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Our Research

Our research is focused on developing an understanding of student learning in STEM and is derived from the Center's activities. The findings of this research are intended to inform NEFSTEM programming that drives innovations in student and teacher learning.

Current Research

Zoellner, B.P. (2020). Simulations in education. Routledge Insights Series.

Dinsmore, D.L., & Zoellner, B.P. (2017). The relation between cognitive and metacognitive strategic processing during science simulations. British Journal of Educational Psychology.

Dinsmore, D.L., Zoellner, B.P., Parkinson, M.M., Rossi, A.M., Monk, M.J., & Vinnachi, J. (2017). The effects of different types of text and individual differences on view complexity about genetically modified organisms. International Journal of Science Education, 39(7), pp. 491-813.

Wilson, H.E., & Zoellner, B.P. (2016). Effectiveness of a constructivist-based science camp for gifted secondary students. Eastern Educational Research Association Journal of Research in Education, 26(1), pp. 76-108.

Zoellner, B.P., & Chant, R.H. (2014). It's not smelly, dirty, or expensive [diesel, that is]: Cross-disciplinary instructional development in chemistry and social studies. Journal of Chemical Education, 91(4), pp. 497-504.

Dinsmore, D.L., Zoellner, B.P., and Alexander, P.A. (In development). Profiles of experts' cognitive and metacognitive processing during performance of a novel problem-solving task.

Zoellner, B.P., & Dinsmore, D.L. (In development). Developing students' use of quality scientific evidence and argumentation through a global climate change simulation.

Previous Research

NEFSTEM has a long history of research projects. Since 1982, funded projects have included teacher workshops, summer camps, curriculum development, instructional technology programs, and resource sharing. Partnerships have come from the NSF, universities, districts, state agencies, and regional consortia.

Action Research Information

Action research is the process of systematically evaluating the consequences of educational decisions and adjusting practice to maximize effectiveness (McLean, 1995).The process is situation-specific, cyclical, and ongoing, with the results from one cycle leading to further action research.

Central Ideas

  • I am the central person in my research.
  • I am asking a real question about a real issue, and I am hoping to move towards a solution.
  • I am starting from where I am.
  • I am trying to bring about some improvement. (McNiff, Lomax, & Whitehead,1996)

Rationale for Developing Proficiency in Action Research

The process of action research supports:

  • strategic problem solving for specific educational challenges;
  • positive communication between administrators and teachers;
  • empowerment of teachers and administrators;
  • increased professional satisfaction;
  • flexible, solution-oriented thinking;
  • increased professional motivation to improve practice;
  • increased collegiality, on-going inquiry, self-reflection, and decision making skills;
  • increased expectations for student learning;
  • increased expectations for self-improvement.

According to Osterman and Kottkamp (1993), the following are reasons for engaging in action research:

  • Everyone needs professional growth opportunities.
  • All professionals want to improve.
  • All professionals can learn.
  • All professionals are capable of assuming responsibility for their own professional growth and development.
  • People need and want information about their own performance.
  • Collaboration enriches professional development. (p. 46)

The Goal of Action Research

Those engaging in action research aim "…to take action and effect positive educational change in the specific school environment that was studied…with the goals of gaining insight, developing reflective practice, effecting positive changes in the school environment (and on educational practices in general), and improving student outcomes and the lives of those involved." (Mills, 2000, pp.5-6)


High validity when results are applied in the situation in which action research was conducted, but low validity when trying to broadly generalize. Validity also depends upon proper use of action research procedures.


Calhoun, E. (1994). How to use action research in the self-renewing school. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

McLean, J. E. (1995). Improving education through action research: A guide for administrators and teachers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

McNiff, J., Lomax, P., & Whitehead, J. (1996). You and your action research project. London: Hyde Publications.

Mills, G. E. (2003). Action research: A guide for the teacher researcher. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Osterman, K. F., & Kottkamp, R. B. (1993). Reflective practice for educators: Improving schooling through professional development. Newbury Park, CA: Corwin Press.


emTech's page on Action Research