College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2012 > Kathleen Metz to Deliver Waterbury Lecture

Kathleen Metz to Deliver Waterbury Lecture

Penn State's College of Education will welcome an internationally recognized scholar in science education as the next guest lecturer in the Waterbury Lecture Series. Kathleen Metz, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, will speak about ways in which educators can begin to develop an understanding of evolution by natural selection among children in second and third grade.

by Sara LaJeunesse (January 2012)

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State's College of Education will welcome an internationally recognized scholar in science education as the next guest lecturer in the Waterbury Lecture Series. Kathleen Metz, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, will speak about ways in which educators can begin to develop an understanding Headshot of Kathleen Metzof evolution by natural selection among children in second and third grade.

The lecture, titled "A Learning Progressions Approach to Teaching Difficult Ideas: The Case of Grounding Children’s Learning of Natural Selection in Microevolution," will take place on March 22, 2012, at 6:00 p.m. in 112 Walker Building. The event is open to the public, and light refreshments will be served following the lecture.

"Professor Metz, through her seminal research on children’s reasoning, has reshaped the conversation about the development of learning,” says Richard Duschl, Waterbury Chaired Professor in Secondary Education. "She has demonstrated that children are much more capable than we thought, surprisingly sophisticated, in fact, when the domain of inquiry is familiar to the children. Kathy was one of the first researchers to challenge the stages of development for young science learners. Her position to keep development but abandon age stages is adopted in the National Research Council report ‘Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8’ to which she was a member. We are very excited to have her as part of the 2011-2012 Waterbury Lecture Series."

In her research, Metz focuses on young children's scientific cognition from both developmental and instructional viewpoints. She recently completed a National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored project investigating the power and limitations of elementary-school children's scientific inquiry. Building on this work, she and her research team now are engaged in a new NSF-funded project in which they are investigating the extent to which second and third graders can develop an understanding of the conceptual underpinnings of evolution. More specifically, they are a taking a learning progressions approach to understanding the design, support, and analysis of student learning regarding natural selection at the level of microevolution.

Metz earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at Earlham College, a master's degree in education at the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctoral degree in education at the University of Massachusetts. She began her career as an elementary-school teacher and, subsequently, a curriculum developer. After receiving a doctoral degree and working as a teacher educator, she was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in Cognitive Science at Carnegie Mellon University and a member of Bàrbel Inhelder's research team at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

The Waterbury Lecture is held twice a semester and features prominent speakers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The Waterbury Lecture Series is sponsored by a an endowment from Kenneth Waterbury to the Penn State College of Education to create the Kenneth B. Waterbury Chair in Secondary Education, held by Richard A. Duschl since he joined Penn State in 2008. Duschl's research focuses on advancing teacher education programs and on the design of learning environments that seek and promote collaborations among STEM education.