Recent SEPAL Graduates & Alums

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Sarah Bissonnette

Research Project: Sarah is pursuing two research projects at SEPAL. The first research project involves using the Biology Card Sorting task to investigate the novice-to-expert transition in post-secondary biology education and to explore the different frameworks that undergraduate Biology students use to organize their biological knowledge. Her second research project involves developing assessments to gauge undergraduate biology majors’ understanding of the origins of cancer. Specifically, she’s interested in whether or not biology majors will invoke ideas related to the central dogma when describing the origins of cancer. She’s also interested in using this assessment to uncover student misconceptions about central dogma that might inform instruction on this topic. In the future, Sarah hopes to obtain a biology faculty position where she can continue her research in these areas and to use her findings to inform and develop her teaching practice.

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Melissa Richard

Contactmrichard@udel.edu

Degree: Masters Degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD.

Research Project

While evolution is an important concept throughout biology, many students retain misconceptions about the process of natural selection. My research will investigate how students conceptualize evolution and how they apply their knowledge to biologically-related situations relevant to today’s world.

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John Rodriguez

Current Position: Adjunct biology professor at Diablo Valley College and Holy Names University

Degree: Master’s in Biological Sciences: Cell and Molecular Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD.

Research Project

One of my research interests involves creating an assessment for scientific interdisciplinary that instructors can use to see how their students fair in the realm of being able to transfer knowledge from one field to another. To achieve this, we are working on finding out some of the “Threshold Concepts” which are applicable across the fields of biology, physics, chemistry, and geoscience.

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Colin Harrison

Current Position: Director of Introductory Biology Labs, Georgia Institute of Technology; Atlanta, GA

Contact: colin.harrison@biosci.gatech.edu

Research Project

Colin is thrilled to join the SEPAL team. He is joining both CCB FEST and Biology FEST and is ready to do whatever he can to support both programs. He is interested in mentorship and the ways in which informal mentoring can occur every day in the classroom through student interactions and instructor talk. He would like to obtain a faculty position where he can continue to teach and carry out education research. He would also like to be involved with mentorship and outreach programs.

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Brianna McCoy

Current Position: Science Teacher at Rosemary Anderson High School; Portland, Oregan

Contact: brianna.mccoy@gmail.com

Degree: Master’s Degree in Ecology, Evolution, Conservation
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD.

Research Project

Many biology research opportunities exist for undergraduate, all with the goal of providing a practical context to use their knowledge. A residential, field based course is one such opportunity that also provides informal opportunities to interact with faculty and to gain autonomous research experience. SFSU and UC Berkeley offer such a course. This course as been conducted for 20 years with only short-term, course-content-based student evaluations given, but no one has investigated further to see what, if any, impact this course has on the lives of its alumni. My study looks to identify the alumni and faculty perceptions of the Mo’orea course and identify what, if any, influence the course has on the participants’ lives personally, professionally, or in their understanding of the nature of science. Another component of the study will compare alumni perspectives to faculty goals in order to see, if at all, the two align.

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Stephen Kielar

Contact: skielar@naturebridge.org

Degree: Master’s Degree in Marine Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD.

Research Project

Many informal learning environments such as aquariums, zoos, museums and outdoor education facilities run programs that aim to expose high school students to careers in science and the environment. The Teen Environmental Education Mentorship (TEEM) is one of these programsTEEM is a year-long paid environmental education internship and leadership program for Bay Area high school students. TEEM participants come to the Naturebridge campus in the Marin Headlands once a week and teach younger students environmentally themed games. On the weekends, the TEEM participants also take part in stewardship activities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Many organizations put a lot of time and resources into these types of  high school programs; however, it is difficult for organizations to conduct formal assessments of the impact these programs have on their participantsThe TEEM program has been around in its current form since 2008. During this time there has been no significant assessment of the TEEM program.

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Ellen Young

Current Position: Lecturer of Biology at San Francisco State University & Adjunct Professor at College of San Mateo; San Francisco & San Mateo, CA

Contact: eayoung@sfsu.edu

Degree: Biology, MS
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD.

