Developing Assessments that Engage Students in Three-Dimensional Learning

Developing Assessments that Engage Students in Three-Dimensional Learning

Danny Caballero, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Justin Carmel, Department of Chemistry

Melanie Cooper, Department of Chemistry

Diane Ebert-May, Department of Plant Biology

Cori Fata-Hartley, College of Natural Science

Lynmarie Posey, Department of Chemistry

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 11:30 - 1:30

1425 Biomedical Physical Sciences Building

Lunch Provided


Do you want to write assessments that will tell you what your students are able to do with their knowledge in biology, chemistry, or physics? If so, this is the workshop for you. Participants will learn how to use the recently developed Three-Dimensional Learning Assessment Protocol (3D-LAP) to create homework, quiz, and exam problems that engage students in three-dimensional learning. First described in the 2012 National Research Council report, A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, three-dimensional learning blends disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts that span disciplines, and science practices such as constructing arguments and explanations, and developing and using models to predict and explain phenomena. Workshop participants will use the 3D-LAP to redesign and develop open-ended and multiple-choice assessment items that can be used in their classes.


The presenters are part of MSU’s AAU STEM Initiative Education Initiative ( project, Creating a Coherent Gateway for STEM Teaching and Learning (PI: Melanie Cooper). More information about the project can be found here:

Danny Caballero is a physics education researcher who studies how tools affect student learning in physics, and the conditions and environments that support or inhibit this learning. Danny earned his B.S. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. He worked on opto-microfluidics transport and control experiments at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he earned his M.S. in physics before shifting his research focus to physics education. Danny helped found the Georgia Tech Physics Education Research group in 2007 and earned the first PER-focused PhD from Georgia Tech in 2011 working on computational modeling instruction and practice. He moved to the University of Colorado Boulder as a postdoctoral researcher where he helped transform upper-division physics courses to more active learning environments.

Danny conducts research from the high school to the upper-division and is particularly interested in how students learn physics through their use of tools such as mathematics, computing, and language. His work employs cognitive and sociocultural theories of learning and aims to blend these perspectives to enhance physics instruction at all levels. Danny's projects range from the fine-grained (e.g., how students engage with particular mathematical tools) to the course-scale (e.g., how students learn the tools of classical mechanics) to the very broad (e.g., how do students in a massively open on-line course act like scientists?). While starting work with the Physics Education Research Lab at MSU, he continues collaborates with physics education groups at Georgia Tech and Colorado on a number of these and other projects.

Justin Carmel is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry working with Dr. Melanie Cooper. In 2009, he earned his B.S. in Chemistry with Adolescent Education Certification from Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. He earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry with an emphasis in Chemistry Education Research in 2015 from Miami University, under the direction of Dr. Ellen Yezierski. His dissertation research focused on the development of students’ scientific reasoning skills in a chemistry course for nonscience majors. His current research at MSU focuses on the HHMI-funded transformation of the general chemistry laboratories and the effect the curricular change has on students’ attitudes towards science and their identities as scientists. Throughout his doctoral and postdoctoral work, he has presented numerous talks and posters at national conferences, such as the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education, and the Gordon Research Conference on Chemistry Education Research & Practice. He is currently serving as a committee member on the ACS Division of Chemical Education’s Younger Chemistry Education Scholars Committee, which focuses on engaging and providing professional development opportunities to young researchers--graduate students, postdocs, and pre-tenure faculty--in the field.

Melanie Cooper is the Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education and Professor of Chemistry at Michigan State University. She received her B.S. M.S. and Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Manchester, England. Her research has focused on improving teaching and learning in large enrollment general and organic chemistry courses at the college level, and she is a proponent of evidence-based curriculum reform for example the NSF supported “Chemistry, Life, the Universe & Everything”. She has also developed technological approaches to formative assessment that can recognize and respond to students free-form drawings such as the beSocratic system. She is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the Leadership team for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the National Research Council advisory Board on Science Education (BOSE). She has received a number of awards including the the ACS award for research on teaching and learning 2014, the Norris award for Outstanding Achievement in teaching of chemistry in 2013, and the 2010-2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award from the Society for College Science Teaching.

