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Research Fellows Program

In 2005, the research program established the Research Fellows Program and awarded two-year fellowships to early-career researchers.

These two-year fellowships provided financial and professional support to recent, pre-tenure Ph.D.s in research and academic positions who were engaged in critical research relevant to the recruitment, preparation, induction, mentoring and retention of science and mathematics teachers in U.S. high schools. Below is an overview of these individuals and their work. Note: This program is no longer active.

senior1Alicia Alonzo, PhD

2009 Research Fellow

Alicia holds a BS in engineering physics from Cornell University and a PhD in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Her research focused on how teachers interact with students about science content. She worked to improve beginning physics teachers’ ability to ask questions that reveal student thinking and to respond effectively to students’ answers. With KSTF’s support, Alicia developed a video-based professional development program to help beginning physics teachers develop the knowledge they need for responding to students’ thinking in these ways. She also studied the impact of these video-based experiences on teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) — specialized knowledge of science content needed for teaching.

senior2Sreyashi Jhumki Basu, PhD (1977 – 2008) 

2008 Research Fellow

The purpose of Jhumki’s research was to understand the ways in which teachers pursue democratic science pedagogy, a method of teaching that allows students to express ideas and interests in the classroom so that they feel respected, valued and more engaged, while simultaneously developing an expertise in science. “I am particularly concerned with whether teacher efforts with democratic science pedagogy lead students to become experts in particular scientific topics, to participate more actively in science class and to consider careers in science.”

As part of the project, Jhumki hoped to develop a variety of tools for teachers, including a package of resources that an administrator might use to better understand what a science teacher needs to be successful in pursuing democratic science pedagogy; a guide with practical examples of how science teachers of different backgrounds and identities develop democratic practices in their classrooms; and a blog and series of viral videos where teachers and students could share their ideas and discuss how to influence student learning and engagement in school science.

senior3Michelle Cirillo, PhD 

2010 Research Fellow

Michelle holds a BS in mathematics education from Plattsburgh State University (SUNY Plattsburgh), an MA in teaching in mathematics education from Northern Arizona University and a PhD in education (specializing in mathematics education) from Iowa State University. Her project, “Mathematics Discourse in Geometry Proof,” focused on supporting beginning geometry teachers as they engage their students in learning how to teach mathematical proof. In the context of geometry proof, she also examined teacher talk moves, which have the potential to foster increased student participation in mathematics classrooms. For example, prompting students for further information or using wait time to slow the pace of classroom talk have been shown to increase the quantity and quality of student talk. The project developed a community of six beginning teachers working together to improve the ways in which they teach proof.

senior4Ravit Duncan, PhD  

2007 Research Fellow

Ravit received her bachelor’s degree in science from the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, her master’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her doctoral degree in learning sciences from Northwestern University. Her project incorporated a special focus on pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). “Although PCK is a critical ingredient of effective teaching, we know little about how it develops over time or how the various elements of a teacher preparation program contribute to its development.” By using learning progressions to map out a trajectory of learning over extended periods of time, Ravit developed better guidelines for supporting learners as they advance in their understanding.

To empirically validate progression, Ravit used micro-genetic methods to conduct detailed analyses of changes in pre-service teachers’ knowledge and practices; as well as the influence of particular pedagogies and activities on teachers’ learning and development over time. The project developed and validated a learning progression for the PCK of pre-service secondary science teachers, incorporating the development of and engagement in teaching practices that foster scientific model building and argumentation skills. 

senior5Indigo Esmonde, PhD   

2009 Research Fellow 

Indigo earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Queen’s University. She received her master’s degree in mathematics from McGill University and a master’s degree in cognition and development from the University of Berkeley, followed by a doctoral degree in cognition and development from Berkeley. Indigo’s project on learning to teach mathematics for social justice was designed to create a community of inquiry for secondary teachers to explore these questions in the course of their professional development. Her research drew on socio-cultural theories of learning and development to consider issues of equity in mathematics education. “An understanding of equity must take into account how the details of classroom interaction provide or deny students access to ideas about mathematics, and access to positive mathematical and cultural identities.”


Erin Furtak, PhD

2007 Research Fellow

Erin holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Colorado in Boulder, a master’s degree in education from the University of Denver and a doctoral degree in curriculum and teacher education from Stanford University. Her research investigated how students develop understanding of evolution through natural selection. “Natural selection is the key to understanding biology and its unifying framework. However, students often have difficulty understanding it.” Evolution instruction in inquiry-based settings can be intimidating, especially for beginning teachers, because students often generate complicated ideas that are difficult to interpret. By helping teachers to find out what students know, Erin was able to offer specific ways that teachers can help students. “We can offer teachers practical steps on what to do to help students better understand this complex but critically important concept.”

