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Doctoral Student’s Research will Change Grading of Written Responses

Kam King
November 26, 2012

Minsu Ha has a particular fondness for science education. After earning his BA and M.Ed., both in biology education, from Korea National University of Education, he went on to teach introductory biology to undergraduates and loved it.

“I enjoyed developing new science activities with the students,” he said.

There was one aspect of being a science educator that Ha simply didn’t care for: grading written exams.

“It’s very hard for instructors or teaching assistants to score many students’ written responses even though open response formats are strongly required in science education,” he said. “That’s where the push for our research came from: our computer scoring models can grade thousands of undergraduates’ written responses in a minute.”

As a science education doctoral student in Teaching and Learning, Ha is developing an automated computer scoring system for the grading of students’ written responses using a machine learning tool. The computers will learn the pattern of human scoring rule and grade students’ responses using what they have learned.

The system, specifically designed for undergraduate students, and its machine learning settings will need to be monitored and controlled closely by the research team led by principal investigator Ross Nehm, associate professor of teaching and learning. He is Ha’s advisor.

“I am looking for the best settings of machine learning methods so that the computer will work successfully,” Ha said.

Receiving IHPST Young Scholar honor

Ha’s research also caught the eye of the International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group (IHPST). He received the organization’s 2012 Young Scholar Award at its recent international conference in Seoul, South Korea. The award is based in part on his presentation with Nehm, “Darwin’s Difficulty with Degeneration and Students’ Struggles with Loss: Cognitive-Historical Parallelisms.”

“I was really happy to be honored in my home country,” Ha said.

In addition to the Young Scholar Award, Ha has been appointed as an EHE Dissertation Fellow for the 2012–2013 academic year, funded by the Marilyn Ruth Hathaway Education Scholarship. He serves on the international committee for the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) and was a judge for the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

He plans to remain in the research field directly after his graduation in Spring 2013 and then find a teaching position at a university.


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