Dept. of Chemistry

Melanie Cooper

Dr. Melanie Cooper Alumni Distinguished Professor
Chemistry Education

Phone: (864) 656-2573
Office: 259 Hunter Laboratories

Chemistry Education Program Web Site

Research Interests | Publications

Melanie Cooper, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Chemistry received her B.S. M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Manchester, England. She carried out postdoctoral work in organic chemistry before turning to chemical education as her area of research. She has been a faculty member in the Clemson chemistry department since 1987, where she teaches general and organic chemistry and chemistry education courses. Her appointment was ground-breaking, not only at Clemson but nationally, in that it was one of the first tenure track appointments in chemistry education in a chemistry department. Her research has focused on improving teaching and learning in large enrollment introductory chemistry courses, including general and organic chemistry. She has worked on how students learn to construct and use representations, problem solving, and conceptual understanding. She has developed methods to assess and improve these learning outcomes, and has focused on interventions that promote metacognitive activity. An outgrowth of this research is the development and assessment of evidence-driven, research-based curricula. She is a Fellow of the AAAS and was a member of the first class of ACS Fellows. In 2002 she was named an Alumni Distinguished Professor. She has also held a number of elected positions within ACS and was the Chair of the Division of Chemical Education in 2007. In 2002 she was named an Alumni Distinguished Professor, and in 2010 she was received the Class of ’39 Award for Excellence. She has received a number of teaching awards including the 2010-2011 the Society for College Science Teachers (SCST) Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award (OUSTA).

Research Interests

Dr Cooper’s research has focused on the development of demonstrably effective ways for students to learn science in meaningful ways. One of the prime outcomes of this research is the development and assessment of evidence-driven, research-validated curricula.  For example: Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything is a new general chemistry curriculum that uses the emergence and evolution of life as the scaffold to teach chemical principles. The materials under development are a text, interactive applets where students explore difficult concepts, guided tutorials, and a variety of assessments – ranging from formative concept inventories, to criterion-based assessments, and problem solving materials.  All of these materials are based on research (ours and others) about how students learn and develop the cognitive skills that will allow them to develop a robust understanding of chemistry concepts and problem solving  – rather than rely on memorization and algorithms that are not transferrable to new situations.

The development of new curriculum materials is based on our research in a number of areas.
The effect of interventions and educational environments on problem solving and metacognition: We have developed a number of assessments that allow us to probe student problem solving ability, strategy, and metacognition as they change over time. These tools allow us to assess the effects of specifically designed interventions and research-based curricula on these constructs.,

Investigation of representational competence: The relationship between structure and properties is fundamental to a deep understanding of chemistry, yet little is known about how students learn to construct and use different types of representations. We are investigating this using OrganicPad a tablet-based program that allows us to observe and model how students draw different types of structures.

BeSocratic: A free-form interactive system to investigate the development of representational competence: ( Our previous research has produced a large database of information on how students construct and use representations, and we propose to further develop and deploy a flexible, web-based system, BeSocratic, that can recognize and respond to free-form student inputin the form of graphical representations, including chemical structures,  and graphs, and simple diagrams. We are developing tutorials and formative assessment activities that pose students with a problem that they must answer by constructing a representation. The system can recognize the input and respond accordingly with appropriate tiered contextual feedback.



• Trujillo C, Cooper MM, & Klymkowsky MW (2012) Using graph-based assessments within socratic tutorials to reveal and refine students' analytical thinking about molecular networks. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 40(2):100-107.

• Sandi-Urena S, Cooper M, & Stevens R (2012) Effect of Cooperative Problem-Based Lab instruction on Metacognition and Problem-Solving Skills. Journal of Chemical Education 89(6):700-706.

• Klymkowsky MW & Cooper MM (2012) Now for the hard part: The path to coherent curricular design. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 40(4):271-272.

• Grove NP, Cooper MM, & Cox EL (2012) Does Mechanistic Thinking Improve Student Success in Organic Chemistry? Journal of Chemical Education 89(7):850-853.

