IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


An Interdisciplinary Approach to Biology Education Research

22 June 2016, 12:00 pm–2:00 pm

biology education

Event Information

Open to



Room G16, 9-11 Endsleigh Gardens, Kings Cross, London WC1H 0EH

Presenter: Dr Melanie Peffer 


Recent calls in the United States point toward a need for interdisciplinary research in science education. In particular, the expertise of individuals from disparate disciplines (e.g. those in the "hard" sciences (biology, chemistry, physics) and "soft" sciences (psychology, sociology) are needed to fully explore questions related to science learning. However, due to varying practices and scholarly traditions, interdisciplinary research in science education is challenging.

This talk showcases one interdisciplinary research program and suggests possible strategies for those interested in pursuing interdisciplinary work. Dr. Peffer's graduate work on the impact of clinically relevant synthetic glucocorticoids on neural progenitor/stem cells is briefly discussed and how her experience as a molecular biologist informs her current research. Current work is focused on understanding how student practices when engaged in the simulated authentic inquiry environment provided by the Science Classroom Inquiry (SCI) simulations reflect students' Epistemology in Authentic Science Inquiry (EASI).

Previous work demonstrated that SCI simulations were effective at changing student perceptions of the practice of science. Preliminary data comparing the practices of novices and experts who complete the same SCI simulation suggests that although a wide range of strategies and approaches are used among all participants, experts tend to perform systematic, mechanistic investigations that incorporate information from outside the simulation. Practices of novices are more diverse, with some looking similar to experts and others utilizing a simple or random approach that may or may not incorporate outside information. These different strategies may be reflective of the participants' EASI. By identifying epistemologically critical episodes during inquiry, instruction can be adapted help students develop more sophisticated inquiry skills.

This event is open to all, free of charge.

About the presenter

Melanie Peffer has a PhD is in molecular biology from the University of Pittsburgh. She developed the science classroom inquiry (SCI) simulations as an extracurricular research project in graduate school that turned into a major line of her research thereafter. She recently joined the biology department at University of Northern Colorada (UNCO) where she integrates her molecular biology expertise with her training in the learning sciences as a tenured track bioeducation research.

For further information please contact Manolis Mavrikis: m.mavrikis@ucl.ac.uk