University of Northern Colorado
Campus Box 98
Greeley, CO 80639
Fellowship - Baylor College of Medicine (Curricular Enhancement)
Ph.D. - University of Texas, Austin (Science Education)
M.S. - Southwest Texas State University (Biochemistry)
B.S.Ed. - New Mexico State University (Secondary Education in Chemistry and Physics)
Research/Areas of Interest
Dr. Suits' research focuses on the factors that affect how students learn chemistry.
He has found that most students tend to be memorizers (a learning style) until they
have acquired a certain amount of chemical knowledge (a critical mass) that allows
them to become conceptualizers (i.e., they are able to form concepts out of facts
and rules). Conversely, some learners continue to use only memorization skills that
rely on algorithms rather than thinking strategies. All of these cognitive processes
are probably interlaced with affective processes, that is, learners either appreciate
the real world applications of chemistry or they avoid this integration.
Currently, Dr. Suits is studying the following research topics:
- how motivation and cognitive factors affect chemistry achievement;
- how dynamic visualizations (i.e., animations and simulations) can encourage active
learning and develop thinking strategies that rely on visualization and other mental
- how laboratory instruction that targets the essence of scientific investigations (i.e.,
predict-observe-explain chemical phenomena) can help students understand chemical
- how an application-based textbook (e.g., Chemistry in Context) affects students' motivation
and conceptual understanding of chemistry;
- how students' conceptual understanding of molecular processes can be assessed via
their drawings and explanations (i.e., their mental models); and,
- how the integration of lecture (theory) and laboratory (experiments) can help students
develop meaningful learning strategies that express "creativity" in the sciences (i.e.,
generative and analytical thinking.)
Graduate students tend to focus on only one of these topics during their graduate
studies. This "focus" allows them to be capable of teaching chemistry with a greater
awareness of the different ways that students approach learning chemistry topics,
or to conduct their own independent research agendas.
- Suits, J.P. (2015). Design of dynamic visualizations to enhance conceptual understanding in chemistry
courses. In J. Garcia-Martinez, E. Serrano-Torregrosa (Eds.) Chemistry Education: Best Practices, Innovative Strategies and New Technologies, (Chapter 24, pp. 571-596). Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH Verlag (in press).
- Suits, J.P. & Sanger, M.J. (2013). Dynamic visualizations in chemistry courses. In J.P. Suits & M.J. Sanger (Eds.)
Pedagogic roles of animations and simulations in chemistry courses (Chap. 1). ACS Symposium Series 1142, American Chemical Society: Washington, DC.
- Suits, J.P. & Srisawasdi, N. (2013). Use of an interactive computer-simulated experiment to enhance students’ mental
models of hydrogen bonding phenomena. In J.P. Suits & M.J. Sanger (Eds.) Pedagogic roles of animations and simulations in chemistry courses (Chap. 10). ACS Symposium Series 1142, American Chemical Society: Washington, DC.
- Falvo, D.A., Urban, M.J., & Suits, J.P. (2011). Exploring the impact of and perceptions about interactive, self-explaining environments
in molecular-level animations. C.E.P.S. Journal, 1(4), 45-61.
- MacArthur, J., Jones, L.L. & Suits, J.P. (2011). Faculty viewpoints on teaching large-enrollment science courses with clickers.
Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 30(3), 251-270.