• Grove NP, Cooper MM, & Rush KM (2012) Decorating with Arrows: Toward the Development of Representational Competence in Organic Chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education 89(7):844-849.

• Cooper MM (2012) Cherry Picking: Why We Must Not Let Negativity Dominance Affect Our Interactions with Students. Journal of Chemical Education 89(4):423-424.

• Cooper MM, Underwood SM, & Hilley CZ (2012) Development and validation of the implicit information from Lewis structures instrument (IILSI): do students connect structures with properties? Chemistry Education Research and Practice 13(3):195-200.

• Cooper MM, Underwood SM, Hilley CZ, & Klymkowsky MW (2012) Development and Assessment of a Molecular Structure and Properties Learning Progression. Journal of Chemical Education 89(11):1351-1357.

• Sandi-Urena, S.; Cooper, M. M.; Gatlin, T. A., Graduate teaching assistants' epistemological and metacognitive development. Chemistry Education Research and Practice 2011, 12 (1), 92-100.

• Sandi-Urena, S.; Cooper, M. M.; Gatlin, T. A.; Bhattacharyya, G., Students' experience in a general chemistry cooperative problem based laboratory. Chemistry Education Research and Practice 2011, 12 (4), 434-442.

• Sandi-Urena, S.; Cooper, M. M.; Stevens, R. H., Enhancement of Metacognition Use and Awareness by Means of a Collaborative Intervention. International Journal of Science Education 2011, 33 (3), 323-340.

• Henson, K., M.M. Cooper & M.W. Klymkowsky. 2011. Turning randomness into meaning at the molecular level using Muller’s morphs. Biology Open, in press.

• Trujillo, C. M.M. Coooper & M.W. Klymkowsky. 2011. Graph-based assessments, Socratic tutorials & students' thinking about molecular networks. BAMBED, in press.

• “Decorating with arrows: Towards the development of representational competence inorganic chemistry.” M. M. Cooper, N Grove, accepted for publication J. Chem Educ.

• “Effect of cooperative problem based lab instruction on metacognition and problem solving skills”, S. Sandi-Urena; M. M. Cooper, T. Gatlin, G. Bhattacharyya; R. Stevens, accepted for publication J. Chem Educ.

• Students’ experience in a general chemistry cooperative problem based laboratory” S. Sandi-Urena; M. M. Cooper, T. Gatlin, G. Bhattacharyya; Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2011, DOI: 10.1039/C1RP90047A

• “Graduate Teaching Assistants’ Metacognitive and Epistemological Development”, S. Sandi-Urena; M. M. Cooper, T. Gatlin, Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 2011, 92-100.

• “Enhancement of Metacognition Use and Awareness by Means of a Collaborative Intervention”, S. Sandi-Urena; M. M. Cooper; R. Stevens, Journal of International Science Education, DOI: 10.1080/09500690903452922

• Lost in Lewis Structures: an investigation of student difficulties in developingrepresentational competence. Melanie M. Cooper, Nathaniel Grove, Sonia Underwood, Michael W. Klymkowsky, J. Chem. Educ.201087 (8), pp 869–874. DOI: 10.1021/ed900004y

• Enhancing the role of assessment in curriculum reform in chemistryThomas Holme, Stacey Lowery Bretz, Melanie Cooper, Jennifer Lewis, Pamela Paek, Norbert Pienta, Angelica Stacy, Ron Stevens and Marcy Towns, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2010, 11, 92. DOI: 10.1039/C005352J

•  L. C. Benson, K. Becker, M. M. Cooper, O. Hayden Griffin and K. A. Smith. Engineering Education: Departments, Degrees and Directions.  Journal of International Engineering Education, accepted for publication September 2009

•  Enhancement of Metacognition Use and Awareness by Means of  a Collaborative Intervention. Melanie M. Cooper, Santiago Sandi-Urena, Int J Sci Ed, DOI: 10.1080/09500690903452922

• OrganicPad: An interactive freehand drawing application for organic chemistry Melanie M. Cooper, Nathaniel P. Grove, Roy Pargas Sam P. Bryfczynski, Todd Gaitlin Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2009, 10, 296 DOI: 10.1039/b920835f

• "A Chemists Guide to Effective Teaching: Volume II” Pienta, N. Cooper M. M., and Greenbowe, T. Eds. Prentice Hall, 2009.

