Category Archives: STEM Ed

C&I’s Gillian Roehrig appointed President of the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE)

Professor Gillian Roehrig has been elected to the prestigious role of President of the Association for Science Teachers Education (ASTE), a non-profit professional organization composed of over 800 members from countries around the globe.

Gillian Roehrig with past ASTE president, Malcolm Butler

The mission of ASTE is to “promote excellence in science teacher education world-wide through scholarship and innovation.” Members include teacher educators, scientists, science coordinators and supervisors, and informal science educators who prepare and provide professional development for teachers of science at all grade levels.

As both a professor of science education and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Roehrig’s professional focus is on advancing science teacher education and preparation.

She writes that her “research and teaching interests are centered on understanding how teachers translate national and state standards into their classrooms. Of particular interest is how teachers, from preservice through induction and into the inservice years, implement inquiry-based teaching and how different induction and professional development programs can influence teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and classroom practices.”

Roehrig’s brings her considerable experience and expertise to help steer ASTE in advancing science education practice and policy through scholarship, collaboration, and innovation in science teacher education.

Learn more about the science teacher education and research programs in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.





SciGirls Code project highlights girls’ computational thinking and coding skills

The SciGirls Code project, led by co-principal investigator Cassie Scharber, kicked off with a session and advisory board meeting at the Computer Science Teachers Association conference in San Diego, July 11-14. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation’s STEM + Computing Partnerships (STEM + C) program, is a two-year project that uses the principles of connected learning with STEM outreach partners to provide 160+ girls and their educators with computational thinking and coding skills.

Cassie Scharber

Scharber, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, leads development of curricula centering on three tracks—e-textiles and wearable tech, robotics, and mobile geospatial technologies; role model training for female technology professionals; professional development for STEM educators; and a research component that investigates the ways computational learning experiences impact the development of computational thinking as well as interest and attitudes toward computer science.

For more information, visit the SciGirls website, produced by Twin Cities Public Television.

Ph.D. Student in STEM Education Receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Jeanna Wieselmann2
Ph.D. student in STEM education, Jeanna Wieselmann

Jeanna Wieselmann, a doctoral candidate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowship based on her “demonstrated potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise.”

Wieselmann’s research is focused on gender equity in STEM education at the elementary school level. She wants to find ways to get girls more interested in the STEM fields while examining their identities related to science and math and how those are affected by immersive STEM educational experiences.

Before entering the Ph.D. program in STEM Education, Wieselmann received her teaching license and master’s of education in elementary education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction then moved onto a position with STARBASE, an educational non-profit that provides hands-on, interactive experiences in STEM education for students as a complement to their classroom education. Wieselmann’s work at STARBASE spurred her interested in the STEM fields, especially when she saw that girls were just as engaged as boys in the Mars exploration storyline and robotics and rocketry activities. The five-day immersive experience that involved the entire class really “levelled the playing field,” Wieselmann noted. “Interest was high across the board.”

Wieselmann’s research will examine the activities at STARBASE to understand their impact on female students’ interest in science and technology. She hopes to tease out activities that can be translated into the classroom and continue to engage students. She will also conduct interviews with 4th-and 5th-grade girls to find out if the immersive experience is helping them identify more as scientists and mathematicians. She believes that exposure to STEM fields and women in STEM may help girls see themselves as future scientists.

“I’m fortunate be at institution where women are well represented in the STEM fields, in my department in particular,” Wieselmann says of Department of Curriculum & Instruction where both of her advisors, Gillian Roehrig and Julie Brown, are female STEM faculty. “I would like to be a professor at a research institution, so seeing women in that role has definitely inspired me.”

Find out more about the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and the doctoral program in STEM Education.




Professor Lesa Clarkson receives award for inspiring women in STEM education

lesa clarkson
Lesa Clarkson, associate professor in mathematics education

Lesa Clarkson, associate professor of mathematics education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, was honored with the INSIGHT into Diversity 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award and will be featured in the September issue of INSIGHT into Diversity magazine. The award honors “remarkable women in STEM professions who continue to make a significant difference through mentoring and teaching, research, successful programs and initiatives, and other efforts worthy of national recognition.”

