Science Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies

Elizabeth (Betsy) Davis

Graduate and undergraduate students alike benefit from Davis's expertise in science education and teacher education. She helps teachers-to-be engage in inquiry-oriented science teaching and she works with graduate students interested in teacher education. Among other courses, Davis teaches a graduate course on the development of expertise in science teaching.

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How can we improve science-learning opportunities for all students both in and out of schools? How do we design science learning environments and curriculum materials that support students from a variety of backgrounds and with diverse interests? How can new educational technologies help teachers and students improve learning in science? What should teachers and youths know about the role of language and other representations in science learning? What kinds of science learning opportunities do youths have access to across all contexts of their lives, in and out of school settings? How can we design teacher education opportunities to help teachers learn to engage in ambitious science teaching? Faculty and students in the Science Education concentration work side by side with practitioners to explore solutions to questions like these.

In Science Education, faculty and students are:

The concentration in Science Education provides a broad perspective from which students and faculty can examine these issues. When you join this program, you will join a program that explores new ideas to promote student learning and improve the teaching and learning of science. If you learn through engagement with challenging ideas and real-world experiences and want to impact the teaching and learning of science in and out of schools, then the Science Education concentration may be of interest to you.

This concentration is housed within the Educational Studies program, which fosters cross-talk among students and faculty in a number of specializations sharing a commitment to the integration of theory and research on teaching, learning, educational access, opportunity, and justice in P-12 and out of school settings. Specializing in science education requires in-depth understanding across several fields, such as education, one or more science disciplines, the learning sciences, educational psychology, science studies (including sociology, history, philosophy anthropology, rhetoric of science), and curriculum design. The Science Education concentration has close ties to the Learning Technologies, Mathematics Education, and Teaching and Teacher Education areas within the Educational Studies program.

As a student you will develop and refine your own research questions and your research agenda in concert with others dedicated to your same goals. You will study important topics in science education and immerse yourself in real-world research alongside nationally recognized specialists in their field who will guide and support your work.

Teaching and research assistantships are available for qualified applicants. Teaching assistantships involve working with science methods and practicum classes and/or the field instruction of student teachers. Research assistantships involve work on a variety of externally funded projects.

After completion of your doctorate in Science Education you will be prepared for research and leadership positions in academia, non-profit organizations and research institutes, museums and other informal science learning settings, curriculum development organizations, or organizations related to K-12 schooling (such as state departments of education, school district offices).


Exciting projects are underway in Science Education. For example, Betsy Davis leads, with literacy professor Annemarie Palincsar, a project funded by the Spencer Foundation focused on elementary teaching interns (preservice teachers) in the University of Michigan undergraduate elementary teacher education program. The longitudinal project explores how interns develop a set of high-leverage science teaching practices (such as supporting children to construct scientific explanations, or eliciting students' thinking about science) and how they develop content knowledge for science teaching (including understanding the science content and practices and strategies for teaching it to children). The project looks at how those trajectories of development are connected to elements of the teacher education program (such as the course experiences and field-based assignments) and to characteristics of the schools in which interns and teachers work. The project applies sociocultural and sociocognitive conceptual frameworks to data collection and analysis, toward the goal of exploring unique contributions of different frameworks to understanding teacher development.

Leah Bricker is working on projects situated in both formal and informal settings. For example, she is working on a project in collaboration with colleagues in a local school district to design and implement science writing tasks that can be embedded into science curricula, and plans to study student learning related to writing in the sciences (for different audiences and purposes). She is also working with colleagues in an informal science learning setting to study how exhibit signage conveys important scientific ideas and practices to visitors, and how youth interpreters use the signage to help them communicate with and educate visitors.

Bricker also leads the STEM Studio, a design studio where graduate students from across the University of Michigan campus come together and workshop their science education-related design projects (such as museum exhibits, curricula). Members of the STEM Studio are currently conducting research to explore how different disciplines (for example, art, architecture) facilitate studio-based learning and teaching, and results from this project will be used to further develop the STEM Studio.

Other projects include the research and development of curriculum materials for elementary and secondary teacher education courses in science education and provision of associated professional development for new science teacher educators. Science Education faculty and students also are developing educative elementary science curriculum materials, and researching student and teacher learning. Students in the Science Education area head up their own research projects, as well. For example, a current doctoral student is exploring how elementary teaching interns learn to engage in rich science discussions, and another is exploring how environmental education organizations work to infuse issues of inclusivity, equity, and diversity into their organizations in meaningful ways.

In keeping with the School of Education's emphasis on practice and on the imperatives of diversity, equity, and inclusion, research opportunities abound in the Science Education unit to explore important issues aligned with your goals and to contribute to larger conversations in society related to education.  

Plan of Study

Course planning sheets outline the School of Education course requirements. 

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