Research Project

Research suggests that talking about science can help students learn science. Little research, however, has focused on the extent to which students are talking about science in biology classrooms. I am researching student verbal participation in biology classrooms at San Francisco State University. I am particularly interested in identifying patterns of verbal participation in biology seminars. Student verbal participation is a central component of seminar-style courses, and gives students an explicit opportunity to talk about science. I plan to investigate the demographics of who speaks when given this chance, and how variable student participation is in these discussions.

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Shannon Seidel

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Biology at Pacific Lutheran University; Tacoma, Washington

Contact: seidel@sfsu.edu

Research Project

Shannon joined SEPAL to study the impact of CCB FEST and Biology FEST on the community of educators and students these programs support. She is interested in learning what changes faculty are making in their classrooms as a result of these programs as well as the impact they are having on student learning. Ultimately, Shannon hopes to obtain a faculty position at a university or community college where she can continue to do biology education research while also teaching undergraduate students.

Publications

  • Seidel, S.B., Reggi, Amanda L., Schinske, Jeffrey N., Burrus, Laura W., and Tanner, K.D. Beyond the Biology: A Systematic Investigation of Noncontent Instructor Talk in an Introductory Biology Course. CBE: Journal of Life Sciences Education, 14, 1-14, (2015). pdf
  • Seidel, S.B. and Tanner, K.D. “What if students revolt?” – Considering Student Resistance: Origins, Options, and Opportunities for Investigation. CBE: Journal of Life Science Education, 12, 586-595, (2013). pdf

 

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Gloriana Trujillo

Current Position: Associate Director for STEM at Stanford University, in the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching & Learning; Stanford, CA

Contact: gloriana@gmail.com

Research Project

Gloriana is excited to be a part of the SEPAL team. Her research interests include examining students’ beliefs about themselves and how these impact persistence in the biology major. In particular, Gloriana is interested in addressing these beliefs by designing interventions. She hopes that through her work, institutions can modify their practices to positively impact students, particularly those from underrepresented groups.  Gloriana would like to obtain a faculty position where she can carry out research, teach in the classroom, and coordinate programs to maximize student interest.

Publications

  • Trujillo, G. and Tanner, K.D. Considering the Role of Affect in Learning: Monitoring Students’ Self-Efficacy, Sense of Belonging, and Science IdentityCBE: Life Sciences Education, 13:1-10, (2014).pdf
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Audrey Parangan-Smith

Current Position: SF Build Program Administrator at San Francisco State University; San Francisco, CA

Contact: audreygp@sfsu.edu

Research Project

In addition to being the Program Coordinator for the Spectrum Program, I am interested in assessing the impact this program has on its participants.  The goal of the Spectrum Program is to encourage more girls and women of color to pursue careers in the Biomedical Sciences.  This is done through mentorship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate biology students who are women of color to lead afterschool clubs targeted to girls of color at local, underserved middle and high schools.  I am interested in understanding what the undergraduate and graduate students report gaining from this.

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Hibba Ashraf

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Biology at Bakersfield College; Bakersfield, CA

Contact: hashraf32@gmail.com

Degree: Master’s Degree in Biological Sciences, Concentration in Physiology and Behavior
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD

Research Project

I am interested in learning why students switch out of biology majors. Studies show that increasing the retention rate of STEM students from 40 to 50% in the next decade can help our current economic and workforce issues. As a switcher myself, I find that many students in biology classrooms tend to feel unengaged, overwhelmed, and alienated. My goal is to learn students’ factors that led them to leave biology, and use this information to see if we can help change these ideas and keep them from making that switch.

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Lisa Turk

Contact: Lisa.m.turk@gmail.com

Degree: Master’s Degree in Biological Sciences
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD

Research Project

My undergraduate education focused on climate change, a controversial topic that scientists and nonscientists often interpret differently. This got me thinking about how people with different backgrounds apply scientific reasoning in a real world context. My project looks at how populations with a range of biology expertise understand and explain genetically modified organisms, another real world topic represented in many different contexts.