Clarkson’s research agenda focuses on mathematics in the urban classroom, specifically identifying successful strategies that increase student achievement primarily among underrepresented student groups. She focuses on African-American students, specifically, because this group of students historically has the lowest scores on the national and state assessments. Clarkson believes, “The color of a student’s skin is not correlated to their achievement in mathematics.”

Clarkson’s research aims to find best practices that will provide all students with engaging mathematics experiences in addition to the basic “tools” that are essential for students.

C&I graduates awarded prestigious Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellowship

Joe CossetteRoshan AnglinTwo Curriculum and Instruction graduates, Joe Cosette and Roshan Anglin, were recently awarded the prestigious Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) 2014 Teaching Fellowship. The five-year fellowship is awarded to early-career STEM teachers who demonstrate the potential to develop the content knowledge needed for teaching, exemplary teaching practices, and the qualities of a teacher leader.

Fellows receive teacher development and membership to a professional organization of the fellows’ choice, participate in an online community, attend annual meetings, and work one-on-one with a KSTF Program Officer. In addition, fellows are eligible to receive summer stipends, teaching materials grants, leadership grants, and a one-time National Board Certification grant. Cosette and Anglin were two of 32 fellows selected this year out of almost 200 applicants.

Anglin received her teaching license in 2013. She’s currently enrolled in a master of education program for teaching mathematics and expects to finish in 2015. This fall, she will begin her second year of teaching at Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul, MN.

Cossette received his teaching license in 2014 and is continuing in the M.Ed. program to finish his master’s degree in math education. He begins his first year of teaching this fall at Minnetonka High School, Minnetonka, MN.

Visit to learn more about earning your teaching license at the University of Minnesota. For more information about the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation and to read Anglin’s and Cossette’s profiles, please visit the foundation’s website.


STEM education researchers receive award for innovations in teaching science teachers

Curriculum and Instruction professor Gillian Roehrig and Ph.D. students Joshua Ellis, Justin McFadden, and Tasneem Anwar, all researchers in the STEM Education Center, were recently selected by the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) Awards Committee for the Award IV: Innovations in Teaching Science Teachers for their conference paper, “If You Can’t Say Something Nice: A Design-Based Research Approach Investigating the Social Interactions of New Science and Math Teachers Using a Video Annotation Tool.”

The four researchers have been involved in designing, developing, and improving the Teacher Induction Network (TIN) together since September 2012. (Roehrig has been involved with TIN for much longer.) They have presented their work at a number of conferences (ASTE 2013/14, NARST 2013/14, SITE 2013, E-Learn 2013) and are celebrating their first publication related to TIN, “Beginning Science Teachers’ Use of a Digital Video Annotation Tool to Promote Reflective Practices” (published in the Journal of Science Education and Technology last month).

TIN aims to create a bridge between a science teacher’s education and training and his or her first two years in the classroom. This extra support helps new teachers implement research-based teaching techniques they learned in their teacher education programs and set a path for professional growth.

This particular study made use of VideoANT, an internet browser-embedded, video annotation software that allows a user to add time-marked text annotations to a video of choice. The study explores how in-service teachers might use video to identify successes, progress and missed opportunities for action in the classroom. The results demonstrate that, when left to their own devices, teachers will primarily respond to each other’s teaching practices with praise and agreement. This praise and focus on success might be counterproductive to developing an introspective and reflexive teaching practice. Consequently, this study recommends possible changes to direct participating teachers using software like VideoANT toward more critical analysis.

“We are humbled and thrilled to receive this award,” said Ellis. “We’re very excited that ASTE has placed a focus on innovations in teaching science teachers, and we view TIN as an important vehicle for supporting science teachers in an online environment. We hope this will inspire others to develop their own online teacher induction programs and improve those that are already out there.”

For more information on the STEM Education Center or the Teacher Induction Network research, please visit the STEM Education Center website. For more information on academic programs in STEM Education or Science Education, please visit the STEM Education Program Area page on the C&I website.

