Institute for Learning Technologies (ILT) 

The ILT has embarked on a number of research projects that explore the learning, understanding, and motivational effectiveness of providing visualizations, animations, and physical embodiments to teach math, science, and literacy. This work has been using a variety of technologies, including Lego robotics with NXT controllers, Pico boards, Scratch and Mindstorms software, and Flash-based animations.

The Invention Coach

At the ILT, Marianna worked on the Invention Coach project. The Invention Coach is a computer-based adaptive technology that guide students through the challenging and often, messy process of Invention. Invention is an open-ended problem-solving activity, in which students invent their own equations for physical science phenomena. The Invention Coach guides students in this activity by adaptively problematizing their solutions based on their most egregious errors. The goal of this work is to scale up a method of instruction which has been shown to facilitate deep learning and transfer. The research aims to identify effective forms of support for Invention tasks and inform our understanding of how to best scaffold open-ended problem-solving.

A Thirst for Knowledge

As part of her doctoral dissertation, Marianna explored ways to enhance in-the-moment curiosity. Her research involved designing a curriculum that embraces uncertainty in instruction. Specifically, she utilized Invention and modeling with PhET simulations to engage students in guided exploration before they receive any direct instruction. She has been successful in designing inherently uncertain instruction that fosters curiosity and has found that student’s curiosity is predictive of learning and transfer outcomes.


Success Through Effort, Persistence & Struggles (STEPS) Lab

The STEPS lab is dedicated to addressing the lack of motivation to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses or careers that many students face. The ongoing work of the lab investigates how exposing students to stories and videos of scientists’ struggles affects students’ beliefs about their own STEM learning ability and students’ actual STEM performance. Marianna’s research focuses specifically on how feeling psychologically close to the scientists in the stories affects the scientists’ effectiveness as role models.


Academic and Curriculum Enrichment (ACE) Lab 

The ACE lab conducts behavior analytic educational research. Marianna’s work at the ACE lab included designing and developing an instructional computer program to teach statistical reasoning using worked examples and practice and feedback. Her research found that this program was effective for fostering statistical reasoning and decision-making, when compared to traditional study methods.