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Elijah Combs

Contact: Elijahcombs@gmail.com

Degree: Master’s Degree in Microbiology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD

Research Project

Research in cognitive psychology and science education has shown that “novices” in a discipline perform card-sorting tasks differently than “experts.” Card-sorting tasks require an individual to take a set of word problems and put them into groups based upon the similarities between the problems. Using a card-sorting methodology designed to investigate biology expertise, I will be collecting evidence from a large number of non-biology majors. In addition, I will be performing think-aloud interviews with individual subjects – both biology and non-biology majors – to further probe how they approach the biology card-sorting task. In particular, participants will be asked to perform this sorting task multiple times repetitively to investigate whether participants choose card-sorting categories and structures based on trivial considerations, or by the knowledge structure reasons hypothesized previously.

Publications

  • Smith, J.I., Combs, E.D., Nagami, P.H., Alto, V.M., Goh, H.G., Gourdet, M.A.A., Hough, C.M., Mickell, A.E., Peer, A.G., Coley, J.D., Tanner, K.D., and Williams, K.S. Development of the Biology Card Sorting Task to Measure Conceptual Expertise in Biology. CBE: Journal of Life Sciences Education, 12, 628-644, (2013). pdf
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Stephanie Malmgren

Current Position: Full-time Instructor at Mt. San Antonio College; Walnut, CA

Contact: slee465@mtsac.edu

Degree: Master’s Degree in Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD

Research Project

Over the past couple decades, teaching techniques in the biological sciences has been encouraged to shift away from traditional lecture based, transmission style teaching to more student centered “scientific teaching” in which students are encouraged to think about and learn science with the same creativity and rigor that scientists approach their research.  Many programs have been developed to help biology teachers achieve this transition buy giving them tools to use when planning their classes.  One such program is the CCB FEST training program run through the SEPAL lab and of which I am an alumni trying to utilize these tools in my classroom.  As an alumnus, I am interested to know if going through this training actually translates to changes in teaching practices in the classroom.  My research question is: To what extent are instructors and students perceptions aligned about how frequently innovative teaching techniques are employed in the classroom learning environment?  My goal is to see if there is alignment or misalignment in perceptions of instructors and students and try to figure out what this means in the broader sense.

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Kathryn Danielson

Current Position: Teacher Educator and Resource Coordinator, Teacher Professional Development California Academy of Sciences; San Francisco, CA

Contact: kdanielson2@gmail.com

Degree: M.Sc Marine Biology
Advisor: Dr. Kimberly D. Tanner, Dr. Meg Burke

Research Project

“Investigating Undergraduate Science Students’ Conceptions and Misconceptions of Ocean Acidification.”

Scientific research exploring ocean acidification has grown significantly in past decades. However, little science education research has investigated the extent to which undergraduate science students understand this topic. Of all undergraduate students, one might predict science students to be best able to understand ocean acidification. What conceptions and misconceptions of ocean acidification do these students hold? How does their awareness and knowledge compare across disciplines? Undergraduate biology, chemistry/biochemistry, and environmental studies students, and science faculty for comparison, were assessed on their awareness and understanding. Results revealed low awareness and understanding of ocean acidification among students compared with faculty. Compared with biology or chemistry/biochemistry students, more environmental studies students demonstrated awareness of ocean acidification and identified the key role of carbon dioxide. Novel misconceptions were also identified. These findings raise the question of whether undergraduate science students are prepared to navigate socioenvironmental issues such as ocean acidification.

Publications

  • Danielson, Kathryn I. and Tanner K.D. Investigating Undergraduate Science Students’ Conceptions and Misconceptions of Ocean Acidification. CBE: Journal of Life Sciences Education, 14, 1-11, (2015). pdf

Paul Nagami

Current Position: Full-time instructor for Holy Names University; Oakland, CA

Contact: pnagami@gmail.com

Degree: Master’s Degree in Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner

Research Project

In teaching, we hope to train our students to recognize the   fundamental principles that underlie biological problems.   However, it is unclear when and how biology students begin to recognize these principles in context. Do undergraduate biology majors interpret biological questions in a different way than non-majors? How do experts and developing experts, such as biology faculty and graduate students, make sense of biology questions? To explore these problems, I am asking graduate students to complete a card-sorting task in which they categorize questions based on underlying principles. As students complete this task, they will explain their reasoning, providing better insight into how developing biologists structure their knowledge.

