Kristy L. Daniel (Halverson)

Assistant Professor

BSC 103: Biology and Society
BSC 111: Principles of Biology II
BSC 404/504/LCA: Ireland Biology Field Experience
BSC 497: Senior Capstone
BSC 600: Professional Development for Biology Teaching Assistants
SME 601: Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education in Contemporary Perspective
SME 703: Foundations of Science and Mathematics Education
SME 761/762: Qualitative Research in Science Education 


Research Interests

I am a biology educator by training and my research interests focus on how people come to understand and communicate biology, particularly through the use of visual representations. Representations (such as graphs, pictures, animations, etc.) are critical for communicating abstract science concepts; they can increase engagement, enhance learning, improve problem solving, and facilitate connections between new knowledge and prior ideas. Furthermore, effective learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) requires engagement in content so that it is interesting and accessible to the learner. Although technology has the potential to increase engagement and learning, it is not yet clear what emerging technologies are appropriate or how they can best be used to improve learning There is a need to consider which pedagogical approaches can best leverage the unique characteristics and potential of emerging educational technologies. 


OUTSIDE - Over Under and Through: Students Informally Discover the Environment investigates an informal environmental education nature program designed for underrepresented middle school students in Mississippi. This project partners with the University of Southern Mississippi's (USM) well-established Biological Sciences Learning Center (BSLC) and newly developed Lake Thoreau Environmental Center (LTEC), the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and a local school public district. This project focuses on reaching two target populations of participants: future naturalists and underrepresented middle school students. During the pilot, we train volunteer naturalists to lead engaging, inquiry-driven informal environmental education programs designed to immerse middle school students in nature. We have developed a training program for volunteer naturalists and captured patterns in learning and interactions between students and naturalists during OUTSIDE programming.

Visualizations AURE Valuable - Visualizations in Authentic Undergraduate Research Experience are Valuable investigates the challenges that students struggle to visualize abstract STEM concepts within the field of biotechnology, develop accurate representations of science concepts, and transfer and apply this knowledge to broader applications.  The combination of a virtual learning environment and an authentic research setting offers a platform for students to visualize abstract STEM concepts easily and receive feedback to build new knowledge and understanding within the context of a realistic study. In this collaborative project with Purdue University, our research group is currently exploring the impact of a authentic virtual environment educational intervention on college student learning, engagement and representational competence skills. We are targeting students enrolled in  an authentic research lab course series that is affiliated with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance program ( Students in these biotechnology courses sequence go from “dirt to data” by isolating unique bacterial viruses from local soil samples and decoding their genomes. 

Tree-Thinking - As an extension of my dissertation work, I continue 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. My work in this area has also included developing validated and reliable diagnostic instruments  for tree-thinking, acting a consultant on external projects, and developing a text on representational competence as a theoretical framework in science education.

Equitable Assessment - Visualizations can be used beyond improving content learning gains, but can also aid in communication of concepts. I have worked to measure  the use of visual scaffolds as a tool to help English as Second Language Students. 

International Service-Learning - Through this project, I work with Ireland Biology Field Experience course to investigate 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 in biology.

Dr. Daniel’s Homepage | OUTSIDE (please link these to the following: and

Select Recent Publications

Siegel, M., Menon, D., Sinha, S., Promyod, N., Wissehr, C., & Halverson, K.L. (In Press). Equitable written science assessments for English language learners: How scaffolding helps. Journal of Science Teacher Education.

McLaurin, D., Halverson, K.L., & Boyce, C.J. (2013). Using Manipulative Models to Develop Tree-Thinking. Biology International, 54, 108-121.

Walter, E.M., Halverson, K.L., & Boyce, C.J. (2013). Investigating the relationship between college students' acceptance of evolution and tree thinking understanding. Evolution: Education, and Outreach, 6, 26. DOI:10.1186/1936-6434-6-26.

Halverson, K.L., Boyce, C.J., & Maroo, J.D. (2013). Order matters: Pre-assessments and student generated representations. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 6, 24. DOI:10.1186/1936-6434-6-24.

Witzig, S., Halverson, K.L., Siegel, M.A., & Freyermuth, S.K. (2011). The interface of opinion, understanding, and evaluation while learning about a socioscientific issue. International Journal of Science Education, 35, 2483-2507. DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2011.600351.

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.

Concannon, J., Siegel, M.A., Halverson, K.L., & Freyermuth, S.K. (2010). College students' conceptions of stem cells, stem cell research, and cloning. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 19, 177-186.

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.