RIC professor’s research advances STEM education

PROVIDENCE – A national team of researchers led by an assistant professor of psychology at Rhode Island College has concluded a study demonstrating that computer sketching software can provide an accurate, real-time assessment of a student’s grasp of science, technology, engineering and math concepts.
Funded by a National Science Foundation grant to the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center, the interdisciplinary project included researchers from Northwestern University, Carleton College in Minnesota, Temple University in Philadelphia and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Using CogSketch, a computer sketch understanding system, RIC professor Benjamin Jee led the team in a series of experiments to analyze drawings of geological and non-geological diagrams and photographs by students with varying levels of geoscience knowledge.
The results showed that geoscience students sketched geological images more schematically than participants who had little knowledge of geoscience, focusing on structure over surface features and sketching diagrams in cause-and-effect order.
“This research builds on recent studies that show that sketching can enhance learning in STEM,” said Jee. “Our results could be used to enhance learning and teaching by identifying a student’s level of understanding in domains like science and engineering through their drawing.”
Jee added that the team’s research found that students’ sketching was driven not by general skill, but by knowledge and understanding of specific subject material, suggesting that sketching technology may be used across many academic disciplines to gain a better understanding of how students are learning and mastering concepts.
Jee’s primary research is in cognitive psychology, which he teaches at Rhode Island College along with introductory psychology, research methods and perception. Jee holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University.

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