Ashley Jackson

MA in Educational Studies: Teaching and Learning

Ashley  Jackson, School of Education

Student status: Alum, graduated 2016

Geographic region of origin: Georgia (Southeast)

Education prior to Ed Studies MA: Wesleyan College in Macon, GA - B.A. in Physics and Applied Mathematics

Prior to joining the program: 

I worked as a substitute teacher, first at a science and math magnet school (my alma mater), and then finally as an in-house sub at a small Jewish high school in Atlanta, GA. I also worked as a math and science tutor with Sylvan Learning Center, primarily assisting elementary and middle school students who needed extra support in math.

Why the Teaching & Learning program? 

While I was subbing, my mind was always thinking about the students and what learning was like for them. As a physics major and someone who wanted to eventually teach physics, I noticed how students were not excited about the subject I was excited about. I needed to know more about why they were not excited, but I didn’t have the tools to answer that question; I just knew the physics.

I came to the University of Michigan with my husband, who is a candidate in applied physics here at the University. I wanted to be here because I needed to know how to become a better teacher, how to connect with students (not just through my subject but also on a personal level), and what it was like for them learning the subject from their perspective.

Initially, I planned to go back to working in schools when I finished my degree, but I became really interested in educational research as a result of my time here.


My advisor, Leah Bricker, was an integral part of me getting my internship. I worked under the guidance of Dr. Jo Ellen Roseman at The American Association for the Advancement of Science on Project 2061.

The experience was amazing and really gave me a sense of what research in education looks like. At the time, Project 2061 was focused on analyzing the student learning outcomes of a curriculum they developed, the intention of which was to help middle school students prepare for high school biology. I miss that time because I really enjoyed going to work every day, and Washington, D.C. was beautiful (and expensive!).

Individualized course of study: 

Courses I chose included:

• EDUC 525 Language and Learning in Home and School Settings. 
• EDUC 604 Curriculum Development and Evaluation 
• EDUC 606 Developmental and Psychological Perspectives on Education 
• EDUC 764/POLSCI 734/PUBPOL 732 Public Policy in Postsecondary Education
• EDUC 830 Historical and Philosophical Roots of Science Education
• EDUC 831 Theory and Research on Learning and Instruction in Science 
• EECS 520 Solid State Physics 
• PUB POL 650 Introduction to Science and Technology Policy Analysis

I loved having the opportunity to take doctoral seminar classes. This opportunity is not offered to master’s students everywhere, so I jumped on the opportunity. Having taken 830 and 831 played a big role in my decision to pursue a doctoral degree. 

Highlights of the Michigan experience:

In my last semester, I decided to take a course in the Ford School of Public Policy with Dr. Joy Rohde. It was incredible. I loved that the school encouraged me to take classes outside of education because it pushed me to make new connections across campus; I also learned a lot! The class reframed how I felt about my work as a scientist, and also renewed my love for science education. Cognates, or classes that are not related to your degree, are really useful in finding ways to situate your work in different places. If you get the chance, read Frontiers of Illusion by Daniel Sarewitz. You won’t be disappointed!

Diversity, equity and inclusion:

I am really glad that the University of Michigan has made a specific initiative with diversity, equity and inclusion. The School of Education now has Diversity, Inclusion, Justice, and Equity (DIJE), which I love even more. As a physicist by training, I wasn’t really thinking about any of this outside of myself. As a black woman in physics, I of course knew what I went through, but that was not intertwined with my work on a tangible level. However, being in education has allowed me to think more about the question “why are there so few black women in STEM.” My work focuses heavily on women of color who do not receive the invitation to participate in scientific practices (for now). I am hoping to focus my dissertation on black girlhood and science by looking at ways in which their realities are shaped by outside forces and how that stifles, or even helps, their projection. 

Life after U-M:

Currently, I am in my first semester of my Ph.D program in science education. Being here for my M.A. really gave me a boost in having a sense of community—I really feel at home here—which helps when the program gets tough. I will also say that my time here in my master’s prepared me for the rigor of staying on top of my work. I also learned to question everything, and I’m glad I am still in a space where there is freedom to pushback. I definitely feel that the value of the program is in the critical thinking skills you develop as you move along. I had these skills before, but the flexibility my brain has is different now.

Ashley invites prospective students to contact her with any questions about the program and student life, diversity in education, being a part-time student, or completing a master's degree en route to doctoral study.

Jackson’s program of study: