Psychology Professor Receives NSF Award to Improve STEM Learning

Allison Jaeger

Allison J. Jaeger, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, is the recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) EHR Core Research (ECR) grant in the amount of $408,000 for the project, “Exploring the (Meta)Comprehension Benefits of Learner-Generated Drawings in Science.”

Dr. Jaeger is co-principal investigator on the grant along with Dr. Logan Fiorella, Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Georgia.  

The EHR Core Research program (ECR) supports fundamental STEM education research initiatives. This includes projects that undertake fundamental research on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM fields, and STEM workforce development. 

Dr. Jaeger’s research is based in cognitive psychology and specifically the study of human learning, problem solving, and memory. She investigates how people learn from informational texts.  

The level of complexity in STEM texts requires students to imagine concepts through diagrams, images, and simulations. Dr. Jaeger’s funded project will adopt a four-phase approach to determining how educators can support students’ learning about science concepts from texts, especially through learner-generated drawing.  

When students draw a physical representation of a scientific concept, it helps them develop a mental representation of that concept and supports their comprehension of the material. Dr. Jaeger’s research will ask questions about how that occurs and how to reproduce this “generation effect” in the STEM classroom.  

Over the three-year term of the grant, Drs. Jaeger and Fiorella will complete four studies that address different aspects of learner-generated drawing in STEM. Together, they will determine the optimal level of drawing to support student learning in biology and chemistry, the importance of feedback and comparison to student learning, and whether it is important for students to revise their drawings. They will also investigate how the learner-generated drawing process affects students’ re-studying behaviors and the judgments they make about how they learn.  

To gather data about student learning, Dr. Jaeger will partner with Anne Vazquez, Ph.D., who teaches undergraduate courses in the Department of Chemistry. Dr. Jaeger will recruit students for the study from Dr. Vazquez’s courses, and seek collaboration to develop testing materials that align with the chemistry course content.  

In addition to this interdisciplinary collaboration, the grant will also allow Dr. Jaeger to support undergraduate research assistants, who will gain valuable research experience from assisting with the study.  

Dr. Jaeger holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center at Temple University.