Raker Research Group Logo. Bookshelf with three books. One with the letters C, E, and R for chemical education research. One with the structure of the molecule benzene. And, one with a generic structural equation model.

Raker Research Group

The Raker Research Group is composed of chemical education scholars focused on developing tools to assess learning and to evaluate learning experiences in undergraduate chemistry courses. We use a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to achieve our research goals including survey research methods, structural equation modeling, psychometric evaluations of validity and reliability, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, think-aloud protocols, and response process interviews.

Our research is centered on four themes:

Image of benzene to represent the organic chemistry education research conducted by the Raker Research Group

Learning in Organic Chemistry

  • How do learners ascribe meaning to reaction mechanisms?
  • How can we develop tools to measure such learning?
  • How can we design experiences to promote learning of reaction mechanisms and sophisticated reasoning?
Image of IONIc organization logo to represent the inorganic chemistry education research conducted by the Raker Research Group

Learning in Inorganic Chemistry

  • How do faculty members teaching inorganic chemistry respond to measures of learning and learners' affective experiences when seeking to transform their courses?
Image of a mortar board hat to represent the faculty development research conducted by the Raker Research Group

Faculty Member Professional Development

  • How do faculty members use assessments and the education research literature when developing and refining their instructional practices?
Image of a generic structural equation model to represent the measurement and psychometric research conducted by the Raker Research Group

Measurement and Psychometrics

  • How do we measure non-cognitive learning and affective experiences in the context of chemistry learning?
  • How do non-cognitive and affect measures inform course and program-level assessment?

Our research is currently funded through two National Science Foundation grants:

News & Updates

🚨 New Research from the Raker Research Group 🚨

Evaluating electrophile and nucleophile understanding: A large-scale study of learners’ explanations of reaction mechanisms

ABSTRACT: "A deep understanding of organic chemistry requires a learner to understand many concepts and have fluency with multiple skills. This understanding is particularly necessary for constructing and using mechanisms to explain chemical reactions. Electrophilicity and nucleophilicity are two fundamental concepts to learning and understanding reaction mechanisms. Prior research suggests that learners focus heavily on explicit structural features (e.g., formal charge) rather than implicit features (e.g., an open p-orbital) when identifying and describing the role of electrophiles and nucleophiles in reaction mechanisms; however, these findings come from small-scale, interview-based investigations with a limited number of reaction mechanisms. The work reported herein seeks to further explore the meaning learners ascribe to electrophiles and nucleophiles by evaluating 19,936 written explanations from constructed-response items asking what is happening in reaction mechanisms and why it happens for 85 unique reaction mechanisms across a yearlong postsecondary organic chemistry course. To analyze these data, we developed an electrophile rubric to capture learners’ level of explanation sophistication (Absent, Descriptive, Foundational, and Complex); this electrophile rubric is complementary to a nucleophile rubric previously reported in the literature. Our data show proportional levels of explanation sophistication for electrophiles and nucleophiles (τb = 0.402) across these written explanations of reaction mechanisms. We note that learners’ explanations of nucleophiles tend to be at a higher level than their explanations of electrophiles. While this finding does support prior literature reports, we also found that explanations of mechanisms involving reductions of pi-bonds (e.g., carbonyls) tended to be more sophisticated for electrophiles than for nucleophiles. Overall, our results support the claim that learners are able to discuss both electrophilicity and nucleophilicity; however, learners discuss electrophilicity and nucleophilicity at different levels of sophistication where nucleophilicity predominates for most reaction types."

Posted on February 2, 2023

Photo of Stephanie Frost

🎓 Congratulations Stephanie Frost! 🎓

Congratulations to Stephanie Front for successfully completing their Candidacy Defense!

Posted on January 31, 2023

🚨 New Research from the Raker Research Group 🚨

Association of malleable factors with adoption of research-based instructional strategies in introductory chemistry, mathematics, and physics

Some takeways:

  1. Different malleable factors are associated with instructors across stages of EBIP adoption (awareness, tryout, adoption)
  2. Classroom spaces remain important! Large class sizes and active learning classrooms may drive instructors to try new pedagogies
  3. Instructors’ perceived value of how teaching is assessed is associated with greater odds of EBIP adoption. Policy changes may drive change
  4. Instructors’ dissatisfaction with student learning may lead to new teaching strategies and tryout/adoption of EBIPs
  5. Engagement in prof development programs is critical and should be tailored to meet instructors’ needed based on adoption stage
  6. Instructors’ growth mindset is associated with EBIP adoption. Their persistence in the innovation process may lead to sustained adoption
  7. Increase stage of EBIP adoption (awareness, tryout, adoption) is associated with a decrease in percent time lecturing

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to instructional change; malleable factors can inform different change strategies based on the desired outcome.

Posted on November 21, 2022

Image of Dr. Brandon J. Yik

🎓 Congratulations Dr. Brandon J. Yik! 🎓

Congratulations to Dr. Brandon J. Yik for successfully defending their dissertation today! Dr. Yik is the fourth student to graduate a Ph.D. from the Raker Research Group.

