Jesse R. Sparks is a senior research scientist in the Learning and Assessment Foundations and Innovations research center in the Research & Development division at ETS. She joined ETS in 2013 after completing her Ph.D. in the learning sciences (with a certificate in cognitive science) at Northwestern University. Her research at ETS has focused on applying theory and research in the cognitive and learning sciences—especially areas of multiple source comprehension, discourse processing, social contexts of learning, and design of learning environments—toward the design of digital assessments for literacy, science, and social science domains, including scenario-based tasks that provide an overarching purpose, narrative, and virtual characters, game-based assessments that support student engagement, and adaptive assessments that capture and respond to students’ background characteristics and dynamic solution processes.
Her work has involved development of conceptual frameworks for written communication and digital literacy, development of learning progressions for conducting research and inquiry from multiple texts, and the design and evaluation of digital assessment tasks aligned to those frameworks. Her work in the area of digital literacy and online inquiry also includes applying an evidence-centered design approach toward development and research on an immersive virtual world environment that captures evidence of students' information gathering, processing, evaluation, and synthesis skills in the context of scenario-based inquiry tasks, as well as an extension of this environment to allow students to work collaboratively to co-construct knowledge and engage in social deliberation during online research tasks, capturing evidence of students’ collaborative processes via chat-based and spoken dialogue, in addition to process data captured in logfiles. Her work applies mixed-methods approaches to gain insights into the cognitive processes and products resulting from these rich digital environments.
Sparks has produced more than 20 publications including journal articles, book chapters, technical reports, and conference proceedings. She has served as a reviewer for several international conferences and journals and serves as an associate editor for the ETS technical review process.