Dr. Stuart's research interests lie in three different but related areas in science education at the collegiate level utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods. His main research focus centers on undergraduates’ alternative conceptions of physiology. He specifically looks at alternative conceptions of the cardiovascular system but is starting to branch out into other physiology content areas. Alternative conceptions are ideas that students hold that do not align with the scientifically valid explanation to a phenomenon. For example, a widely held alternative conception in the area of the cardiovascular system deals with the circulation pathway of blood. Some students think that blood passes from the right ventricle straight into the left atrium bypassing the lungs. The purpose of this research is to identify these alternative conceptions in order to make himself and others more effective teachers by targeting these alternative conceptions to help alleviate them.
Dr. Stuart is also interested in developing concept inventories for ideas he uncovers through the probing of students alternative conceptions. He is currently in the process of developing questions for a cardiovascular concept inventory and testing these questions in physiology courses at the undergraduate level. This instrument would help physiology faculty identify challenging areas for their students in courses which traditionally have large enrollment. A concept inventory is ideal for these large enrollment courses since faculty need quick, easily administered methods to aid them in their teaching.
Finally, Dr. Stuart is beginning to venture into investigating university physiology faculty members' pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Pedagogical content knowledge is the intersection of a faculty member’s content knowledge---in this case physiology---and the instructional strategies utilized in the classroom to convey this information. Research is lacking at the collegiate level on how faculty members learn to teach, since they are not pedagogically trained during their graduate work.