Faculty Research at Northern Colorado

How Students Learn Science Workshop Series Workshop 2: Addressing Students' Preconceptions and Developing Students' Meta-Cognition

This is the second workshop in a two-part series. If you missed the first workshop in February, you are still encouraged to attend this second workshop. In this free interactive workshop, participants will investigate the research findings of how students learn science and explore teaching and learning implications of those findings. All faculty and graduate students interested in student learning in science are invited to this free workshop.

If interested in attending, contact Julie Sexton at julie.sexton@unco.edu. RSVPs for those attending are required so that enough workshop materials can be made.

Workshop: Thursday, April 22, 2-4 p.m., Ross Hall, Room 3275 (south wing of the building)

Workshop facilitators: Kathy Cochran, Kevin Pugh, and Lori Reinsvold from the School of Psychological Sciences; Julie Sexton, Cindy Shellito Sponsored by the Geoscience Education Research Interest Group and MAST Institute

Dr. Carl Granrud’s research is featured in the “Cognitive Daily” blog.

Dr. David Gilliam will coauthor a presentation at the 3rd International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Integrating Research, Policy, and Promising Practice Around the World: A Catalyst for Change

Victoria Conference Centre, Victoria, BC, Canada; March 11th – 14th, 2009

FASD Prevention in Northern Native Communities: A Practical School-Based Approach Abstract (pdf)

Dr. Kevin Pugh’s 2005 article with David Bergin, titled "The effect of education on students’ out-of-school experience," was the focus of the November 2007 research section of Phi Delta Kappan, written by Gerald Bracey.

Dr. Kevin Pugh’s 2005 article with David Bergin, titled “The effect of education on students’ out-of-school experience,” was the focus of the November 2007 research section of Phi Delta Kappan, written by Gerald Bracey. The link to the Pugh & Bergin article is: http://edr.sagepub.com/content/34/9/15.full.pdf+html?ijkey=F3r3EvDXaHHqw&keytype=ref&siteid=spedr

Dr. Welsh helps improve the thinking skills of children and adolescent in low-income communities.

Marilyn Welsh
The research program examines the degree to which executive functions (planning, impulse control, self-monitoring) can be improved in children and adolescents who are at-risk for school failure and other problem behaviors. In collaboration with Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry, developer of the thinking skills program BrainWise®, we are implementing the program in low-income communities in Denver by teaching the curriculum both in schools and to families in an evening program.  We are currently evaluating the effectiveness of the BrainWise curriculum by examining changes in executive functions, school performance, and behavior.

Theodore Bashore recently won funding of more than $150,000 from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Science.

Title:  Physiological Investigations of Blast Lethality and Injury

This is a program project that includes 3 components designed to deepen our understanding of the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) on neurocognitive functioning.  The first project, Physical and biological determinants of blast lethality and injury, is directed at developing a deeper understanding of the relationship between blast waveforms and physiological injury by constructing a mathematical relationship between physical input variables, biological input variables, and biological output variables that permits a probability of survival index to be calculated. The second project, Field-deployable acute diagnosis and longitudinal assessment of mild traumatic brain injury, is directed at improving our ability to diagnose TBI in the immediate post-injury period and across extended periods of time (e.g., months, years) by expanding current neuropsychological test procedures to include more refined tasks taken from cognitive psychology and applying advanced mathematical analyses to the data acquired using these procedures.  The third project, CNS synchronization/desynchronization abnormalities in response to blast exposure, will extend the work of the second project to include measures of electroencephalographic (EEG) and event-related brain potential (ERP) activity.  In addition, analytic methods derived from nonlinear dynamical systems theory will be used to assess event-related synchronization and desynchronization of these measures of brain electrical activity.

Dr. Bashore will design experimental protocols, contributing to (i) the interpretation of experimental findings, (ii) training laboratory technicians and postdoctoral fellows in the experimental procedures, (iii) preparing manuscripts for publication, and (iv) presenting research findings at national and international conferences.

David Gilliam

Experimental Summary: Women who consume alcohol during pregnancy place their offspring at risk for a number of detrimental outcomes. Two of the hallmarks of children exposed to ethanol in utero are attention deficits and hyperactivity. In order to identify the genetic and neurobiological pathways underlying these phenotypes, animal models are highly desirable. While the effects of prenatal ethanol exposure on attention and hyperactivity have been fairly well characterized in rat models, these effects have not been investigated in mice. There are many advantages of using mice, as opposed to rat, for characterizing the genetic architecture underlying most phenotypes. We plan to validate the use of an inhalation chamber to administer ethanol vapors to pregnant mice and neonatal pups as a model of prenatal alcohol exposure that mimics the human condition. Second, using inhalation chambers, we plan to further investigate the effects of pre- and neonatal ethanol exposure on hyperactivity and learning in adolescent mice.

David Daniel and Paul Klaczynski
Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Obesity Stigma in School-Aged Children

This study will compare school-aged Chinese and American children’s taste preference for foods across two conditions; a) Food prepared by obese individuals, and 2) Food prepared by non-obese individuals. If notions of Obese Stigma are present in this age-group, children may be more likely to avoid foods prepared by people who do not meet the cultural stereotypes for weight/appearance. We are hoping to run approximately 30 fifth and 30 sixth grade students in a short preference task.

Kevin Pugh
Fostering Transformative Science Learning in Middle School

At its best, science education inspires students to see and experience the world in exciting new ways. Unfortunately, science learning is rarely transformative in this way. However, my colleagues and I have been successful in developing pedagogical methods that foster transformative experiences; that is, experiences in which students actively apply their science learning in their everyday experience. The current project will be a collaboration with a 6th grade science teacher interested in making his teaching more transformative. The study will involve implementing and evaluating a teaching intervention focused on fostering transformative experiences with the content.

Carl Granrud

Numerous studies have found that 4- to 5-year-old children exhibit underconstancy (i.e., underestimation of size) when they estimate the sizes of distant objects, whereas 9- to 10-year-old exhibit approximate size constancy (i.e., accurate size estimation) for distant objects. The existing evidence indicates that older children estimate size more accurately than do younger children because they use deliberate strategies to judge distant objects’ sizes, whereas younger children generally estimate size based on the size that a distant object appears to be. Specifically, older children tend to use a size-at-a-distance adjustment strategy, in which they deliberately adjust their size estimates upwards to compensate for the diminished perceived sizes of distance objects.

In most studies of children’s size estimation abilities, the target objects do not have known sizes (e.g., white circles) and they are presented alone in an empty field. In real world situations, however, objects often have known sizes, or they are near other objects that have known sizes; and an observer can judge an object’s size by comparing it to a familiar-sized object.  It is possible that studies done to date have underestimated young children’s size-estimation abilities because they have used unfamiliar target objects that are isolated from other objects that could provide contextual information for object size.  Although young children do not use the size-at-a-distance adjustment strategy, they might use other cognitive strategies, such as judging distant objects’ sizes based on assumed size (the familiar size strategy) or comparing a target object of unknown size to a nearby object that has a known size (the familiar size comparison strategy).


Young children can achieve accurate size constancy for distant objects when they are judging the sizes of familiar-sized target objects and when they are judging the sizes of unfamiliar target objects that are flanked by familiar-sized objects.

This hypothesis will be tested with four experiments; two at Minnesota State and two at UNC.