Ph.D. student Chidthachack featured for Twin Cities World Refugee Day

Sousada ChidthachackC&I Ph.D. student Sousada Chidthachack (STEM Education Program Area) has recently been featured in the Asian American Press as part of Twin Cities World Refugee Day,  Minnpost, and profiled by Wallin Education Partners for her unique personal story. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, Chidthachack emigrated to Minnesota with her family in 1986. Tremendously self-motivated, Chidthachack hopes to make mathematics more accessible to students of color.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be talk show host like my idol Oprah Winfrey so I could entertain, uplift and inform,” shares Chidthachack. “As a leader in education, and with the help of the media, I get to be the ‘host’ of my own show and share my messages about education as the great equalizer; that with a good attitude and a good education, students can be anything they set their minds to. One of my goals as a Ph.D. student is to work with underrepresented populations and be a voice for those who are silenced.”

Chidthachack is particularly moved by a quote from Winfrey, “Excellence is the best deterrent for racism or sexism.” It is obvious that Chidthachack lives by these words. In addition to accepting a faculty position at the University of St. Thomas starting this fall, Chidthachack has also been writing and will soon publish a memoir, “The Lesson is Never Just a Number: A Mathematics Teacher’s Journey From the Projects to Pursuing a Ph.D.”

Please find Chidthachack’s Minnpost article here, her Wallin Education Partners article here and her Asian American Press profile here. You can also read her CEHD profile here.

Researchers discover benefits of infusing neuroscience into teacher training

RoehrigG-2004Can providing teachers with information about the neurobiology of learning improve K-12 teaching and student learning? Yes, according to University of Minnesota researchers, who recently published their findings in the journal Educational Researcher. Those findings were also selected as an “Editor’s Choice” in Science magazine.
By studying attendees of BrainU, a professional development workshop that teaches neuroscience principles of learning to in-service teachers, neuroscience professor Janet Dubinsky, curriculum and instruction associate professor Gillian Roehrig (left), and educational psychology associate professor Sashank Varma discovered that understanding of and engagement in neuroscience concepts improved for attending teachers and their students. Teaching the concept of “plasticity,” as designed by the Society for Neuroscience, provided a model for understanding student learning in response to teacher instruction, which was a key concept taught in the BrainU workshop.
VarmaS-2011“Our empirical evaluation of BrainU finds that it improved teacher understanding of neuroscience and confidence in teaching neuroscience,” said Varma (right). “This understanding translated to improved classroom instruction compared to control teachers. There was more evidence of inquiry-based learning on the part of teachers and of students engaging in higher-order thinking, displaying greater depth of knowledge, making deeper connections to the world, and engaging in more substantive conversations with teachers.”
The researchers conclude their journal article with advice for integrating neuroscience principles of learning into the training of pre-service teachers.
Read the article “Infusing Neuroscience Into Teacher Professional Development,” in Educational Researcher.
Also see “When Neuroscience Guides Education” in Science magazine.

Roehrig receives national Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award

RoehrigG-2004Curriculum and Instruction Associate Professor Gillian Roehrig has been selected for the Association for Science Teacher Education 2013 Award II – Outstanding Mentor of the Year. This award honors and encourages ASTE members who support and encourage pre-service and in-service science teachers and new science teacher educators entering the profession. It also seeks to recognize the valuable contributions of mentors to the profession of science teacher education. This is an honor and achievement for Roehrig, as well as for the STEM Education Center and the University of Minnesota.
Roehrig receives this award at the Annual ASTE International conference awards and business luncheon on Saturday, Jan 12, 2014, in San Antonio, Texas.

