Dr. Michael Briggs presided at the Cognition in Chemical Education symposium at the American Chemical Society national meeting in San Francisco on March 24, 2010.
Twelve presenters gave oral presentations on subjects ranging from theoretical foundations in chemical education to application of cognitive principles in teaching nanotechnology.
Briggs also presented at the symposium. He gave participant data from an experiment in chemical equilibrium that showed how participants develop and use some constituents of a mental model to solve simple problems. Participants learn from thought revealing activities and use their mental models to solve more complex problems. The research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The conclusions of the symposium presented varied widely. For example, “At the college level, students like chemistry but are not intellectually ready for it.” “Facilitating the construction of mental models of chemical concepts can lead to better teaching.” “Learning trajectories can illustrate the order of concept delivery in the classroom.” And, “Efficiency in concept construction can lead to less cognitive load for students.”
The American Chemical Society holds two National Meetings each year over a five day period in early spring and late summer. More than 14,000 chemists from academia, government, and industry attend the meeting to share research in more than thirty technical divisions, comprising more than seven thousand oral and poster presentations.
Briggs’ current research interests include studies of cognitive structure and processes that account for students’ ability to learn and the impact this knowledge confers on the teaching/learning dichotomy. Further interests include the design of instruments for the fruitful production of research data for analysis using a Models and Modeling perspective. He is also interested in the application of thermal lensing to analysis of biological materials. Recently, he was co-awarded a National Science Foundation grant of $148,000 to support research into a method of evaluating teaching methods based on the theoretical concept of construction of mental models of chemical concepts.
Briggs received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Akron, after which he spent seventeen years working for General Tire, Inc., as a chemist and technical director in the U.S., Mexico, and Morocco. He earned a master’s degrees at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, followed by a master’s degree and Ph.D. at Purdue University. He joined the Chemistry Department faculty in 2004.