How can we teach people how to do education research?


Eleanor C Sayre


January 1, 2014

Integrating Metacognitive Practices and Research to Ensure Student Success (IMPRESS)

The IMPRESS project investigates how first-generation college students and Deaf/Hard-of-hearing students develop metacognitive skills, learn about the nature of science and expertise, and navigate and form social groups.

The IMPRESS project serves two purposes: to help students stay in science and engineering via the IMPRESS Program, and to bring together emerging and established education researchers to learn about research methods using observational video data via the IMPRESS Education Research Squad.


IMPRESS is an NSF-funded program at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) that aims to improve the persistence in STEM majors among First Generation and Deaf/Hard of Hearing. RIT enrolls a high number of each group of students compared to other post-secondary four-year institutions. These two groups, on average, are less likely to graduate than the general student population. One of the measurable goals of IMPRESS is to eliminate this gap in student success. There are three elements of the IMPRESS program: a summer experience, first year courses, and a learning assistant program.

The IMPRESS Summer Experience is a two-week pre-orientation bridge program in August. Roughly 20 incoming freshman students work on open-ended experiments in small groups, have quiet reflection time, and participate in whole group discussions. The specific aims of the bridge program are to improve students’ metacognitive skills and to develop a community of learners; both of which have been shown to improve persistence in STEM majors.

IMPRESS Education Research Squad (IMPRESSERS)

The IMPRESS Education Research Squad is a multi-institutional, diverse group of researchers who collect and analyze data at the IMPRESS summer experience. During the summer experience, we collect video data of 4-6 lab groups working together, plus large group discussions of all students and facilitators, for two weeks. We use this observational data to make claims about student learning, and meet virtually throughout the academic year to refine our data analysis, write papers, and plan for future summer experiences.

Research Questions

Because our data are observational, many of our research questions emerge naturally from the data instead of being pre-determined. Here’s a sampling of our projects.

  • Student conceptions of expertise: We report on student beliefs about what constitutes expertise. Our population is a group of first-generation and deaf/hard-of-hearing students participating in a pre-matriculation university program designed to encourage reflection and metacognitive practice. Students first worked in small groups to articulate criteria that defined expertise and then engaged in a class discussion in which a formal definition was developed. All activities were recorded and student discourse analyzed, revealing a nuanced and evolving understanding of expertise. (Accepted to ICLS 2016)
  • How to IMPRESS: Coordinating a Large Video Data Set for a Collaborative Project: Though many different research methods involve mass quantities of video/audio data, there is little discussion of best practices for organization, especially when the research is collaborative. The guidelines we provide here were created while conducting educational research on the IMPRESS project, an integrated metacognitive program for at risk STEM majors at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Our hope is to encourage large-scale, collaborative research of qualitative video data by using our project as an example and providing enough information for readers to make a judgment on the efficacy of this process for their own projects. (under review at DePaul Discoveries)
  • Developing and evaluating the IMPRESS program: Metacognitive shortcomings are particularly prominent in two at-risk populations: deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) and first generation (FG) college students. DHH learners significantly overestimate the depth of their understanding and, as a result, lag behind hearing students in STEM areas. Interventions have shown some promise, with DHH students that used a problem solving game focusing on higher-order thinking more likely to utilize sophisticated problem solving strategies. Similar metacognitive shortcomings are found in FG students, who often take less rigorous high school courses. Direct metacognitive strategies increased motivation, promoted better study habits, and resulted in higher test scores and retention rates in first-generation students. This paper describes a new program for Integrating Metacognitive Practices and Research to Ensure Student Success (IMPRESS) to address metacognitive weaknesses. IMPRESS is intended to develop a strong student learning community through a summer bridge program and strengthening that community through collaborative, coursework during the academic year.
  • Power dynamics in group discussion among Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing and Hearing peers: Prior research has shown that metacognitive skills are important for student success in higher education. This paper focuses on classroom video collected at a two-week summer College Readiness Program at Rochester Institute of Technology. This summer experience is part of Project IMPRESS (Integrating Metacognitive Practices and Research to Ensure Student Success), which is designed to develop metacognitive skills in first generation and Deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) STEM undergraduates. We analyzed an episode from the first full day of the program where the students collaboratively developed a sign for the word “metacognition” for which there is not a sign in American Sign Language. We used this discussion to study the development of a safe place within their community as the epistemological frames shifts from dissemination to co-creation and hierarchy to distribution of expertise. (in preparation)
  • Lab Experiences and Students’ Ideas About the Nature of Science: This project is part of a collaborative effort to analyze data collected a two-week summer experience for 20 first generation college students and Deaf/Hard-of-hearing pre-first-year students at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The summer experience, part of the IMPRESS (Integrating Metacognitive Practices and Research to Ensure Student Success) Program, improves students’ metacognitive skills and sense of community through experimentation, model-building, and reflection. Our data includes video of students experimenting and discussing models for climate change, as well as reflective discussions with small and large groups. We use students’ Brief, Embedded, Spontaneous Metacognitive (BESM) Talk to examine the students’ characterization of science, along with the ways students uniquely contributed to their group. This analysis aims to improve the understanding of the relation between students’ expectations of experimentation and the way they think and reflect about scientific processes. (Presented at AAPT Summer Meeting 2015)
  • Emergent collaboration networks: How do students collaborate within their lab group? How do they recruit expertise from other lab groups? How does their inter-group communication change as the entire cohort becomes more familiar with each other? We use social network analysis methods to measure how the nature of student collaboration changes as they move through the summer experience.

IMPRESS Education Research Squad members

Directors: Scott Franklin (RIT), Mary Bridget Kustusch (DePaul), Eleanor C Sayre (Kansas State)

Faculty affiliates: Santa E Tejeda Torres (U Monterrey), Paul Hutchison (Grinnell College)

Postdocs: Justyna Zwolak (Florida International), Anne Leak (RIT)

Grad students: Annie Chase (San Jose State), Florian Genz (U Cologne),


2014: Edward Schenk, K Alison Gomez

2015: Charles Bertram, Noah-Kee Marks, Rita Dawod, Martha Rangel

2016: Ben Archibeque, Max Franklin


Scott and Ellie went to Borneo to brainstorm how to make IMPRESSERS better. PEER was the result.

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