Author: Breanne Carne

ACSHF Forum: Kristin Kolodge

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host Kristin Kolodge at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum Monday April 1, in Meese 109, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and via Zoom.

“Is the Auto Industry Right for Me?”
As a human factors professional, what does a career in the automotive industry look like, and why is that skillset so critical? Hear Kristin Kolodge, an MTU alumna and nearly 30-year veteran in the automotive industry, describe her journey at Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis) and J.D. Power where she has developed automotive features, created new HMI processes and new user experience research centered around the customer’s interaction with their vehicle.

ACSHF Forum: Sarah Aslani and Kit Cischke

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host two speakers at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum: Sarah Aslani and Kit Cischke, both ACSHF graduate students. Their presentations will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (February 5) in Meese 109.

Aslani will present “The Influence of Decreased Ambient Lighting on Reactive Balance Mechanisms in Older compared to Middle-aged Adults and Younger Adults”

Falls, a significant health concern, particularly impact the elderly, with an estimated 30 million incidents annually in the United States alone. Older adults face increased fall risks due to factors like gait variability, reduced strength, sensory decline, and environmental hazards. Postural control, vital for preventing falls, involves a complex interplay of visual, vestibular, somatosensory, and neuromuscular systems. Reactive balance, crucial for avoiding falls, is affected by aging and lighting conditions. Aging contributes to sensory and motor decline, impacting muscle function, coordination, and walking abilities. Visual and vestibular systems play essential roles in postural control, and their decline with age affects balance. Dark environments accentuate the reliance on the vestibular system, influencing balance recovery. Few studies explore the impact of dim lighting on balance recovery, especially in older adults. This study aims to investigate the differences in reactive balance control among older, middle-aged, and young adults in decreased ambient lighting conditions. The hypothesis suggests that dark
environments will decrease overall balance recovery ability in older adults compared to younger and middle-aged groups. Additionally, it predicts that balance recovery stepping characteristics, especially response initiation time, will be more adversely affected in the dark for older adults. This research contributes to understanding the age-related variations in balance control, particularly in challenging lighting conditions, offering insights for fall prevention strategies.

Cischke will present “Concept Maps as a Means to Calibrate Judgments of Learning”

Students often struggle with accurately assessing their own knowledge, also known as metacognition. They frequently rely on unreliable cues such as material familiarity or past homework grades and adjust their studying habits accordingly. In the context of learning new material, a metacognitive assessment of this type is referred to as a “judgment of learning” (JOL). Delaying a JOL after learning the material has been shown to lead to more precise judgments, which is thought to be due to a covert memory access made for the material. Concept maps are diagrams used in various fields to visualize knowledge, particularly the connections between concepts. They mimic the structure of human memory and require both overt and covert memory accesses when creating or reviewing them. Between the memory accesses in a constructive activity, concept mapping, and the testing effect (where testing increases retention of material), concept maps may be an effective tool to calibrate JOLs. This talk discusses some experimental findings on JOL calibration in a situation where the material to be learned is conceptual and there is a self-directed study period before the assessment. The material was technical in nature and new to all of the subjects. Some subjects made a numeric JOL, some completed a concept mapping activity before the JOL, and some did neither. We compare the study times, JOL calibration, and test results of the subjects. The results suggest that concept mapping, when used as an educational intervention in the classroom, can positively influence study efforts and test outcomes while being considered relatively enjoyable by the students.

ACSHF Forum: Timothy Keirnan

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host Timothy Keirnan (Humanities) at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum Monday January 22 in Meese 109, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Join us for a presentation by Timothy Keirnan, a new professor in Humanities with 30 years of experience across the fields of automotive, audio engineering, financial services, and software. From working in recording studios wondering who designed the equipment, to designing the HMI of Ford’s award-winning Pro Power Onboard feature in F150 trucks and Transit vans with a multidisciplinary team of coworkers, Tim has found human factors engineers to be running a parallel course to his career all the way along. In 25 minutes, he will describe his dawning realization of HF as an essential professional discipline to product design and recount some tales from working with its literature and HF engineers at some workplaces. The second 25 minutes will be audience participation to discuss anything in the presentation plus the challenge HF and UX professionals still have in industry to be involved early and often enough on projects.

CLS Faculty Receive Exceptional Teaching Score – Fall 2023

Cognitive and Learning Sciences’ faculty Amber Bennett, Destaney Sauls, and Elizabeth Veinott have been identified as three of only 80 instructors who received an exceptional “Average of 7 Dimensions” student evaluation score for fall semester 2023.

