Skip Navigation

Gena C. Sbeglia, Research Assistant Professor ( CV)

PhD. Stony Brook University, NY, 2018

Biology Education, Evolution Education, Psychometrics, STEM Diversity


Office: LS112

Phone:  (631)632-8600

Lab Website: Sbeglia Lab Website

Google Profile

Research Summary:

I investigate the complex interplay of cognitive, affective, psychosocial, and institutional factors that promote and inhibit meaningful learning of fundamental biological concepts. To do so, I use theory from psychology and education to design and implement curricular innovations that uncover how students’ mental models and psychosocial backgrounds interact with learning environments to generate cognitive and behavioral change. A major goal of this work is to disentangle the relationships among race, gender, psychosocial variables (e.g., STEM identity), affective variables (e.g., evolution acceptance), and support structures (e.g., teaching assistants) and investigate how they impact biological learning, career choices, and persistence in biology. Low persistence in STEM disciplines such as biology is a chronic problem, especially among underrepresented minority and first-generation students. My work is uniquely capable of addressing this challenge.

Because most of the key variables I study cannot be directly observed, I use instruments to generate measures of latent traits. These instruments must undergo psychometric validation to establish robust values of the latent traits they propose to measure. To this end, I use Item Response Theory (e.g., Rasch analysis) and Structural Equation Modeling to develop and psychometrically evaluate instruments that measure a variety of traits (e.g., evolution acceptance, genetic determinism, transformations of matter and energy, conflict with evolution). Once robust theory-driven measures exist, they can be linked with causal explanations of student learning and persistence, which have important implications for diversifying STEM.

My work has been published in multiple high-impact journals (e.g., Science Education, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Journal of Science Education and Technology, Evolution: Education and Outreach ). I have received research funding from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the SUNY Open Educational Resource program. I have been a reviewer for multiple NSF programs and academic journals ( Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Evolution: Education and Outreach, Science and Education, and CBE-Life Sciences Education ).

Overall, my work informs how to design more effective and equitable learning environments that enable the success of all students.