In May 2022, I graduated from WPI with my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Mechanical Engineering. I also completed the WPI Teacher Preparation Program for my teaching license in middle school mathematics (grades 5-8). In the fall, I entered the classroom to teach 8th grade math.
About the Lab:
During the RET Program, I am partnered with in-service teacher, Joe Lima. We are involved in Dr. Erin Solovey’s lab, which is primarily focused in human-computer interaction (HCI). For the six-week program, we are working on the Real-time Brain Sensing for Personalized Learning Environments project.
As public school educators we often wonder, “What is my student thinking about when they are working on their STEM assignments? Are they tapping into prior knowledge? Are they confused and reluctant to ask for help? Or maybe they are thinking about what is for lunch today?” It is easy to elicit answers from students when we are in the classroom with the students. However, when students are working on their assignments at home or using online tutoring systems, it is difficult to ascertain their understanding of concepts and of the content.
Extensive research has been conducted on answering some of these very common questions that educators have been asking for a very long time. One area of study has been in understanding cognitive functions as students are involved in the learning process, and the results of this research area are well known and even embedded in learning systems such as Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs). Yet questions remain. What are students thinking about when they pause in completing math assignments? Are they confused? Are they processing information at a slower speed? Perhaps they even have a math-specific learning disability that is affecting their ability to complete math assignments.
Professor Solovey (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), along with Professor Walker (University of Pittsburgh) and Professor Arrington (Lehigh University), are actively conducting research to answer these questions through their “Integrating Non-Invasive Neuroimaging and Educational Data Mining to Improve Understanding of Robust Learning Processes” research study. This research study combines brain sensing technology (functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS)), cognitive behavioral data, and the log data collected from the ASSISTments Intelligent Tutoring System to provide insight into student cognition during pauses within the context of realistic learning tasks.
Our primary contribution to this research study will be developing the experiment design, which is the document that defines the specific details, instructions, and data to be used in the study. There are several tasks that we will do to create this experiment design. These tasks include relevant literature review, completing the CITI training, familiarizing ourselves with the cognition tests and the fNIRS system, collaborating with stakeholders, and piloting the draft experiment design. Additionally, we will support the research team with additional tasks within the scope of the RET Program and generate ideas in furtherance of the overall research study.
- Week 1:
- Met with undergraduate and graduate students in Dr. Solovey’s lab to discuss ongoing projects.
- Performed background research on fNIRS, cognition, ASSISTments, etc.
- Conversed with in-service and pre-service teachers about various classroom experiences.
- Developed the research proposal for our RET project.
- Week 2:
- Narrowed the focus and finalized the research proposal.
- Completed CITI Training.
- Conducted background research to understand previous cognitive tests and ASSISTments.
- Familiarized ourselves with the AX continuous performance task (AX-CPT) and Rule Learning task by meeting with a lead student researcher and trying the tests ourselves.
- Met with Dr. Solovey to begin the development of the experiment design.
- Toured the Practice Point and LEAP facilities.
- Week 3:
- Experienced the ASSISTments cognitive test and reviewed protocol, which created an “aha!” moment spurring connections to the past background research reading and tests.
- Began a preliminary rough draft of the poster layout.
- Discussed practices, core ideas, and cross–cutting concepts during professional development.
- Selected math standards and learning targets for my lesson plan.
- Reviewed past IRB application and Methods document examples.
- Completed the Midterm Progress Report Form.
- Toured Sagamore Labs facilities.
- Continued to develop the integrated experiment design.
- Created a rough draft of elevator pitches varying in duration.
- Week 4:
- Edited the layout draft of the poster and generated initial text.
- Further developed elevator pitches and tested delivery of the descriptions.
- Discussed assessments and observed Professor Louis Roberts’ teaching techniques in professional development.
- Continued to generate the integrated experiment design document.
- Met with stakeholders: Dr. Solovey, Dr. Arrington, and Dr. Walker to discuss the integrated experiment design.
- Participated in the fabric-sensors study with two students in Dr. Solovey’s lab.
- Tested in the BCI video game study using the fNIRS cap and discussed functions/results with graduate student, Max Chen.
- Met with graduate student, Theresa Mowad (Lehigh University) for Rule Learning descriptions.
- Met with Dr. Arrington for an introductory discussion about how to use PsychoPy.
- Week 5:
- Developed poster layout.
- Practiced and refined elevator pitches.
- Reviewed diversity, equity, and inclusion in teaching practices during professional development.
- Developed sections of the integrated design document following the meeting with Theresa.
- Created a draft program to move the ASSISTments material to the PsychoPy platform.
- Met with Deniz Sonmez Unal (University of Pittsburgh) to discuss work with ASSISTments, generating math problems, and the draft in PsychoPy.
- Planned out the layout of the lesson plan for the classroom.
- Attended the REU/EREE poster presentations showcase.
- Week 6:
- Finalized poster and practiced presentations.
- Reviewed elevator pitches.
- Continued work on PsychoPy feedback functionality.
- Developed transition document for PsychoPy draft.
- Created a My Time in the Lab wrap-up slide for the final lab meeting.
- Further developed materials for the lesson plan.
- Met with Deniz to go over ASSISTments math problems.
- Reviewed lesson plan feedback in professional development.
- Final poster presentation session.