Each of their scores were in the top 10% of similarly sized sections university-wide that had at least a 50% response rate and a minimum of 5 responses. Only 106 sections out of more than 1,452 surveyed were rated this highly by students.

Andrew Storer, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, recently congratulated the faculty stating, “On behalf of Michigan Tech’s students, I want you to know that I am aware of your accomplishment. I know that exceptional teaching takes a great deal of time and effort, and I appreciate your commitment to the success of our students. Providing excellent learning opportunities is an important part of Michigan Tech’s mission.”

Michigan Tech’s Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences offers bachelor of science degrees in Psychology and Human Factors, along with a Minor in Psychology. We also offer an Accelerated Masters degree in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (ACSHF), which typically requires only one additional year of course work. Our graduate program includes masters and doctoral degrees in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (ACSHF).

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ACSHF Forum: Grad Student Presentations

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host two speakers at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum: Anne Inger Mortvedt and Erin Matas, both ACSHF graduate students. Their presentations will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday November 13 in Meese 109.

Mortvedt will present “Usability Assessment of Newly Developed Injury Prevention Program: Insights from Coaches and Players”

This study explores the perceptions of coaches and handball players regarding an 8-week injury prevention program aimed at reducing ACL injuries. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with coaches and a sample of players who participated in the program, providing in-depth qualitative insights about what usability characteristics affect use of an exercise program. Coaches expressed concerns about program efficiency and perceived effectiveness, leading to hesitancy in adopting it for the long term. They stressed the importance of player education and understanding, the need for adaptability in program implementation, and a “propose” rather than “impose” approach. Players had mixed feelings about the program, appreciating perceived improvements in some exercises but finding it too time-consuming and lacking evidence of effectiveness. They proposed ideas to make the training more enjoyable, emphasizing the significance of perceived effectiveness and efficiency, but also introducing playful ways to implement injury prevention training. The study underscores the importance of perceived effectiveness, program efficiency, and player enjoyment in designing successful exercise interventions. These findings can inform the development of an exercise intervention usability scale, enhancing program adoption and long-term adherence.

Matas will present “Shifting the Lens: Applying Cognitive Task Analysis Methods to the Academic Search Domain”

Although the information-seeking behavior of undergraduate students in library search has been examined, the role that cognitive complexity plays in search remains largely unexplored. In a pilot study, students participating in a library search exercise were interviewed using Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) methods to explore their mental models of the search task. Results from CTAs, such as task diagrams and concept maps, captured the cognitively complex elements for students and will be compared to expert search strategies. Implications for this work to support new library system evaluation and future experiments are discussed. Future experiments will delve deeper into practical strategies for mitigating cognitive complexity and improving search, making search more accessible and effective for people.

Shruti Amre Recipient of Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences is proud to announce that PhD Candidate Shruti Amre has been awarded the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship. Exceptional graduate students are nominated by their program or department for this award in the year of their graduation. Nominees will have demonstrated academic or professional qualities that set them apart within their academic program.

Congratulations Shruti!

Shruti’s advisor is Dr. Kelly Steelman (CLS).

CLS Students Tour Production Plant for Boss Plow

In October, a group of MTU Human Factors students toured the BOSS SnowPlow headquarters and plant in Iron Mountain, MI. BOSS is a leader in the snow and ice management business with a growing product line and increased development of human-centered processes and equipment.

Katrina Carlson, a graduate student in the Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors program, organized the trip for the department after completing a summer internship at BOSS. Students toured the BOSS plant, Product Development Lab, and Virtual Reality facilities to learn about the role of human factors in consumer product design as well as production technique and quality assurance.

HFES MTU Chapter Meeting

Come join us for our first HFES (Human Factors and Ergonomics Society) MTU Chapter meeting on November 9 at 6:00 p.m.. We will be meeting via Zoom and discussing opportunities with the club for Spring semester. We will have links to both our InvolvementLink and Discord to keep you up to date on all the club activities!

Reach out to Brandon Woolman ( for a link or questions.

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ACSHF Forum: Cosmas John Kathumba

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host Cosmas John Kathumba from Rhodes University at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum.

The presentation will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (EST) Monday October 30 via Zoom from Grahamstown, South Africa.

Title: Promoting and investigatin the pre-service teachers’ computational thinking practical development in the physical sciences methods course. 

