Meaningful Learning Research Group Members

Dr. Joseph Novak, Chair
Completing graduate studies at the University of Minnesota in 1958, Dr. Novak taught biology at Kansas State at Emporia, and Purdue University. From 1967 to 1995, he was Professor of Education and Biological sciences at Cornell University where his research focused on human learning, educational studies and knowledge creation. He is currently Professor Emeritus, Cornell University and Senior Research Scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. He is author or coauthor of 32 books and more than 140 book chapters and papers in professional books and journals. He has consulted with more than 400 schools, universities and corporations, including work with Procter and Gamble, and NASA. His recent book, LEARNING, CREATING, AND USING KNOWLEDGE: CONCEPT MAPS AS FACILITATIVE TOOLS IN SCHOOLS AND CORPORATIONS, (LEA., 2010) is currently being translated into several foreign languages. Dr. Novak is listed in Who's Who in America, and other lists, and has received a number of awards and honors including a Honorary Doctorate from The University of Comahue in 1998 in Nuquen, Argentina, The Public University of Navarra in 2002 in Pamplona, Spain, and the University of Urbino, Urbino Italy in 2006. He received the first award for contributions to science education from the Council of Scientific Society Presidents. His current research work includes studies on student's ideas on learning and epistemology, and methods of applying educational ideas and tools (such as concept mapping for knowledge archiving and utilization) in corporate settings, schools, universities and distance learning. He is married with three children and 2 grandchildren.

Dr. Robert Abrams, Coordinator
earned a Ph.D. in Education at Cornell University in 1997 studying with Dr. Novak. He completed a post-doc at UC-Santa Cruz with Dr. Stoddart. He then became an independent consultant, working for a variety of educational institutions, such as the New York City Department of Education and the Dolan DNA Learning Center at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He has been a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Science Education. While at UC-Santa Cruz, he developed a passion for dance, which led to his founding Dr. Abrams has been serving as the President of the Dance Critics Association for three years, and was recently appointed Interim Executive Director. He is married and has a two year old daughter. For more information, go to

Alfredo Tifi
teaches general chemistry and organic chemistry in a technical secondary school institute, ITIS Divini, San Severino Marche (MC) Italy. His recent interests regard the reciprocal influence of language conceptualization, problem solving and concept mapping on deep understanding and concept change. He is also interested to the general issue of science education by inquiry and problem solving and to distance collaborative concept mapping. Working with his students and normal classes, using technologies, and also thanks to the collaboration of other teachers in Italy and in other countries, he has developed transferrable practices for each one of these fields of interest, without funds or academic support. Prof. Tifi helped to promote good practices of concept mapping in Italy through several courses and the diffusion of CmapTools software guides. He aims to join other teachers for developing research projects about understanding and to twin groups of distant students on curricular topics.
Web page:

Min Li
associate professor at College of Education, University of Washington, an assessment expert with a deep interest in understanding how student learning can be accurately and adequately assessed both in large-scale testing and classroom settings. Her work reflects a combination of cognitive science and psychometric approaches in various projects, including examining the cognitive demands of Washington state test science items, issues of testing linguistic minority students in mathematics and science, analyzing teachers' classroom assessment practices, development of instruments to evaluate teachers' assessment practices, use of science notebooks as assessment tools, measurement issues in constructing instructionally sensitive test items, etc.

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