Alumni profile: Craig Seibert, M.Ed. in Science Education

Craig SeibertThis month, we had the chance to catch up with C&I Alum, Craig Seibert, a science educational consultant and recently-elected Board President for the Friends of Rookery Bay in Naples, Florida. Craig earned his M.Ed. in Science Education at the University of Minnesota in 1984, and taught high school science for 21 years. In 1996, he was selected as the Outstanding High School Teacher of the Year for Collier County. From 1999 to 2006, he served as the science coordinator for Collier County Public Schools in Naples, FL.
In his new role as the Board President of the Friends of Rookery Bay, Craig will work to build support for the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, one of 28 research reserves across the United States. Below, Craig answers a few questions for us.
Tell us a little bit about you. What do you do in your free time?
I was a high school science teacher for 21 years (1 year in Sherburn, MN, 6 years in Spring Lake Park, MN and 14 years in Naples, FL), and after that I became the Science Coordinator for Collier County Public Schools in Naples. I’m currently a science educational consultant. Education has always been my passion and I enjoy teaching students and teachers alike.
In my free time, I enjoy traveling with my wife of 32 years, golfing, and spending summers at our lake home on Ten Mile Lake near Hackensack, MN and wintering in Naples.
What gets you excited about your work? What really motivates you?
I am currently involved with developing inquiry-based science programs for Pre-K through 5th grade. Our children are our future and we need to help prepare them to be critical thinkers. We need to challenge our youth to compete with the rest of the world and provide them the tools to keep the United States competitive whether that be in education, research, industry or any other field in the market place.
I think my passion for teaching came from some of the great teachers I had as I was going through our educational system. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a student understand a concept or seeing that light come on and knowing you had a small part in their understanding. It was fun to see students grow right in front of you over the years. A teacher has an awesome responsibility to help mold a student’s learning. We as a nation need to see that value and reward those teachers for the hard work they put in every day.
How does your degree come in handy? How has it prepared you for your career both in and outside the classroom?
I believe my master’s degree opened doors for me after I left the classroom to become a science coordinator for our school system. My degree also helped open doors in the consulting world once I retired from the public school system. There is no doubt that the University of Minnesota M.Ed. has been extremely helpful throughout my career.
What you will be doing in your new position?
As the incoming President of the Friends of Rookery Bay (FORB), I will be charged with helping the National Research Reserve move forward to protect our precious estuaries found in Southwest Florida. The FORB group’s mission is to connect people with Southwest Florida’s dynamic estuarine environment through education, engagement, and stewardship by supporting the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Do you have a motto or a set of words to live by?
“There are no short cuts to success,” and “treat others as you would like to be treated.”

C&I Research Highlight: Devarati Bhattacharya discusses Global Climate Change Education

BhattacharyaD-2011My interest in environmental science and education began with my own experiences in field research environments. There always seemed to be a gap between the caliber of scientific research in environmental science and the level of public understanding about it. This made me curious about what constituted learners’ conceptual understandings about critical science issues and if there were specific tools that could be designed to assess and improve it.
I found myself specifically engaged in the context of Global Climate Change Education. Even though there have been massive efforts to mitigate the effects of global climate change (GCC), the research and practice for promoting climate literacy and understanding of GCC have only recently become a national priority in the U.S. For instance, the National Research Council’s 2012 report, Framework for K-12 Science Education recently emphasized student reasoning, argumentation skills and understanding of GCC and therefore dictates two responsibilities for teachers:

  1. Foster conceptual clarity in students.
  2. Promote innovation, resilience, and readiness in students so they can respond to the threat of a changing environment.

Past research in teacher understanding of the science and basics of GCC has shown that in spite of prevalent frameworks such as the Essential Principles for Climate Literacy, teachers continue to struggle in understanding the science behind GCC. Misinformed perceptions about basic climate science content and the role of human activities in the GCC scenario are persistent. Consequently, we need extensive efforts focused on both improving and assessing teachers’ conceptual understanding about the science behind GCC.
My doctoral dissertation, with support of University of Minnesota’s Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, develops multi-pronged methods that are capable of eliciting a learner’s overall construct of knowledge about GCC. This study, which uses multiple tools for assessment of teachers’ understanding, will also reveal their misconceptions and the gaps in the knowledge of science teachers about GCC. Such information is both novel and critical for science educators in designing materials intended for teachers’ professional development.
The Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship has allowed me to focus all my efforts towards the pursuit of this research, helping me make solid progress while doing high quality work. I am thankful to my adviser Dr. Gillian Roehrig for her guidance and my peers for their support throughout this process. I look forward to completing my project in May 2014 and am preparing for the academic job market in the fall of 2014.