Publications

  • Smith, J.I., Combs, E.D., Nagami, P.H., Alto, V.M., Goh, H.G., Gourdet, M.A.A., Hough, C.M., Mickell, A.E., Peer, A.G., Coley, J.D., Tanner, K.D., and Williams, K.S. Development of the Biology Card Sorting Task to Measure Conceptual Expertise in Biology. CBE: Journal of Life Sciences Education, 12, 628-644, (2013). pdf
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Sara Brownell

Current Position: Assistant Professor in the School of Life Sciences for Arizona State University; Phoenix, CA

Contact: sebbers@gmail.com

Research Project

My research project at SEPAL focused on how undergraduate biology majors conceptualize learning.  In particular, we investigated to what extent biology majors think about learning from a biological perspective and how they compare to non-biology majors (novices) and biology faculty (experts).  Using grounded theory, we have identified a number of previously undocumented accurate and inaccurate undergraduate student conceptions about the biological basis of learning.  These can guide instructors in supporting students’ transition to more expert-like biological ways of thinking.

Publications

  • Brownell, S.E. and Tanner, K.D., Barriers to Faculty Pedagogical Change: Lack of Training, Time, Incentives, and … Tensions with Professional Identity?. CBE: Journal of Life Sciences Education, 11: 339-346, (2012). pdf
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Carol Umanzor

Current Position: Science Teacher for Richmond High School; Richmond, CA

Contact: carol.umanzor@aspirepublicschools.org

Degree: Master’s Degree in Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner

Research Project

My research will focus on the experiences of women of color in biology. I want to learn more about their personal accomplishments and struggles in biology as women of color. Hopefully my research will lead to some answers as to why numbers of women of color in biology are so low and possibly pinpoint ways to change that.

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Lakisha Witzel

Current Position: Academic Coordinator for the Science & Health Education Partnership at University of California; San Francisco, CA

Contact: lakisha.witzel@ucsf.edu

Degree: Master’s Degree in Conservation Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner

Research Project

I am using video taped interviews to investigate elementary age students’ perceived benefits of having scientists in their classrooms. The 4th and 5th grade students interviewed had scientists visit their classroom as part of a partnership between graduate students in the sciences at the University of California, San Francisco and elementary school teachers within the San Francisco Unified School District. Substantial amounts of time and resources are devoted to partnership programs every year throughout the United States and it is hypothesized that the benefits to a student working with scientists are tremendous. My goal is to provide evidence directly from the 4th and 5th grade students involved that this is, in fact, the case.

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Courtney Scott

Contact: courtneylscott@hotmail.com

Degree: Master’s Degree in Biology
Advisors: Kimberly Tanner and Meg Burke

Research Project

Courtney’s research will investigate how experiencing the new CAS Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit influences Bay Area Filipinos’ ideas toward environmental conservation. To conduct this research, Courtney will collect pre- and post-assessment responses from Bay Area Filipinos’ before and immediately following their viewing of the exhibit. In addition, a subset of these subjects will be interviewed ~1-3 months following their viewing experience to gauge their enduring impressions. This research has the potential to provide insight into Bay Area Filipinos’ understanding of environmental conservation and the impact of visiting the CAS Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit on these views.

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Michelle Wooten

Current Position: Graduate research assistant at The University of Alabama and pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Research Methodologies; Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Contact: mwootenastronomy@gmail.com

Website: https://michelle.wootenlab.com

Degree: Master’s Degree in Physics
Advisors: Kimberly Tanner, Adrienne Cool (SFSU physics & astronomy), Ed Prather (University of Arizona)

Research Project

For her Master’s thesis, Michelle wanted to aid her introductory astronomy students in making sense of what they see in the sky on a daily basis. Subsequently, she created planetarium-based astronomy curricula using a learning cycle supported by a constructivist theory of learning (5E Model). Her research entailed developing and analyzing changes in students’ responses to closed- and open-ended questions before and after instruction. A secondary component of Michelle’s research was an examination of the utility of these different types of questions in signaling students’ learning.

