Danielle S. McNamara (Ph.D. 1992, University of Colorado, Boulder) joins the ASU Learning Sciences Institute, Department of Psychology, and the School of CIDSE in the fall of 2011. She joins ASU from the University of Memphis where she was Director of the Institute for Intelligent Systems and Professor in the Department of Psychology for 9 years. Her academic background includes a Linguistics B.A. (1982), a Clinical Psychology M.S. (1989), and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology (1992; UC-Boulder). The overarching theme of her research is to better understand cognitive processes involved in comprehension, writing, knowledge acquisition, and memory, and to apply that understanding to educational practice by developing and testing educational technologies (e.g., Coh-Metrix, iSTART, Writing Pal. Two of her projects, The Writing Pal and iSTART, are computer assisted learning programs designed to advance students writing and reading comprehension. Coh-Metrix is a text analysis tool designed to advance our understanding of the nature of text difficulty. She has published over 200 papers and secured over 10 million in federal funding. Her work has been funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the McDonnell Foundation, and the Gates Foundation. She serves as associate editor for three journals, topiCS, the Cognitive Science Journal, and the Journal of Educational Psychology and currently serves on a standing review panel for the National Institute of Health (NIH) as well as numerous review panels for IES, NSF, and NICHD. She has served on the Governing Boards for the Society for Text and Discourse and the Cognitive Science Society.
McNamara will continue her research on the Writing-Pal (W-Pal) when she joins the faculty at ASU. W-Pal is a newly developed intelligent tutoring system that provides writing strategy instruction to high school students and entering college students. This is a ground breaking intelligent tutoring system that will allow educators and researchers to explore the value of writing strategy training on the quality of essay writing. A teacher interface allows the teacher (or experimenter) to create classes, co-manage other classes, monitor students’ performance, post bulletins, assign practice essays, create and assign new essays, and make comments on essays. The student interface comprises nine strategy lessons: Prologue, Freewriting, Planning, Introduction Building, Body Building, Conclusion Building, Paraphrasing, Cohesion Building, and Revising. Each lesson includes game based challenges to practice writing strategies. The student also has opportunities to write essays with automated feedback driven by natural language algorithms and instructs the students to focus on ‘next steps’ and strategies to improve the essay. W-Pal is intended to improve high school students’ writing abilities and reduce demands on teachers. Current work in classroom studies is focused on evaluating the usability, feasibility, and efficacy of W-Pal.