College of Ed contributes to Purdue AI & data science via initiative, miniseries

The Purdue University College of Education is developing an initiative to cover all of the artificial intelligence (AI) and data science work already being done by its faculty. This spring the College launched a new webpage, AI and Data Science in Education, to showcase these efforts and provide resources.

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Phillip J. VanFossen, interim dean of the College, convened an AI Working Group in 2023 to consider how the College would contribute to Purdue’s strategic initiative surrounding AI and data science, Purdue Computes. The Education AI Working Group includes 16 Education faculty and postdoctoral researchers  to guide and coordinate its current and future efforts in this quickly evolving area.

“We are leveraging our comparative advantage in P-12 education to provide professional development and training to our school-based colleagues,” said VanFossen. “We offer courses, graduate certificates, and degree programs that provide training for students in the analyses of large sets of numerical, textual, and multimodal data and practical applications of AI tools.”

“Our working group leverages experts with established records in AI and data science for personalized learning, assessment, and curriculum design,” said William R. Watson, director of the Purdue Center for Serious Games and Learning in Virtual Environments, professor of learning design and technology, and leader of the College’s AI initiative. “Our College is already firmly integrated in campus-wide AI initiatives and offering coursework and programs of our own.”

The College’s initiatives include several large research grants in projects ranging from generative-AI in physics to value-based reasoning. Last year the college hired two Ross-Lynn Research Scholar postdoctoral researchers, Amogh Sirnoorkar and Yuanfang Liu. Both have expertise in AI to further assist with AI research, grants, professional development, and program development

“AI is not a new phenomenon, but the ease of access to everyday users has been sudden and transformative,” Watson said. “Having such powerful toolsets on our phones and embedded in our office software highlights how society at large and education specifically must change to accommodate the new possibilities, opportunities, and challenges the ascent of AI brings.”

Part of the initiatives are education courses relating to AI. Sirnoorkar developed a course for the initiative, “Artificial Intelligence in STEM Education” (EDCI 59100/PHYS 59000). It included eight invited speakers from collaborating schools and departments at Purdue and from the University of Texas at Austin, and students created four projects during the course. Projects included:

  • AI Literacy Competencies for K-12 Teachers: A Systematic Literature Review
  • Analyzing contemporary policies surrounding the use of AI in U.S. higher education institutions
  • Enhancing STEM Education Through AI-XR Integration: A Systematic Literature Review of Trends, Applications, and Challenges Content Analysis of Pedagogical Relationships Involving Generative-AI Supported Teaching and Learning Practices in Physics Education
  • Content Analysis of Pedagogical Relationships Involving Generative-AI Supported Teaching and Learning Practices in Physics Education

Additionally, the AI in STEM Education course will help support the College’s Gifted Education Research & Resource Institute Residential Summer Camp via a secondary-level course called “How to Train Your AI Learning Coach: A Personalized Learning Adventure.”

The College’s new AI webpage also includes a list of the College’s faculty publications, and video resources such as a new five-part miniseries entitled “Craft Data Science Insights.” Developed by Hua-Hua Chang, the Charles R. Hicks Chair Professor of educational psychology and research methodology, this miniseries brings together five brilliant young minds from education, psychology, learning science, and survey methodology to share their innovative solutions to challenges powered by AI and data science.

The inaugural session of the Craft Data Science Insights miniseries took place on February 26 with Georgetown University’s Dr. Qiwei He speaking on Sequence Mining on Process Data in Digital-Based Large-Scale Assessments.” Fifty-seven participants joined to watch the virtual presentation. Watch Dr. He’s video.

A second presentation took place on March 20 with Dr. Chanjin Zheng of East China Normal University presenting on “Psychometrics Empowering Large Language Models in Chinese Essay Automated Scoring.” Watch Dr. Zheng’s video.

The third lecture took place on March 26 as Dr. Susu Zhang of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discussed Exploring the NAEP Math Achievement Gap: Insights from Test-Taking Process Data.Watch Dr. Zhang’s video.

The fourth lecture happened on March 28  when University of Notre Dame’s Dr. Ying Cheng presented “How Early, Accurate, and Fair Can We Predict Student Learning in Foundational STEM Courses?Watch Dr. Cheng’s video.

The College’s fifth and final Craft Data Science Insights lecture will take place on April 16, with the University of Michigan’s Dr. Tuba Suzer-Gurtekin, University of Michigan presenting “Introduction to Mixed-Mode Surveys”.

“We are confident that this miniseries will offer valuable insights, enriching our collective understanding of these dynamic fields,” Chang said. “Specifically, it will shed light on how researchers from non-science and technology backgrounds can make a meaningful impact in the era of AI and Big Data.”

The working group is also planning an April 19 “AI-Ed Fusion: Symposium on STEM Education in the Era of AI”. The all-day symposium will offer a keynote address by Dr. Kristen DiCerbo, the chief learning officer of Khan Academy. It will also include research and application presentations by faculty and graduate students, offering a sampling of some of the current projects and activities taking place within the College. Register for this free event

According to Watson, the working group is also planning a conference on AI for K-12 stakeholders for the fall of 2024.

“The College is home to faculty scholars, centers and funded grant projects engaged in interdisciplinary research to leverage AI tools and to collect and analyze data that seeks to transform learning and teaching, inform policy and make a difference in the lives of culturally and linguistically diverse students, families and communities,” said Wayne E. Wright, professor and associate dean for research, graduate programs and faculty development.

Sources: Phillip J. VanFossen; Wayne E. Wright,; and William R. Watson

Webpage: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Science in Education