Publications

  • Wooten, M.M., Cool, A.M., Prather, E.E., Tanner, K.D. Comparison of performance on multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions in an introductory astronomy laboratory, Physical Rev. Special Topics – Physics Education Research, in press, (2014).pdf
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Elizabeth Polito

Current Position: Director of Ministerial Discipleship at St. Louis King of France Catholic Church and School; Austin, Texas

Contact: efriebrg@sfsu.edu

Degree: Master’s Degree in Biology and Geosciences
Advisors: Kimberly Tanner and John Monteverdi

Research Project

Student conceptions of weather phenomena across multiple cognitive levels. Meteorological content is presented in K-12 educational standards and in university general education courses, yet little research has been done to explore how students conceptualize weather phenomena. My project aim is to use a two-phase approach to identify conceptions and alternative conceptions concerning wind, fog, and tornadoes among middle school students, university non-meteorology majors, and meteorology majors. Each phase of the project—written assessments and videotaped interviews—will drive the next phase with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of student ideas. By identifying students’ alternative concepts about weather, scientists and educators can create experiences that will help students move their viewpoint to be more scientific.

Publications

  • Polito, E., Tanner, K.D., Monteverdi, J.P. Assessing middle school and college students’ conceptions about tornadoes and other weather phenomena, October (2008). pdf

Elizabeth’s Links

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Jeff Schinske

Current Position: Biology Instructor for De Anza College;  Cupertino, CA

Contact: schinskejeff@deanza.edu
About Me

Research Project

Ever since 6th grade, Jeff has wondered how there could possibly be so many shapes, sizes, and colors of marine fish on Earth. This wonderment led him to work in Eric Routman’s lab at SFSU, where he investigated speciation and population genetics in fish. Jeff’s thesis work focused on the diamond turbot, an estuarine flatfish living off California and Mexico. While completing this work, Jeff participated in the GK-12 program through SEPAL. The idea of the science classroom as a venue for data collection fascinated Jeff, and he has since launched numerous classroom research projects. He is particularly interested in formative assessment, teamwork in large lecture classes, and the detection of student misconceptions.

Publications

  • Seidel, S.B., Reggi, Amanda L., Schinske, Jeffrey N., Burrus, Laura W., and Tanner, K.D. Beyond the Biology: A Systematic Investigation of Noncontent Instructor Talk in an Introductory Biology Course. CBE: Journal of Life Sciences Education, 14, 1-14, (2015). pdf
  • Schinske, J. and Tanner, K.D. Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently). CBE:Life Sciences Education, 13:159 – 161, (2014). pdf
  • Schinske, J., Clayman, K., Busch, A.K., and Tanner, K.D. Using the Anatomy of a Scientific journal Article to Support Inquiry-based Science Teaching and Learning, The Science Teacher, Fall (2008). pdf

Jeff’s Links

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Rebecca Fulop

Current Position: Biology teacher at Mission High School; San Francisco, CA

Contact: msfulop@hotmail.com

Degree: Master’s Degree in Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner

Research Project

Rebecca is interested in how high school students and their science teachers conceive of a topic that is on one hand as old as the human race and on the other a burgeoning field in its infancy—the human brain and neuroscience. Rather than getting at their superficial beliefs about this topic, their deeper conceptions will be probed about the brain, learning, memory, perception and personality.

She will survey neuroscientists to develop a list of what they consider to be the most important concepts in neuroscience research today. She will develop a list of these emergent concepts from this process, and then she will probe high school biology teachers’ conceptions about neuroscience. Finally, she will probe high school students’ conceptions about the same topics.

