Plenary Speaker Profile (2015)
Ross Nehm
Associate Professor of Ecology & Evolution
Core Faculty in the Ph.D. Program in Science Education
Stony Brook University (SUNY)
Undergraduates' problem solving processes across science subjects: crosscutting cognitive challenges and instructional solutions

Science education continues to move away from student learning of vast amounts of factual information and towards collaborative, authentic problem solving environments. Fostering effective problem - solving skills is becoming increasingly important in undergraduate science education. This talk will highlight key facets of problem - solving processes pertinent to many science disciplines, reveal how undergraduate students perceive and represent problems, and illustrate the relationship between problem perception and problem - solving success. Science problem solving requires a keen sensitivity to problem contexts, the disciplined internal representation or modeling of a problem, and the principled management and deployment of cognitive resources. Context recognition tasks, problem representation practice, and cognitive resource management are important cognitive skills, and could provide useful conceptual frameworks for helping students navigate the changing educational landscape. Empirical examples from biology, chemistry, and physics education will be used to illustrate core aspects of problem solving.

Ross Nehm is Associate Professor of Ecology & Evolution, and Core Faculty in the Ph.D. Program in Science Education, at Stony Brook University (SUNY). His research program explores how students and teachers from around the world conceptualize biological evolution and natural selection, and the development of meaningful measures of biological understanding. Dr. Nehm was the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award and was named an Education Mentor in the Life Sciences by the National Academies. Dr. Nehm currently serves as Associate Editor of the journals Evolution Education and Outreach and Science & Education. The National Science Foundation's EAR, CCLI, TUES, and REESE programs have supported his research.