Transforming science education through research-driven innovation

Brian Donovan


Senior Research Scientist

Brian M. Donovan is a senior research scientist at BSCS Science Learning. He holds a BA in biology from Colorado College, an MA in teaching from the University of San Francisco, and a MS in biology and PhD in science education from Stanford University. His research explores how genetics education interacts with social-cognitive biases to influence how students make sense of complex biological and social phenomena. By translating this research into frameworks that inform science instruction, curriculum development, and teacher education, Brian hopes to create a generation of researchers, teachers, and curriculum writers who know how to teach about human difference in a more socially responsible manner. Brian’s scholarship in this area has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, including Science Education, The Journal of Research in Science Teaching, PLOS Biology, and Studies in the History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Currently, he is the principal investigator of a NSF-funded project (EHR Core Award #1660985, $1.29 million) that uses experimental, quasi-experimental, and qualitative research methods to identify the cognitive, social, and educational factors that link the learning of human genetics to reductions in racial bias. Before earning his PhD, Brian taught in the Stanford Teacher Education Program. He began his career in education as an elementary and middle school science teacher, working for seven years in San Francisco schools.


Selected Publications

*Donovan, B. M., Salazar, B., & Weindling, M. (2021). How can we make genetics education more humane? In: Haskel-Ittah, M., Yarden, A. (eds), Genetics Education. Contributions from Biology Education Research. Springer.

*Donovan, B. M., Weindling, M., & Lee, D. M. (2020). From Basic to Humane Genomics Literacy: How Different Types of Genetics Curricula Could Influence Anti-Essentialist Understandings of Race. Science & Education, 29(6), 1479-1511.

*Donovan, B. M., Weindling, M., Salazar, B., Duncan, A., Stuhlsatz, M., & Keck, P. (2021). Genomics Literacy Matters: Supporting the development of genomics literacy through genetics education could reduce cognitive forms of racial prejudice. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 58(4), 520-550.

*Zummo, L., Donovan, B., & Busch, K. C. (2020). Complex influences of mechanistic knowledge, worldview, and quantitative reasoning on climate change discourse: Evidence for ideologically motivated reasoning among youth. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 58(1), 95-127.

*Stuhlsatz, M. A. M., Buck Bracey, Z. E., & Donovan, B. M. (2020). Investigating Conflation of Sex and Gender Language in Student Writing About Genetics. Science & Education, 29(6), 1567-1594.

*Donovan, B. M., et al. (2019). Toward a More Humane Genetics Education: Learning about the social and quantitative complexities of human genetic variation research could reduce racial bias in adolescent and adult populations. Science Education, 103(3), 529-560.

Donovan, B. M., Stuhlsatz, M., Edelson, D. C., & Buck Bracey, Z. E. (2019). Gendered genetics: How reading about the genetic basis of sex differences in biology textbooks could affect beliefs associated with science gender disparities. Science Education, 103(4), 719-749.

Brown, B. A., Donovan, B., & Wild, A. (2019). Language and cognitive interference: How using complex scientific language limits cognitive performance. Science Education, 103(4), 750-769.

Donovan, B. M. (2018). Looking backwards to move biology education toward its humanitarian potential: A review of Darwinism, Democracy, and Race. Science Education, 102(6), 1399-1404.

Patterson, A., Roman, D., Friend, M., Osborne, J., & Donovan, B. (2018). Reading for Meaning: The Foundational Knowledge Every Teacher of Science Should Have. International Journal of Science Education, 40(3), 291-307.

Donovan, B. M. (2017). Learned inequality: Racial labels in the biology curriculum can affect the development of racial prejudice. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54(3), 379-411.

Smith, E. N., Romero, C., Donovan, B., Herter, R., Paunesku, D., Cohen, G. L., Dweck, C. S., & Gross, J. J. (2018). Emotion Theories and Adolescent Well-Being: Results of an Online Intervention. Emotion, 18(6), 781-788.

Donovan, B. M. (2016). Framing the genetics curriculum to support social justice: An experimental exploration of how the biology curriculum influences students’ beliefs about the racial achievement gap. Science Education, 100(3), 586-616.

Osborne, J., Donovan, B. M., Henderson, J. B., MacPherson, A. C., & Wild, A. (2016). Arguing from Evidence in Middle School Science: 24 Activities for Productive Talk and Deeper Learning. Thousand Oaks: CA: Corwin Press.

Donovan, B. M. (2015a). Putting humanity back into the teaching of human biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 52, 65-75.

Donovan, B. M. (2015b). Reclaiming race as a topic of the United States biology curriculum. Science Education, 99(6) 1092-1117.

Brown, B. A., Henderson, J. B., Gray, S., Donovan, B. M., et al. (2015). From description to explanation: An empirical exploration of the African-American pipeline problem in STEM. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 53(1).

Donovan, B. M. (2014). Playing with fire? The impact of the hidden curriculum in school genetics on essentialist conceptions of race. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(4), 462–496.

Donovan, B. M., Moreno Mateos, D., Osborne, J. F., & Bisaccio, D. J. (2014). Revising the Economic Imperative for US STEM Education. PLoS Biology, 12(1), e1001760.

Brown, B. A., Henderson, J. B., Gray, S., Donovan, B., & Sullivan, S. (2013). From Access to Success: Identity Contingencies & African-American Pathways to Science. Higher Education Studies, 3(1).

*principal investigator, λtop downloaded paper 2018-2019 in Science Education