Transforming science education through research-driven innovation

Ashley Whitaker

Dennis Lee is a Research Scientist and joined the BSCS Science Learning team in 2020. He is interested in how biology students know what they know and why they believe it. He is also interested in how students use this scientific knowledge to reason about race, sex, and gender in society. He is currently engaged in research to study how genetics education affects how students use biological concepts to reason about complex social phenomena. By sharing this research, Dennis hopes to transform education for a new generation of students so that they can contribute to shaping a more just and equitable society. Dennis holds a B.A.s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Zoology and Bacteriology, a M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Bacteriology, and a Ph. D. from Clemson University in Engineering and Science Education.

In his free time, he likes to unwind by playing a round of disc golf, playing violin with his family, and pushing wargame miniatures around a table while rolling dice and making pew-pew noises.

Humane Genetics/HGL2 Summary

Racial inequities continue to be a persistent problem in the United States. Genetics knowledge has historically been used to justify policies that contribute to racial inequity. Additionally, research has shown that genetics education can affect how students think about race. For example, some forms of genetics education can lead students to believe that 1) people of the same race are genetically uniform, 2) people from different races are categorically different, and 3) genes are the most powerful and important cause for complex human traits. Individuals with these beliefs often argue incorrectly that it is futile to address racial inequality because inequality is in our genes and is therefore natural and unchangeable.

The Humane Genetics project aims to refute these beliefs by teaching students about human genetic diversity and complex multifactorial causes (i.e., interactions between genetic and environmental factors) for human traits. Our research is beginning to show that teaching students about these complex genetics concepts reduces, on average, racial bias among students, as well as increases genetics knowledge among students relative to traditional genetics instruction. You can read more about what we have found here.

Currently, we are working on improving the Humane Genetics Curriculum by testing if the addition of a reasoning with evidence framework improves student learning. While teaching students how to reason with evidence could help them to refute racially biased arguments, it could also strengthen some students’ ability to argue for these same biased ideas. Therefore, we are interested in determining if our revised curriculum results in greater reductions in racial bias among students, or if racial bias increases after exposure to the newly developed Humane Genetics intervention.

Dr. Sherry Hsi is a principal scientist at BSCS Science Learning. For over 20 years, she has brought her R&D leadership to the creative design and study of K-12 learners with an emphasis on equity, technology, and hands-on making in science and engineering. She has developed award winning mobile apps, hands-on exhibits, craft-based STEM kits, online courses, and technology-enhanced curricula in close design partnership with K-12 teachers, science centers, afterschool programs, and museums. Her design-based research explores how learning environments, facilitation, and materials can be purposefully designed to support science engagement, interest, and deeper learning for a diversity of learners across settings.

Hsi serves on the editorial board for the International Journal of Science Education, and reviews for the Journal of the Learning Sciences. Sherry received her PhD in Science Education (SESAME) from the University of California at Berkeley, her MS in Mechanical Engineering, and BS in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley.

She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoys papercrafting, Old Time fiddling, chamber music, and baking in her free time.

Cari Herrmann Abell joined BSCS as a research scientist in December 2018. Before joining BSCS, she was a senior research associate at AAAS Project 2061. Her work focuses on the research and development of curriculum and assessment resources aligned to K-12 science learning goals. Cari has served as the principal investigator on two measurement grants funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences that focused on developing instruments to assess students’ progress on the energy concept (ASPECt). She also contributed to the development of two curriculum units now available through NSTA press, Toward High School Biology and Matter and Energy for Growth and Activity.

Cari received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her B.S. in chemistry and mathematics from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. She currently lives in the DC metro area and spends her spare time teaching fitness classes and leading her daughters’ Girl Scout troops. Publication Section (none)

Dr. Susan Gomez Zwiep joined BSCS in 2020 as a Senior Science Educator. She began her career in science education as a middle school science teacher in Los Angeles, where she spent over 12 years working with English learners in urban schools. From 2005-2020, Susan served as faculty in the Science Education Department at California State University, Long Beach where she taught courses in the undergraduate STEM pathway, teacher preparation and the graduate program in Science Education. Susan was also a Regional Director for the K-12 [email protected], where she contributed to high-quality professional development programs that supported K12 educators in the areas of science and mathematics, including the CA NGSS Early Implementer Initiative.

Dr. Gomez Zwiep consistently works toward establishing equitable access for all students to rigorous, inquiry-based science instruction and supporting teachers in their journey to become advocates for students, science education, and their own professional development. Her research has focused on effective models for professional development programs for both K-12 teachers and university faculty, the integrated content designs and teaching models that meet the needs of diverse learners.

She has been published in both research and practitioner journals such as Science and Children, Science Scope, the Journal of Science Teacher Education and the International Journal of Mathematics and Science Education. In 2011, Susan shared the Innovations in Teaching Science Teachers award from the Association of Science Teacher Education for her joint conference presentation “What about those left behind? A template for developing quality science lessons for English language learners”.

Susan holds a B.A. in Integrated Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, an MA in Education from Whittier College, and a PhD in Science Education from the University of Southern California.

When Susan is not working, she enjoys walking her two dogs, spending time with her husband and three daughters, and enjoying the pairing of an excellent meal with a fine wine.

Molly Stuhlsatz is a Senior Research Scientist, Associate Director for People and Culture, and Chair, Advocates Council at BSCS Science Learning. She has dedicated over 15 years to leading research and evaluation projects at the organization. As the co-chair of the Equity and Social Justice working group, she is also deeply invested in BSCS’s work toward a more equitable, inclusive, and just future for all science teachers and learners.

Currently, Molly serves as PI on an NSF study assessing the efficacy of Data Nuggets, innovative student activities that integrate quantitative reasoning skills in secondary science classrooms. This partnership with the Beacon Center for the Study of Evolution in Action at Michigan State University extends a successful NSF GK-12 project to a new phase of research and dissemination. She also serves as co-PI on two NSF studies that uses lexical analysis and machine learning models to score teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and student argumentation assessments. These projects include collaborations with Michigan State and Stanford University. This work has the potential to provide an alternative to time- and resource-consuming hand-scoring of open-ended assessment items. Molly is also the co-PI on a study of the Model Based Biology (MBER) curriculum materials, a collaboration between BSCS and UC Davis.

Molly holds a BA in Sociology and an MA in Sociology from the University of Colorado. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her daughters Adeline and Eleanor, gardening, knitting, and riding vintage Vespa and Lambretta motor scooters.