Photo of Stieff, Mike

Mike Stieff


Director of Undergraduate Studies

Department of Chemistry


Building & Room:

1570-C SSB


1240 W. Harrison St.

Office Phone:

(312) 413-1304

CV Download:



Mike Stieff (Ph.D., Northwestern University) is Professor of Learning Sciences and Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to joining UIC, Dr. Stieff a professor of science education and taught and taught chemistry at high school and community college. Dr. Stieff’s primary research interests are sex differences in scientific problem solving, the role of spatial ability in scientific expertise, and the development of educational technologies for supporting science learning. His current projects examine the role of drawing for supporting learning in science classrooms and how students leverage general cognitive processes to bootstrap their learning of new scientific concepts. He also studies how students come to identify as science learners and the factors that contribute to students’ decision to pursue science careers.

Selected Publications

  1. Scopelitis, S., & Stieff, M. Coordinating representations with gesture, speech and inscriptions. Manuscript in preparation.
  2. Stieff, M. Improving science achievement with drawing activities & visualization tools. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  3. Hegarty, M., Stieff, M., & Dixon, B. L. Cognitive change in mental models with experience in the domain of organic chemistry. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  4. Stull, A. T., Hegarty, M., Dixon, B. L., & Stieff, M. Use it or lose it: Representational translation with concrete models. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  5. Stieff, M. Task-specificity and sex differences in strategy use. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  6. Stieff, M., Hegarty, M., Dixon, B.L., Clover, B., & Ryu, M. The impact of strategy training andspatial ability on chemistry achievement and strategy use among men and women. Manuscriptsubmitted for publication.
  7. Stieff, M., Yip, J., & Ryu, M. Speaking across levels—teacher and student discourse practices in thechemistry classroom. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  8. Scopelitis, S., & Stieff, M. (in press). Weaving together parts to achieve a whole: Gestural activity forthe coordination of information in the teaching and learning of chemistry. Proceedings of the NinthInternational Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS).
  9. Lira, M., Stieff, M., & Scopelitis, S. (in press). The role of gesture in solving spatial problems inSTEM. Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS).
  10. Stieff, M., Ryu, M., Dixon, B. L., & Hegarty, M. (in press). Problem solving strategies used byorganic chemistry undergraduates. Journal of Chemical Education.
  11. Newcombe, N., & Stieff, M. (2012). Six myths about spatial thinking. International Journal ofScience Education, 34(6), 955-971.
  12. Stieff, M. (2011). Fostering representational competence through argumentation with multi-representational displays. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Computer-SupportedCollaborative Learning (Vol. 1, pp. 288-295). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  13. Stieff, M. (2011). Improving representational competence using multi-representational learningenvironments. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(10), 1137-1158.
  14. Stieff, M. (2011). When is a molecule three-dimensional? A task-specific role for imagistic reasoningin advanced chemistry. Science Education, 95(2), 310-336.
  15. Stieff, M., Hegarty, M., & Deslongchamps, G. (2011). Coordinating multiple representations inscientific problem solving: Evidence from concurrent verbal and eye-tracking protocols. Cognition &Instruction, 29(1), 123-145.
  16. Stieff, M., Hegarty, M., & Dixon, B. L. (2010). Alternative strategies for spatial reasoning withdiagrams. In A. K. Goel, M. Jamnik, N. H. Narayanan (Eds.), Diagrammatic Representation andInference. (pp. 115-127). New York, NY: Springer.
  17. Stull, A.T., Hegarty, M., Stieff, M., & Dixon, B. L. (2010). Does manipulating molecular modelspromote representation translation of diagrams in chemistry? In A. K. Goel, M. Jamnik, N. H.Narayanan (Eds.), Diagrammatic Representation and Inference. (pp. 338-344). Berlin: Springer.
  18. Stieff, M., Ryu, M., & Dixon, B. L. (2010). Students’ use of multiple strategies for scientific problemsolving. In K. Gomez, L. Lyons & J. Radinsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the Ninth InternationalConference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) (Vol. 1, pp. 765-772). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  19. Cathcart, L., Stieff, M., Marbach-Ad, G., Smith, A., & Frauwirth, K. (2010). Using KnowledgeSpace Theory to analyze concept maps in an undergraduate immunology course. Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) (Vol. 1., pp. 952-959). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  20. Stieff, M., & Raje, S. (2010). Expert algorithmic and imagistic problem solving strategies in advanced chemistry. Spatial Cognition & Computation. 10(1), 53-81.
  21. Stieff, M., & Raje, S. (2008). Expertise and spatial reasoning in advanced scientific problem solving. Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS, pp. 366-373). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  22. Stieff, M. (2007). Mental rotation and diagrammatic reasoning in science. Learning and Instruction, 17(2), 219-234.
  23. Stieff, M., & McCombs, M. (2006). Increasing representational fluency with visualization tools. Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) (Vol.1, pp. 730-736). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  24. Stieff, M. (2005). Visualization and diagrammatic reasoning in genuine scientific problem solving. In T. Barkowsky, C. Freksa, M. Hegarty, & R. Lowe (Eds.), Reasoning with mental and external diagrams: computation modeling and spatial assistance (AAAI Tech. Rep. SS-05-06, pp. 121-126). Menlo Park, CA: AAAI Press.
  25. Stieff, M. (2005). Connected Chemistry–A novel modeling environment for the chemistry classroom. Journal of Chemical Education, 82(3), 489-493.
  26. Stieff, M., & Wilensky, U. (2003). Connected Chemistry–Incorporating interactive simulations into the chemistry classroom. Journal of Science Education & Technology, 12(3), 285-302.
  27. Sherin, B., Kanter, D., Schwarz, J., Stieff, M., Herman, P., & Mackenzie, S. (2002). Conceptual dynamics in project-based science. In P. Bell, R. Stevens, & T. Satwicz (Eds.), Keeping Learning Complex: The Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) (pp. 429-436). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  28. Stieff, M., & Wilensky, U. (2002). ChemLogo: An emergent modeling environment for teaching and learning chemistry. In P. Bell, R. Stevens, & T. Satwicz (Eds.), Keeping Learning Complex: The Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) (pp. 451-458). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  29. Crouch, R. D., Stieff, M., Frie, J. L., Cadwallader, A. B., & Bevis, D. C. (1999). Selective deprotection of silyl-protected phenols using solid NaOH and a phase transfer catalyst. Tetrahedron Letters, 40, 3133-3136.


2004 - PhD, Northwestern University, Learning Sciences, Cognitive Science Certificate
2000 - MS, Northwestern University, Chemistry
1998 - BS, Northwestern University, Chemistry, Latin (Minor), Magna Cum Laude
1997 - Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies Latin, Latin and Classical Studies

Licensures and Certifications

  • Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers
  • Spencer Dissertation Year Fellowship
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Research Currently in Progress

Design-based research, curriculum development, science education, problem solving, mental imagery and spatial reasoning, expertise, individual and gender differences, science identity