Professor and Associate Chair
Office: CHE 202
Dr. Jennifer Lewis is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of South Florida. Her area of specialization within chemistry is educational research. Current research projects involve the assessment of student learning and attitudes, the evaluation of a doctoral program, and analysis of student participation patterns in small learning groups.
B.S., North Dakota State University
Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University
With a national imperative to improve student learning in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, chemistry has been a center of educational research and curriculum development activity. Research in the Lewis group focuses on current trends in the teaching and learning of chemistry at the undergraduate level.
WHO CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN? THE ADOPTION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF REFORMS
Research from the Lewis group on national curriculum dissemination efforts has estimated adoption figures, reported on barriers to adoption, and discussed faculty perceptions of reform at the national level. Exploring faculty attitudes toward reform reveals deep-seated beliefs regarding the teaching and learning of chemistry. Creating strategies for conceptual change will continue to be an integral part of national efforts to promote successful adoption of new curricula for undergraduate chemistry, and the Lewis group is currently working in collaboration with other researchers to create mechanisms for technology-mediated dissemination of assessment data to drive conceptual change. Locally, the Lewis group has spearheaded adoption and implementation of Peer-Led Guided Inquiry (PLGI) and the Science Writing Heuristic (avogadro.chem.iastate.edu/SWH/). PLGI, which was developed by the Lewis group, has roots in Peer-Led Team Learning (www.pltl.org) and Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (www.pogil.org).
YES, BUT DID IT WORK? THE SEARCH FOR EFFECTIVENESS
The Lewis group continues to be active in the determination of whether curricular changes can be associated with positive student outcomes. At the national level, members of the Lewis group have the opportunity to gather data on student learning outcomes in conjunction with large curriculum development projects for a variety of courses, from those for non-science majors all the way to upper-division biochemistry. Locally, results for PLGI, which replaces one lecture per week with a guided inquiry cooperative-learning activity, warranted the expansion of this program, now a regular part of first semester general chemistry at USF. Nationally, the Lewis group has been recognized for its evaluation of PLGI, termed "a promising practice worthy of additional exploration" by the Academic Competitiveness Council. (U.S. Department of Education, Report of the Academic Competitiveness Council, Washington, D.C., 2007) Research on PLGI and other curricular innovations currently implemented at USF is ongoing.
EQUITY: FOR WHOM DID IT WORK? VALUING MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
A third major focus area for research in the Lewis group has been at-risk populations, particularly those students who find themselves floundering in general chemistry and therefore potentially barred from continuing in science-related careers. This research also incorporates efforts to understand attitudes toward chemistry and to improve overall achievement for women and under-represented minorities in the sciences.
View our currently funded projects here.
Abstracts of Current Funded Projects in the Lewis Group
(1) Collaborative Research: The POGIL Project Collaborators from USF, Franklin and Marshall College, and Catholic University of America form the leadership team for this project. Overall, the project supports the growth of the POGIL system of education through dissemination, implementation, improvement, evaluation and research across the country. POGIL is a nationally tested and proven pedagogical strategy that incorporates recent educational research on how students learn. The project develops faculty expertise in targeted areas of the country, establishing and supporting regional connections via workshops and planning sessions to produce self-sustaining regional networks of POGIL practitioners with a national hub. Evaluation of student learning related to POGIL uses an in-depth methodology that builds on the project's successful history of comparative evaluation. To measure skills for lifelong learning, as well as more traditional content goals, new instruments are being developed that utilize new finely-tuned assessments of student learning. Basic research on undergraduate STEM teaching and learning is the engine that drives curricular reform. The project contributes to this research base by describing how conceptual change occurs in students' understanding of chemistry in a POGIL setting, providing insight not only into the nature of conceptual change but also into critical features for effective implementation that feed the project's development and dissemination efforts.
(2) Collaborative Research: Molecules of Life -- A Partnership to Enhance Undergraduate Science Education for Non-Science Majors Collaborators from USF, New York University, and seven diverse partner institutions (Chaminade University, Chicago State University, Fairfield University, Nassau County Community College, Spelman College, the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras and Xavier University), are adapting and further developing innovative educational materials for a non-majors science course called "The Molecules of Life." This new curriculum explores the interface between chemistry and biology by examining foundational topics and cutting-edge developments in biomolecular science, an approach that allows non-science majors to experience scientific advances and to evaluate their impact on society. The curriculum integrates interactive pedagogies, web-based molecular modeling exercises and inquiry-based laboratory experiments. The USF-led evaluation of the project examines both dissemination and student learning.
(3) POGIL Biochem: Advancing Active Learning Approaches in Biochemistry Led by two biochemists from Seattle University, this project aims to beta-test, revise, and disseminate a comprehensive set of classroom activities that will transform upper division biochemistry courses into venues for student-focused active learning. Beta-testers are drawn from biology, chemistry, and biochemistry departments at diverse institutions across the United States. USF's role in this project is to promote progress toward four major goals:
Goal 1: Provide active learning activities that meet the needs of faculty teaching upper division biochemistry courses
Goal 2: Provide a model for documentation of specific student learning outcomes in biochemistry
Goal 3: Disseminate tested activities and instructor guide to diverse constituencies of biochemistry faculty
Goal 4: Enhance biochemistry learning via modern visualization strategies
Yujuan Liu, Allison Mercer