Science Education

Science education project

The science education group at Penn State is committed to fostering an intellectually stimulating learning community among faculty, graduate students, and others interested in contemporary issues in science education. We intentionally plan both formal and informal opportunities to engage members of the community in educational and social events, such as the Waterbury Lectures, where we can learn from one another as well as outside experts. Faculty and students are engaged in exciting research projects that are pressing the boundaries of knowledge and practice in science teacher education, learning sciences, discipline-based research, and more. If you seek productive participation in a vibrant and supportive community of scholars, look no further. Come to Penn State and inquire with us!

The Science Education graduate faculty at PSU is dynamic and engaged in projects in different science disciplinary areas:

Bill Carlsen's recent work has focused on precollege engineering education, and he teaches a new course on that subject through Penn State's World Campus. A theme of his work has been building and studying school-scientist partnerships, and he was the founding director of Penn State's Center for Science and the Schools. Bill's publications include studies of teacher subject-matter knowledge, classroom sociolinguistics, and environmental science education. 

Richard Duschl, Waterbury Chair Professor of Secondary Education, has three focus areas: 1) examining history and philosophy of science as applied to science education; 2) designing instruction that promotes argumentation and ‘assessment for learning’; 3) R&D with NGSS 3D-learning frameworks. He has other expertise in informal and Earth sciences education.

Kathleen Hill, Associate Director of Center for Science and the Schools and Assistant Professor of Science Education, focuses on inservice science teacher professional development. Her research focuses on three areas: 1) designing professional development programs that engage teachers in the practices of scientists and engineers and promote effective strategies for engaging K-12 students in classroom research projects; 2) examining teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for supporting student-led research projects in the classroom; 3) building outreach programs that bridge the research of STEM faculty and graduate students with K-12 education.

Greg Kelly’s research investigates classroom discourse, epistemology, and science learning. His works draws from history, philosophy, and sociology of science to study the construction of knowledge through discourse processes in educational settings. Recent work examines epistemic practices in science and engineering education.

Ravinder Koul’s research has focused on personal and cultural elements in the enactment of curriculum in relation to student engagement in learning. His investigations across diverse international settings have included content analysis of curriculum materials, program evaluation of professional development activities, and inquiries into student interest, retention, and equity in STEM education programs.

Scott McDonald’s research focuses teacher learning of ambitious and equitable science teaching practices, framed as professional pedagogical vision. He also investigates student learning in Earth and Spaces Science, specifically developing learning progressions in Plate Tectonics and Astronomy and how visualization and simulation technologies can support student learning of systems-level geodynamic process.

Julia Plummer, Associate Professor of Science Education, engages in astronomy education research with a focus on instruction that promotes students’ spatial thinking and develops their use of science practices.  Her research considers student learning across preK-12, within formal and informal settings, including planetariums.

Carla Zembal-Saul holds the Kahn Professorship in STEM Education. Her research and practice focuses on elementary teachers' learning across the professional continuum with emphasis on supporting children's scientific discourse and practices. Zembal-Saul's content background is Biology and she has collaboratively developed a number of specialized science content courses for preservice elementary teachers, including Insect Connections for Educators and Biotic Response to Climate Change.