Diane Ebert-May is a Professor in the Department of Plant Biology at Michigan State University. She provides national and international leadership in biology education research and teaching. Ebert-May’s lab group developed and tested a model for professional development using inquiry-based, learner-centered teaching. They continue to investigate the longitudinal impact of transformed biology courses on undergraduates’ use of scientific practices (e.g., models, arguments, working with data, and narratives) to learn the core concepts in biology. Ebert-May lead FIRST IV, an NSF-funded professional development program to help 201 postdoctoral scholars create and teach their first introductory biology course in preparation for their academic positions. Her book, Pathways to Scientific Teaching (Ebert-May and Hodder eds, second edition in prep), is based on student-centered learning, science practice-based instructional strategies, assessment and research. She teaches plant biology, introductory biology to majors in a large enrollment course, and a graduate /postdoctoral seminar on scientific teaching. Her plant ecology research continues on Niwot Ridge, Colorado, where she has conducted long-term ecological research on alpine tundra plant communities since 1971. She is a AAAS Fellow in the Biological Sciences. Her recent awards include the US Professor of the Year Award for Michigan from the Carnegie Foundation/CASE (2011), the Education Award from the American Association for Biological Science (2012), and University Distinguished Faculty (MSU 2012). She earned her BS from University of Wisconsin, Madison (Botany), MA and PhD University of Colorado (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology).

Cori Fata-Hartley is Assistant Dean for Curriculum Coordination in the College of Natural Science. She completed doctoral studies at the Medical College of Ohio and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for Molecular Virology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fata-Hartley joined MSU in 2005 and held appointments in Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and served as the Interim Director for Faculty and Instructional Development in the Office of Faculty and Organizational Development before being appointed Assistant Dean. Throughout her career she has participated in fellowships focused on teaching and learning in STEM disciplines including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Teaching Fellowship, New Generation for Scientific Teaching Program while a postdoctoral associate at UW-Madison and the American Society for Microbiology Biology Scholars Program after joining MSU. Her efforts at MSU have focused on improving STEM teaching and learning and increasing the retention and academic success for a diverse group of learners. Fata-Hartley received the 2013 All-University Individual Award for Sustained Effort toward Excellence in Diversity in recognition of her work to promote and foster inclusive learning environments at MSU. As Assistant Dean for Curriculum Coordination, Fata-Hartley plays a lead role in the implementation of the college’s ongoing Biology Initiative, an effort to improve the educational experience students pursuing life sciences degrees. She also works with departments and programs across the college to develop and improve curricula and the connections among them.

Lynmarie Posey is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Michigan State University. She earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Davidson College. She completed a Ph.D. in experimental physical chemistry at Yale University before pursuing postdoctoral research at Stanford University as an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Her current research focuses on curricular and instructional approaches to support students who are underprepared in mathematics but interested in STEM. She developed CEM 121- Explorations in Chemistry for the Dow STEM Scholars Program. Instead of drilling students in algorithmic problem solving, this course focuses helping students build capacity to engage in the scientific practices of using models, constructing explanations, and using mathematical and computational thinking. The pilot offering of CEM 121 revealed a strong relationship between students’ mathematics background and their ability to use scientific practices. She is currently collaborating with mathematics education researcher Kristen Bieda to develop evidence-based interventions for CEM 121 and MTH 100E that target 1) using ratios and proportional reasoning, 2) explaining covarying relationships, 3) understanding linear rates of change, and 4) translating between multiple representations in a science context. Her group is also beginning to investigate the relationship between mathematics background and students’ abilities to engage in scientific practices that do not explicitly use mathematics. She is a member of the AAU project team and has been involved in the transformation of MSU’s large-enrollment general chemistry lecture (CEM 141 and CEM 142) and laboratory courses (CEM 161 and CEM 162).

Video of the Session