Publications

  • Fulop, R.M. and Tanner, K.D., Investigating high school students’ conceptualizations of the biological basis of learning. Advances in Phys. Ed., in press, (2012). pdf
  • Knight, J.D., Fulop, R.M., Marquez-Magana, L., Tanner, K.D., Investigative Cases and Student Outcomes in an Upper Division Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory Course at a Minority Serving Institution. CBE: A Journal of Life Sciences Education,Vol. 7(4):382-393, (2008). pdf

Rebecca’s Links

Recent Awards

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Briana McCarthy

Contact: brianamc@sfsu.edu

Degree: Master’s Degree in Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner

Research Project

Briana investigated the assumption in the research literature that biology majors and environmental studies (ES) majors graduate as experts in their fields. She collected written responses to statements, such as “The greenhouse effect can be made smaller by planting trees,” from biology majors and ES majors. She found that ES majors provided more complete explanations of how photosynthesis and respiration impact the greenhouse effect. Upon interviewing a small subset of these students, she discovered that students generally struggled to piece together respiration, photosynthesis, and carbon cycling. Briana hopes her research will inform teaching at the college level and encourage teachers to help students’ structure their fragmented knowledge.

Briana’s Links

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Allison Busch

Current Position: Family Photographer; San Francisco, CA

Contact: akb@allisonbusch.com

About Me

Allison was a lecturer in the SFSU College of Science and Engineering and the SEPAL Coordinator. She divided her energy between teaching science education coursework and professional development trainings, coordinating collaborative partnerships between SFSU scientific trainees and Bay Area K-12 teachers, and collecting and analyzing data on the impact these experiences have had on scientific trainees.

Publications

  • Schinske, J., Clayman, K., Busch, A.K., and Tanner, K.D. Using the Anatomy of a Scientific journal Article to Support Inquiry-based Science Teaching and Learning, The Science Teacher, Fall (2008). pdf
  • Busch, A.K., and Tanner, K.D. Utilizing K-12 Science Education Partnerships to Develop Better Scientists: Integrating Experiences into Graduate Science Teaching, National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual Meeting, conference presentation, Baltimore, MD; April (2008).
  • Busch, A.K., and Tanner, K.D., Developing Scientist Educators: Analysis of Integrating K-12 Pedagogy and Partnership Experiences into Graduate Science Training, National Association for Research in Science Teaching Conference Paper, San Francisco, CA, conference paper distributed and presented April (2006). pdf

Allison’s Links

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Jonathan Boxerman

Contact: boxerman@northwestern.edu

About Me

Jonathan received his Master of Science in Geoscience from San Francisco State University in May 2006. He embarked on a mission to study a little known geologic phenomenon called tafoni, a fantastic rock weathering pattern. While pursuing his geology research project, he was also a scientist partner teacher in GK-12. As a current doctoral student at Northwestern University, he hopes to continue investigating how people think and reason about geosciences concepts and scientific models in the Learning Sciences department at the school of education and social policy.

Publications

  • Boxerman, J.Z., Kudritzki, P. +, and Tanner, K.D., Probing 6th Grade Students’ Understanding of Geoscience: An Action Research Project by a Geoscientist-Teacher Partnership, National Association for Research in Science Teaching Conference Paper, San Francisco, CA, conference paper distributed and presented April (2006).

Jonathan’s Links

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Jamie Chan

Current Position: Program Director of CSME at San Francisco State University; San Francisco, CA

Contact: jmchan@sfsu.edu

Research Project

Jamie became a research associate at SEPAL and performed a study of the Science views of 97 seventh grade students at an urban public middle school. This study became a chapter in her master’s thesis, which incorporated the use of written assessment data and individual video interviews. She was particularly interested in student’s science views in the context of religious and cultural beliefs. She currently lectures at SFSU and continues to do research with SEPAL. Jamie is currently interested in how students learn science at the college level and how gender and culture affects a student’s views of science.

Publications

  • Chan. J.M., Tanner, K.D.Understanding the Nature of Science: Science Views From the Seventh Grade Classroom. (2006). pdf

Jamie’s Links