenology, lake metabolism, lake mixing, stream discharge, climate change, water quality, soil respiration, and nutrient loading.​​​


Asterisks indicate student authors.

Darner R. (2019). How can educators confront science denial? Educational Researcher. doi: 10.3102/0013189X19849415

Stomberg JF*, Walder MR*, & Darner R. (2018). A laboratory activity to engage college students in habitat suitability analysis to teach conservation, ecology, and evolution. The American Biology Teacher. doi: 10.1525/abt.2018.80.6.438.

Soule D, Darner R, O’Reilly CM, Bader NE, Meixner T, Gibson CA, & McDuff RE. (2018). EDDIE modules are effective learning tools for developing quantitative literacy and seismological understanding. Journal of Geoscience Education. doi: 10.1080/10899995.2018.1411708​.

O’Reilly CM, Gougis RD, Klug JL, Carey CC, Richardson DC, Bader NE, Soule DC*, Castendyk D, Meixner T, Stomberg JF*, Weathers KC, & Hunter WJ. (2017). Using large data sets for open-ended inquiry in undergraduate science classrooms. Bioscience. doi: 10.1093/biosci/bix118.​​

Callis-Duehl K, Idsardi R*, Humphrey EA*, & Gougis RD. (2017). Missed opportunities to science learning: Unacknowledged unscientific arguments in asynchronous online and face-to-face discussions. Journal of Science Education and Technology. doi: 10.1007/s10956-017-9710-4.

Carey CC & Gougis RD. (2017). Simulation modeling of lakes in undergraduate and graduate classrooms increases comprehension of climate change concepts and interest in computational tools. Journal of Science Education and Technology. doi: 10.1007/s10956-016-9644-2.

Klug JL, Carey CC, Richardson DC, & Gougis RD. (2017). Analysis of high-frequency and long-term data analyses into undergraduate ecology classes improves quantitative literacy. Ecosphere. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.1733

Bader NE, Soule D, Castendyk D, Meixner T, O’Reilly CM, & Gougis RD. (2016). Students, meet data: Using publically available, high-frequency sensor data in the classroom. EOS. doi:10.1029/2016EO047175.​

Gougis RD, Stomberg JF*, O’Hare AT*, O’Reilly CM, Bader NE, Meixer T, & Carey CC. (2016). Post-secondary science students’ explanations of randomness and variation and implications for science learning. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education.​ doi: 10.1007/s10763-016-9737-7.

Carey CC, Gougis RD, Klug JL, O’Reilly, CM & Richardson DC. (2015). A model for using Environmental Data-Driven Inquiry and Exploration (Project EDDIE) to teach limnology to undergraduates. Limnology & Oceanography Bulletin. doi: 10.1002/lob.10024.

Darner R. (2014). Influences on students’ environmental self-determination and implications for science curricula. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education 9, 21-39.

Darner R. (2011). An empirical test of self-determination theory as a guide to fostering environmental motivation. Environmental Education Research18(4), 463-472.

Darner R. (2009). Self-determination theory as a guide to fostering environmental motivation. Journal of Environmental Education 40(2): 39-49. ​​​

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