Kristy L. Halverson

Assistant Professor

Teaching Interests

Biology and Society (BSC 103)
Ireland Biology Field Experience (BSC 404/504)
Science and Society (BSC 423/523)
Qualitative Research in Science and Mathematics Education (SME 761/762)
Human Learning (SME 601)
Foundations of Science and Mathematics Education (SME 703)
Special Topics Courses: 
    Teaching and Learning with Visualizations in Science Education
    Learning to Lecture

Visit the Halverson research group (Hyperlink to


Research Interests

My science education research interests focus on college biology student learning. I am interested in pursuing how students develop science content knowledge and how they work with and make sense of biological representations, particularly with phylogenetic trees. Representations are critical for communicating abstract science concepts; they can enhance learning, improve problem solving, and facilitate connections between new knowledge and prior ideas. In my most recent project, I explored students’ understandings and use of phylogenetic trees, challenges and supports for developing core tree thinking skills, and proposed a representational competence framework. My future research agenda goals include continuing to investigate how representational competence in phylogenetics is achieved by college undergraduates, the effect of tree thinking on evolution content understanding in introductory biology and upper-level biology courses, and exploring other biological representations and the role they play in college student learning.

Other research projects I have worked on include investigating: perceptions of and decision making processes involved with biotechnology issues, specifically stem cell research and genomics, equitable assessments for English language learners, the relationship between homework completion and college student achievement, and how the use of service-learning and informal science education activities influences biology understanding.  

I have ample opportunities for students to become involved in research projects in my lab.  Within my research, students would have the opportunity to assist with research design including the development of research instruments, data collection, data analysis, transformation of findings into research-based instructional activities, and dissemination of findings through presentations and/or publications. I am also open to the possibility of having students come to me with novel ideas they find curious to investigate within educational research regarding college student learning or teaching.

Select Recent Publications

Halverson, K.L., Pires, J.C., & Abell, S.K. (2011). Exploring the complexity of tree thinking expertise in an undergraduate plant systematics course. Science Education, 95, 794-823.

Halverson, K.L. (2011). Improving tree-thinking one learnable skill at a time. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 4, 95-106.

Siegel, M.A., Halverson, K.L., Freyermuth, S.K., & Clark, C. (2011). Beyond grading: A series of rubrics for science learning.  The Science Teacher, 78(1), 42-47.

Halverson, K.L., Siegel, M.A., & Freyermuth, S.K. (2010). Non-Science majors’ critical evaluation of websites in a biotechnology course. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 19 (6), 612-620.

Halverson, K.L., Freyermuth, S., Siegel, M., & Clark, C. (2010). What undergraduates misunderstand about stem cell research. International Journal of Science Education, 32, 2253-2272.

Halverson, K.L. (2010). Using pipe cleaners to bring the tree of life to life. American Biology Teacher, 74, 223-224.

Halverson, K.L. & Lankford, D.M. (2009). Science galls me: What is a niche anyway?  American Biology Teacher, 71, 483-491.

Halverson, K. L., Siegel, M. A., Freyermuth, S. K. (2009). Lenses for framing decisions: Undergraduates’ decision making about stem cell research. International Journal of Science Education, 31, 1249-1268. 

Siegel, M., Wissehr, C.F., & Halverson, K.L. (2008). Sounds like “success:” A framework for equitable assessment. The Science Teacher, 75 (3), 43-46.

Halverson, K. L., Heard, S. B., Nason, J. D., & Stireman, J. O. (2008). Differential attack on diploid, tetraploid, and hexaploid Solidago altissima L. by five insect gallmakers. Oecologia, 154, 755-761. 

Halverson, K. L., Heard, S. B., Nason, J. D., & Stireman, J. O. (2008). Origins, distribution and local co-occurance of polyploidy cytotypes in Solidago altissima (Asteraceae). American Journal of Botany, 95, 50-58.