Posted on October 4, 2022

Photo of Dr. Aaron Clark

🎓 Congratulations Dr. Aaron Clark! 🎓

Congratulations to Dr. Aaron M. Clark for successfully completing their doctoral degree requirements! Dr. Clark is the third student to graduate with a Ph.D. from the Raker Research Group.

Posted on July 22, 2021

Photo of Dr. Megan Connor

Welcome Dr. Connor!

A warm welcome to Dr. Megan Connor who has joined the Raker Research Group as a postdoctoral researcher! Dr. Connor will be working on several of our NSF funded research initiatives!!!

Posted on June 1, 2021

Jeffrey R. Raker, Principal Investigator

Photo of Jeffrey R. Raker, Principal Investigator

Jeff (he/him/his) is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of South Florida, having joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2013.

He received his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Ohio Northern University (Ada, Ohio) in 2003, and a Master of Arts degree in college student personnel at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio) in 2005. Jeff obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry from Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana) in 2011 working with Professor Marcy Towns.

He was a postdoctoral research associate with the ACS Examinations Institute (hosted by Iowa State University at the time) from 2011 to 2013 with Professor Thomas Holme. Jeff additionally served as Associate Director of ACS Exams from 2015 to 2023.

Jeff has authored and collaborated on over 75 peer-reviewed publications (Google Scholar), contributed chapters to revised editions of the ACS Exams General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry Study Guides, given over 20 invited seminars and research talks, and contributed to over 120 conference talks, papers, and posters.

Jeff is a queer/gay chemist, proud uncle/guncle, Disney enthusiast, amateur baker and chef, and bow tie maker.

Group Members

Current Group Members

Photo of Stephanie Frost
Stephanie Frost

Doctoral Candidate

B.S., 2021, Chemistry and French, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Joined: Fall 2021

Photo of Caroline Crowder
Caroline Crowder

Graduate Student

B.S., 2022, Chemistry, Florida State University

Joined: Fall 2022

Photo of Kendall Zammit
Kendall Zammit

Graduate Student

B.S., 2022, Chemistry (ACS Certified) and Secondary Education, Appalachian State University

Joined: Fall 2022

Former Doctoral Research Students

Photo of Dr. Rebecca Gibbons
Dr. Rebecca Gibbons

Ph.D., Chemical Education

Dissertation Defense: June 12, 2018

Currently: Assistant Director of Assessment, University of South Florida

Google Scholar

Photo of Dr. Amber Dood
Dr. Amber Dood

Ph.D., Chemical Education

Dissertation Defense: February 26, 2020

Currently: Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Michigan

Google Scholar

Photo of Dr. Aaron Clark
Dr. Aaron Clark

Ph.D., Chemical Education

Dissertation Defense: January 28, 2021

Currently: Lecturer, Yale University

Photo of Dr. Brandon J. Yik
Dr. Brandon J. Yik

Ph.D., Chemical Education

Dissertation Defense: October 4, 2022

Currently: Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Virginia

Google Scholar

Former Postdoctoral Research Associates

Photo of Dr. Sachel Villafañe-Garcia
Dr. Sachel Villafañe-Garcia

ACS Exams, 2015-2016

Currently: Faculty, California State University - Fullerton

Photo of Dr. Xiaoying Xu
Dr. Xiaoying Xu


Currently: Data Analyst, Muma College of Business, University of South Florida

Photo of Dr. Shalini Srinivasan
Dr. Shalini Srinivasan

ACS Exams, 2017-2018

Currently: Faculty, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Photo of Dr. Justin Pratt
Dr. Justin Pratt


Currently: Faculty, University of Rhode Island

Photo of Dr. Megan Connor
Dr. Megan Connor


Currently: Faculty, Samford University

Former Masters Degree Students

Photo of Benjamin Van Norman
Benjamin Van Norman

M.A., Chemical Education

Graduated: Summer 2016

Photo of Caitlin Zumalt
Caitlin Zumalt

M.A., Chemical Education

Graduated: Summer 2018

Former Undergraduate Students

Jessica M. Leon

Honors Thesis

Major: Secondary Mathematics Education

Graduated: Spring 2015

Bryan Pacheco

Major: Microbiology

Graduated: Spring 2015

Janier Duran

Major: Biology

Graduated: Summer 2015

Yanci Algarin

Major: Integrative Animal Biology

Graduated: Fall 2016

Alaina Keith

Major: Health Science

Graduated: Spring 2017

Emily Laga

Major: Biomedical Sciences

Graduated: Spring 2017

Joshua Vega

Honors Thesis

Major: Cell and Molecular Biology

Graduated: Spring 2018

Zoraida Laremont

Major: Cell and Molecular Biology

Graduated: Spring 2018


For the most up-to-date listing of publications from the Raker Research Group, please visit Dr. Raker's Google Scholar Page.