Ira Caspari

Ira Caspari

Assistant Professor
Pearson Chemical Laboratory
62 Talbot Avenue, Medford, MA


What drives Ira forward are her fascination for causality and complex reasoning, her interest in diversity, and her passion in caring for others. This has led her to teach chemistry in multiple different settings from high school students and pre-service teachers in Germany to undergraduates from diverse backgrounds at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Tufts University. In her doctoral research, she investigated undergraduate students’ mechanistic reasoning in organic chemistry, which gave her deep insight into causality and complexity of reasoning. During her postdoc, she broadened her research lens by taking on a sociocultural perspective that allows her to focus on social interactions and culture during chemistry teaching and learning. Ira has a secondary appointment in the department of education.


Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Massachusetts Boston, 2018-20

PhD, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany, 2018

M0d. Chemistry and Biology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, 2013

BEd Chemistry and Biology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, 2010


Science education research with specialization in chemistry education; Chemical reasoning and causality; Sociocultural frameworks; Qualitative video analysis and research interviews

Research Interests

Chemistry Education. In order to understand how and why successful teaching and learning of chemistry at the university level works, the Caspari research group focuses on analyzing students’, teaching assistants’ (TA), learning assistants’ (LA), and instructors’ reasoning, interactions, and culture. The group collects video data of classroom practices and conducts qualitative research interviews with instructors, TAs, LAs, and students to better understand how certain interactions and ways of reasoning lead to student sense making and learning. While zooming in and investigating how students connect aspects of chemistry, the group also zooms out and investigates classroom culture and how individual interactions and personal experiences integrate into larger systems of teaching and learning. The group uses this fundamental research as a theoretical basis for the design of scaffolding tools and the development of training opportunities for teaching chemistry at the university level. Further projects investigate how those scaffolding tools can be used successfully in the classroom, how TAs and LAs learn to teach when they participate in training opportunities, and how this influences their classroom practices.

Selected Professional Activities

Organizer of the LA Research Symposium 2020
Manuscript reviewer, most often for Chemistry Education Research and Practice
NSF grant proposal reviewer for EHR/DUE

Professional Memberships

American Chemical Society (ACS)
Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE)
European Science Education Research Association (ESERA)
Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh, German Chemical Society)
National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST)

Selected Publications and Presentations

Selected Publications:

Caspari, I., & Graulich, N. (2019). Scaffolding the structure of organic chemistry students’ multivariate comparative mechanistic reasoning. International Journal of Physics and Chemistry Education, 11(2), 31-43.

Caspari, I., Kranz, D., & Graulich, N. (2018). Resolving the complexity of organic chemistry students’ reasoning through the lens of a mechanistic framework. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 19(4), 1117-1141.

Caspari, I., Weinrich, M. L., Sevian, H., & Graulich, N. (2018). This mechanistic step is “productive”: organic chemistry students’ backward-oriented reasoning. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 19(1), 42-59.

Selected Presentations:

Caspari, I. (2019). Integrating Conceptual Frameworks for Deep Insight into LA-Student Interactions and Student Learning. Oral Presentation at Learning Assistant Research Symposium, Boulder.

Caspari, I., & Graulich, N. (2019). A Mechanistic Perspective on Organic Chemistry. Oral Presentation at ESERA Conference, Bologna.

Caspari, I. & Sevian, H., (2019). Relations between Teachers’ Assessment Practices and Challenges They Negotiate in Their Practice. Poster Presentation at Chemistry Education Research and Practice Gordon Research Conference, Lewiston.

Caspari, I., Sevian, H., & Weinrich, M. L., (2019). Organic Chemistry Professors’ Teaching Orientations and Their Students’ Abstraction During Problem Solving. Oral Presentation at NARST 92nd Annual International Conference, Baltimore.