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Paula Lemons

Blurred image of the arch used as background for stylistic purposes.
Professor and Associate Dean of Franklin College
  • Duke University, Postdoc
  • University of Kentucky, Ph.D., Biochemistry, 1999
  • Southern Wesleyan University, B.S., Biology, 1994
Research Areas:
Research Interests:

How does skill in biology-specific problem solving develop during an undergraduate career?

With this line of research, we seek answers to research questions like:

  • What are students thinking while solving biology-specific problems?
  • What are the sources of individual variation during problem solving?
  • To what extent do students’ problem solving steps predict their success and persistence in science?
  • How does biology-specific problem solving compare between beginning and advanced college biology students?

We pursue this research by interviewing students while they solve biology problems or collecting their written accounts of their problem-solving strategies. We are particularly interested in how students solve problems about protein structure and function and metabolism, two fundamental concepts in biology and biochemistry.

We focus on well-defined problems that require conceptual understanding, visual literacy, and explanation.

How do curricular and pedagogical interventions impact undergraduates’ biology-specific problem-solving skills?

We can apply our knowledge of undergraduates’ biology-specific problem-solving skills to develop curricula and teaching approaches that support all students, such as students in introductory biology courses who are at risk of failing and students in advanced biochemistry courses who are ready for more challenges.

We have created an online problem-solving tutorial called SOLVEIT that walks students through the process of applying conceptual knowledge to a biology problem that requires interpretation of visual representations and an explanation of the solution. SOLVEIT has been shown to improve students’ conceptual understanding of biology and the structure and quality of their problem-solving approach (Kim, Prevost, and Lemons 2015).

What types of support do college faculty need to use evidence-based teaching strategies?

With this research we pursue knowledge about research questions including:

  • What factors influence college faculty as they make decisions about teaching?
  • What motivates faculty to begin and persist in teaching professional development?
  • What do college faculty perceive to be their role in the classroom and the role of their students?
  • How do faculty ideas about teaching and learning change as they implement evidence-based teaching strategies?

We pursue this research by interviewing and observing faculty who are changing their teaching. When we studied biology faculty who had changed their teaching to incorporate case studies, we found that they prioritized personal experiences over empirical evidence when making teaching decisions and that faculty under-utilize their colleagues as a resource to help them improve their teaching (Andrews and Lemons 2015). Currently, we are continuing this work by exploring faculty who have recently started using assessments developed for the Automated Analysis of Constructed Response (AACR) project.

Selected Publications:

Pelletreau, K.N., Knight, J.K., Lemons, P.P., McCourt, J., Merrill, J., Nehm, R., Provost, L., Urban-Lurain, M. and Smith, M.K. (2018) “Using a Faculty Instructional Development Network to Design Instructional Materials that Improve Student Learning” CBE-Life Sciences Education. 17(2):

McCourt, J., Andrews, T. C., Knight, J. K., Merrill, J., Nehm, R., Prevost, L. B., Smith, M. K., Urban-Lurain, M., and Lemons, P.P. (2017) “What Motivates Biology Instructors To Engage and Persist in Faculty Learning Communities?” CBE-Life Sciences Education.

Prevost L.B. and Lemons, P.P. (2016) “Step by step: Biology Undergraduate’s Problem-Solving Steps During Multiple-Choice Testing” CBE-Life Sciences Education 15:ar71 doi:10.1187/cbe.15-12-0255.

Terry, D. R., Lemons, P. P., Armstrong, N., Brickman, P., Ribbens, E., and Herreid, C.F. (2016) “Eight is Not Enough: Case Study Questions and Student Learning” Journal of College Science Teaching 46(2): 82-92.

Kim, H.S., Prevost, L.B., and Lemons, P.P. (2015) “Students’ Usability Evaluation of a Web-based Tutorial Program for College Biology Problem Solving” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning July: doi:10.1111/jcal.12102.

Urban-Lurain, M., Cooper, M. M., Haudek, K. C., Kaplan, J. J., Knight, J. K., Lemons, P. P., Lira, C.T., Merrill, J.E., Nehm, R., Prevost, L.B., Smith, M.K., and Sydlik, M. (2015) “Expanding a National Network for Automated Analysis of Constructed Response Assessments to Reveal Student Thinking in STEM” Computers in Education 25(2).

Andrews, T.M. and Lemons, P.P. (2015) “It’s Personal: Biology Instructors Prioritize Personal Evidence Over Empirical Evidence in Teaching Decisions” CBE-Life Sciences Education 14(1):ar7, doi:10.1187/cbe.14-05-0084.

Herreid, C. F., Terry, D.R., Lemons, P.P., Armstrong, N., Brickman, P. and Ribbens, E. (2014) “Emotion, Engagement and Case Studies” Journal of College Science Teaching 44(1). DOI:10.2505/4/jcst14_044_01_86

Lemons, P. P. and Lemons, J. D. (2013) “Questions for Assessing Higher-Order Cognitive Skills: It’s Not Just Bloom’s.” CBE-Life Sciences Education 12(1): 47-58, doi: 10.1187/cbe.12-03-0024.

Grimes, M. L., and Lemons, P. P. (2013, January). Clustering and Graphical Approaches to Examine Diversity in Student Learning Patterns. In Molecular Biology of the Cell Vol. 24.

Andrews, T.M., Price, R. M., Mead, L. S., McElhinny, T. L, Thanukos, A., Perez, K. E., Herreid, C. F., Terry, D.R. and Lemons, P. P. (2012) “Biology Undergraduates’ Misconceptions about Genetic Drift.” CBE-Life Sciences Education 11(3): 248-259. DOI: 1187/cbe.11-12-0107.

Fleet, C., Rosser, M., Zufall, R.A., Pratt, M., Feldman, T. S., and Lemons, P. P. (2006) “Hiring Criteria in Biology Departments of Academic Institutions,” BioScience 56(5), 430-436.
Bissell, A. and Lemons, P. P.* (2006) “A New Method for Assessing Critical Thinking in the Classroom,” BioScience 56(1), 66-72.

Winter, D, Lemons, P. P., Hoese, W. J., and Bookman, J. (2001) “Novice Instructors and Student-Centered Instruction: Identifying and Addressing Obstacles to Learning in the College Science Laboratory,” The Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2(1).

Courses Regularly Taught:
Other Website:
Articles Featuring Paula Lemons

Paula Lemons was awarded the 2021 General Sandy Beaver Teaching Professorship, an esteemed two-year honor which Franklin awards annually to a single recipient who has demonstrated a sustained commitment to high-quality instruction.

Dr. Paula Lemons is working on several research projects to transform STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. She is featured in the UGA Owens Institute for Behavioral Research Spring 2020 newsletter as they…

As part of the UGA Career Outcomes Survey, students were asked to identify UGA faculty and staff who have had a significant, positive impact on their career decision-making process. Graduates in the Class of 2019 have recognized some…

Congratulations to Paula Lemons – a 2019 recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

Congratulations to the following faculty members for their award recognition at the Franklin Faculty Recogntion Dinner held on Thursday, September 24th.

Dr. Art Edison - Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar

Dr. David Garfinkel -…

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