Erin also explored how a map of student ideas about natural selection can support the development of beginning biology teachers’ knowledge for teaching and, in turn, improve student learning. “Its importance lies in understanding how these maps of student ideas – also called learning progressions – might provide support to beginning teachers at the challenging intersection of evolution instruction and scientific inquiry teaching.”

young2April Luehmann, PhD 

2007 Research Fellow

April earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Concordia University. She completed her graduate studies at the University of Michigan, earning two master’s degrees and then combining both tracks for her PhD in science education and industrial and operations engineering. In her research, April investigated the process of reform in science education by following and tracking the experiences of 18 reform-minded teachers. “Preparing teachers who are committed to reform-based practices is an important aspect of nurturing reform in science education. As these teachers meet the challenges of constraints in the classroom, they often find hurdles and roadblocks to the reform-based identity they had developed.” Her study took an in-depth, longitudinal look at the perceptions, experiences and commitments of practicing science teachers to investigate their identities and priorities with respect to reform.

Using data that included weekly blog posts, peer interviews and video debriefs over the course of an academic year, the project examined the impact of context and experience on teachers’ perceptions. The project took a look at which aspects of reform-based pedagogy are feasible and important, what challenges are most significant and what supports are most effective.

April’s research also considered the effectiveness of three different interventions — personal and professional blogging, collaborative action research, and stimulated recall debriefs — intended to engage and support reform-minded science teachers in their ongoing development by using a video sample of each participant’s (self-identified) reform-based teaching.

young3Scott McDonald, PhD

2008 Research Fellow

Scott earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College, his master’s degree in teaching from the University of Michigan and his PhD in learning technologies in science education from the University of Michigan. His project explored how expert and beginning teachers perceive the teaching of science. “New science teachers have to overcome years of being students in science classes to be able to think about teaching in new ways.” Scott’s project attempted to break this cycle and help new teachers understand how excellent teachers do what they do, especially when it comes to talking to students about their science ideas. “New teachers need to learn how to stop being a science student and become a science teacher. To do this they need to relearn how to see a classroom and relearn how to listen to students.” To support this transition from science student to science teacher, Scott spent a lot of time with new teachers analyzing video of excellent science teaching to begin to understand what good teaching looks like and how it gets done.

Scott then studied the video analysis documents, as well as transcripts of focused discussion following the video analysis of the lessons. Differences between the two groups of teachers were described in detail along with implications for science teacher education. Capturing differences between the way expert and novice teachers analyze the same examples of teaching allowed him to not only understand the differences, but develop ways of supporting new teachers as they learn to see like experts.

young4Mistilina Sato, PhD

2008 Research Fellow

Misty received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and her PhD in curriculum and teacher education, with a specialty in science education, from Stanford University. Her project was designed to find better ways to help teachers understand the power of formative assessment, and to help them develop these practices in their classrooms. “Assessing student understanding is one of the most important jobs that teachers do – and they do it hundreds of times every day, not just at test time.” Her research was structured to both help science teachers get better at their everyday assessment of student understanding, and describe instructional practices that allow teachers to focus on student assessment.

“Considerable research shows that student learning is improved when teachers use formative assessment strategies in their teaching; but studies also show that despite this value, most teachers do not know how to teach with a mindset and the strategies of formative assessment.”

Under the purview of this research, 10 high school science teachers investigated the integration of formative assessment into their regular teaching practices. The teachers and university staff formed a research team that met monthly. The data collected included monthly school visits and observations.

young5Jessica J. Thompson, PhD

2010 Research Fellow

In her research project, “Buffering Against Regression: Supporting Co-Learning between Teacher Candidates and Cooperating Teachers,” Jessica studied ways to support novice science teachers in their adoption of high-leverage practices which increase student learning, while simultaneously improving the capabilities of the cooperating teachers. She developed a theory of co-learning with the goal of re-shaping teacher education programs.

young6Elizabeth Van Es, PhD

2008 Research Fellow 

Elizabeth earned her BA in the teaching of English from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her PhD in learning sciences from Northwestern University. Beth’s research focused on developing teachers’ skills at noticing. This means learning to attend to student thinking and analyzing the impact that one’s teaching has on student learning. “Currently, much of secondary math teaching follows a traditional transmission model. The teacher introduces a topic and shows how to solve problems. Then, the class solves one or two problems together, after which students solve additional problems independently. This process tells teachers very little about student thinking – where they get confused and why or different strategies students can generate to solve a problem based on what they already know. If I could change one thing about math teaching, it would be to help secondary mathematics teachers slow down their instruction and let student thinking become more visible in the classroom.”

Beth used video for two purposes: to see how they can make student thinking visible and to learn how to analyze teaching. “Future teachers have had little, if any, experience in a mathematics classroom where students share ideas that become the focus of discussion. Video provides images of teaching of this sort.” These same videos became tools for analysis. With carefully structured prompts, Beth helped prospective teachers notice student learning in the videos and analyze how the teaching influenced learning.

With the help of the KSTF Research Fellowship, Beth studied how future mathematics teachers learn to notice through video analysis of teaching. She also studied how to design a course for pre-service teachers to develop this critical skill for teaching.