Plenary Speaker Profile (2009-10)
Diane M. Bunce
Professor of Chemistry
The Catholic University of America
Debugging classroom myths about teaching and learning through research

Often things in education are repeated so much that they become imbedded in the collective memory of both students and teachers. This is true in literature, both experimental and self-help articles and books, about teaching and learning. We have come to accept as "truths" such things as 1) the use of personal response devices (clickers) will result in increased student achievement in chemistry; 2) students forget most of what they learn immediately after completing an exam; 3) students' attention span in lecture is roughly 10 minutes; and 4) students cannot answer essay questions in science because they memorize the material and do not study for understanding. Although these things may be true, what proof exists to support their seemingly widespread acceptance within the academic community? Instead of developing curricula and conceptual interventions based upon these beliefs, wouldn't be wise to investigate their veracity? This presentation will explore the truth in these beliefs and some of the intervening variables that affect their measurement and interpretation. Four experiments on the effectiveness of clickers in general chemistry; the extinction of learning in both high school and college chemistry classes; the length of students' attention span in chemistry lecture; and the intervening variables in students' ability to successfully address essay questions in chemistry will be addressed. The goal of this presentation is to move our knowledge of how students learn from unsubstantiated opinion to a more accurate research based foundation. The experimental designs described here do not require elaborate equipment, but rather a unique understanding of how to measure variables which at first glance appear to be deeply hidden in both student and teacher behaviors. The presentation will also address the effect that small changes in teachers' behaviors can have on student learning.

Diane M. Bunce is a Professor of Chemistry at The Catholic University of America where she directs the PhD program in Chemical Education Research. She has been one of the original authors on all three of the American Chemical Society's curricula projects (ChemCom (Chemistry in the Community), Chemistry in Context and Chemistry). She is editor of the Chemistry Survival Guide for New Instructors and co-editor of the Nuts and Bolts of Chemical Education Research. Diane currently serves as the Associate Editor for Chemical Education Research of the Journal of Chemical Education. Diane's research focuses on how students learn and the mismatch between how learning occurs and the methods we use to teach science, specifically chemistry. Diane is the recipient of American Chemical Society's James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry and the Helen Free Award for Public Outreach; the Chemical Manufacturing Chemists Catalyst Award for National Excellence in Chemistry Teaching; the Society of College Science Teachers/Kendall Hunt Award for Outstanding College Science Teaching, and the CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education), Undergraduate Professor of the Year - District of Columbia (1993). She is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.