• "Design and Validation of an Instrument to Assess Metacognitive Skillfulness in Chemistry Problem Solving" Cooper, M.M. and Sandi-Urena, S. J. Chem. Educ. 2009, 86, 240

• "Cooperative Chemistry Laboratory Manual" Cooper M. M.. McGraw Hill, 2009

• “Reliable Multi Method Assessment of Metacognition Use in Chemistry Problem Solving” Cooper, M.M.; Sandi-Urena, S; Stevens, R. Chemical Education Research and Practice, 2008, 9, 18

• “An Assessment of the Effect of Collaborative Groups on Students’ Problem Solving Strategies and Abilities” Cooper, M.M. Cox, C.T. Nammouz, M. Case, E. Stevens. R. J. Chem. Educ. 2008, 85, 866.

• “A Chemists Guide to Effective Teaching: Volume II” Cooper M. M., Greenbowe, T., and Pienta, N. Eds. Prentice Hall, est 2008.

• “OrganicPad: A Tablet PC Based Interactivity Tool for Organic Chemistry” Roy Pargas, Melanie Cooper, Calvin Williams, and Samuel Bryfczynski. Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Pen-Based Learning Technologies, May 24-25, 2007, Catania, Italy.

• “Assessing Problem Solving Strategies in Chemistry using the IMMEX System” Melanie Cooper, Ron Stevens, and Thomas Holme. Proceedings of the National STEM Assessment of Student Achievement conference, 2007, pp 118-129..

• “Drawing Meaningful Conclusions from Education Experiments” Cooper M.M. Nuts and Bolts of Chemical Education Research. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, Bunce, D. Cole, R eds. 2008

• Case, E.L. Cooper, M.M. Stevens, R.H. J Coll Sci Teach, 2007, 36, 42-47

• “The Effect of the Laboratory Course on Student’s Achievements and Perceptions: Qualitative and Quantitative Aspects” Cooper, Melanie M.; Kerns, Timothy S. J. Chem. Educ. 2006 83 1356

• “Chemical Equilibrium” in Teaching and Learning Creatively, Connor-Greene, P; Mobley, C; Paul, C; Waldvogel, J.A.; Wright, L and Young A. Eds. Parlor Press, West Lafayette Indiana, 2006.

• "Assessing Student Understanding with Technology: The Use of IMMEX Problems in the Science Classroom" Charles T. Cox Jr., Joni Jordan, Melanie M. Cooper, Ron Stevens. The Science Teacher, 2006, 73, 56.

• The Top Ten Reasons Why a Chemistry Department Should Hire Chemistry Education Faculty Members, Melanie M Cooper Chem. Educator 10 (2005) 1, 50-52

• “Modeling the Development of Problem-Solving Skills in Chemistry with a Web-Based Tutor” Stevens, R. Soller, A, Cooper, M. M. Sprang, M. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems” 2004, Springer Verlag

• “A Chemists Guide to Effective Teaching:” Cooper M. M., Greenbowe, T., and Pienta, N. Eds. Prentice Hall, 2005.

• “An Introduction to Small Group Learning” in “A Chemists Guide to Effective Teaching:” Cooper M. M., Greenbowe, T., and Pienta, N. Eds. Prentice Hall, 2005.

• “ACS General Chemistry” J. Bell, Editor, Freeman, 2005


Created by MATRF; Maintained by Donna Jervis

Copyright ©2007 Clemson University, Clemson, S.C. 29634, (864) 656-3311