Spotlight on Student Research: René Buell

4th year graduate student Rene Buell, for aesthetic purposes


René has been investigating the role of text materials in general chemistry classrooms. She is interested in understanding how and why students use textbooks or online textbooks to study, and what students gain from using text as a study material. She has developed a survey that students can take in order to gain insight into motivations for using textbooks to study as well as which aspects of textbooks are more useful for students. René is also looking at whether students can correct misconceptions about general chemistry topics simply by reading text passages about the topics. She has found that students of any reading level can improve their understanding of a topic by reading, but that students with more familiarity of the topic may not gain more knowledge by reading. This finding, labeled “expertise reversal” has been seen in previous education research. The findings of this study suggest that student characteristics affect the usefulness of text as a study material, and that different materials should be employed to get the best learning outcomes for all students. René’s next project will be to see how students use online text materials using eye-tracking technology.


image to accompany Fig 1 text
Figure 1

Figure 1 A forest plot summarizing results of four independent studies comparing post-test scores of a chemistry knowledge test with the interaction of reading informational text and student prior knowledge of the topic. The –r value (red diamond) describes a negative relationship between post-test scores and prior knowledge – If a student has low prior knowledge and then reads text about the topic, they are predicted to increase their post-test score more than a student with high prior knowledge who reads text.

René is a fourth year graduate student in Sam Pazicni’s Chemistry Education group.