Our research centers upon two key aspects of undergraduate biology education: faculty teaching and student learning. The broad mission is to understand how faculty teaching promotes student learning, what factors support sustainable classroom innovations, and how students learn core concepts and develop core competencies in biological sciences.
Specifically, we investigate how faculty conceptions (beliefs and understanding) and approaches (intentions and strategies) to teaching inform instructional practices in the classroom. Current projects include identifying specific faculty actions in different instructional practices (e.g. the use of personal response devices or “clickers”) that correlate with positive student outcomes, examining the underlying conceptions and approaches to teaching that are aligned with effective instructional practices, and exploring factors that promote sustainable faculty implementation of these practices. We use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods (e.g. surveys, observations, interviews, and statistics) to examine how faculty teach in a longitudinal timeframe (i.e. over multiple years and many courses).
For student learning, we are interested in defining learning progressions for core concepts and competencies in biological sciences. Learning progressions are descriptions of increasingly sophisticated ways of thinking about a concept or performing a task. Essentially, learning progressions are conceptual pathways that students navigate as they develop understanding of a concept or skills in a competency. Defining learning progressions will provide the theoretical foundation to design instructional material that specifically targets transitions along these conceptual pathways. We are interested in understanding how students and scientists formulate arguments based on evidence and to develop instructional material that promote learning in scientific argumentation.
Stanley Lo received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Harvard University and was a senior research associate at the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University. He joined the faculty of Biological Sciences in 2014. Stanley is the biochemistry editor for CourseSource, an open-access journal of peer-reviewed teaching resources for college biological science courses. He was a National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences in 2011-2012 and has been a National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences since 2013.