Computational thinking (CT)’s recognition as a fundamental skill alongside writing, reading and arithmetic (Wing, 2006) has influenced researchers and educators to infuse it in other disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) apart from computer science to promote instruction and problem-solving competencies. CT is a skill set required for all humans to navigate and survive in the 21st century. However, a framework is scarce to help science teachers at the secondary school level in South Africa to practically develop CT skills. Thus, it is necessary to inititate intervention to work with teachers to develop CT practically. It is against this backdrop that this intervention study seeks to explore how pre-service physical sciences teachers develop CT in the physical sciences methods course. The main research question of this proposed study is “How do the physical sciences methods course infused with computational thinking concepts influence or not pre-service teachers’ practical development of computational thinking?” This proposed study is underpinned by the Lev Vygotsky’s social-cultural theory (SCT). Further, this study will use a transformative mixed methods design and will be guided by a “Code, Connect, Create” (3C) professional development model. The study will be carried out within the Education Faculty at Rhodes University with the postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) students during the physical sciences methods course. This proposed study will be carried out in two stages. In the first stage, pre-service teachers will be assessed on their prior understanding of CT skills before they start learning the actual content of the physical sciences methods course; in the second stage, they will be introduced to different strategies for teaching physical sciences that infuse CT skills. Data will be generated through pre-questionnaire and post-questionnaire, post-intervention interviews, peer and self-assessment, and journal reflections. A mixed method of data analysis will be employed. 

ACSHF Forum: Chikondi Sepula & Blessings Hwaca

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host Chikondi Sepula & Blessings Hwaca from Rhodes University at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum.

There will be two presentations from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday October 16 via Zoom from Grahamstown, South Africa.

Title: Exploring the Development of Computational Thinking Skills among Pre-Service Teachers through Visual Programming: An Interventionist Case Study
Due to its profound cognitive effect on learners, computational thinking (CT) has gained significant attention and has been increasingly integrated into primary and secondary education worldwide. The integration of CT into educational curricula offers several benefits, including improved learning outcomes, enhanced problem-solving abilities, and the development of skills necessary for the digital landscape of the 21st century. Reflecting this global trend, South Africa introduced CT in primary schools through a dedicated subject called “coding and robotics” in 2023. However, as cited in other contexts, teacher upskilling is a primary challenge faced in successfully integrating CT in South Africa. Many teachers lack the necessary skills to effectively teach this new subject. Recognizing this gap, I was motivated to explore the development of CT skills with pre-service teachers using visual programming. This study will be underpinned by the social-cultural theory (SCT) of Lev Vygotsky. Informed by this theory, the intervention will be guided by a professional development (PD) model called “Code, Connect, Create” and a pedagogical model known as “Use, Modify, Create”. The study will be carried out within the Education Department at Rhodes University. All first-year pre-service teachers who are willing to participate from within the department will be included in the intervention. Data will be collected through the CT Reflective tools, semi-structured interviews, focus-group discussions, and reflective journals. The CT framework proposed by Brennan & Resnick (2012) will be used as a lens to facilitate and assess CT development among the pre-service teachers as a result of the intervention. An evaluative interpretivist case study methodology will be employed in this study, as it allows the detailing of contextual effects of the visual programming approach, as well as enabling and constraining factors that should be considered when developing CT with visual programming.

Title: Working with Secondary School Educators’ on the development of Computational Thinking through lesson planning

Computational Thinking (CT) is a cognitive skill that helps learners to think logically and creatively, becoming more popular as well as necessary at all levels of education globally. By introducing CT into curriculum design and lesson activities, educators together with their learners can benefit in many ways such as effective problem-solving, better learning outcomes, and more holistic preparation for the digital challenges of the 21st century. Two of the obstacles cited in South African STEM Education are the lack of skilled teachers and low interest of learners in the former, which warrants the need for more support and focus from different actors. Since CT is not only for STEM subjects but also for any discipline or challenge, thus educators who understand computational thinking can help students use their skills in different situations and contexts and encourage them to think logically and systematically. As a scholar, I am inspired to investigate how we can promote the development of CT during lesson planning by selected secondary school educators. The intervention study will be carried out with ten educators in Makhanda, Eastern Cape province. The Pattern Recognition, Abstraction, Decomposition, and Algorithms (PRADA) and Vygotsky Social Cultural theory will be used as theoretical frameworks. The data will be collected through Workshops, Journal reflection, Interviews, and Focus Group discussions.