I am a professor of science education with joint appointments in the Department of Learning, Teaching & Curriculum and the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri. I serve as Director of the MU Science Education Center. My research has focused largely on socio-scientific issues (SSI), socially relevant issues with conceptual, procedural and/or theoretical links to science. My research addresses educationally-relevant issues associated with SSI and can be grouped in four interconnected threads. The first thread, which serves as an empirical basis for the other threads, explores how students negotiate and resolve complex SSI. The second research thread focuses on teachers, their perspectives on using SSI, and professional development to support implementation of SSI-based instruction. The third research thread addresses how SSI can be optimally incorporated in science classrooms for promoting desired learning outcomes. As a part of this work, my research group has explored a variety of classroom environments and curricula aimed at contextualizing science learning experiences. The fourth research thread focuses on assessment of scientific literacy. My research team has introduced “socio-scientific reasoning” as a new construct for conceptualizing the measurement of learner practices associated with SSI.
My teaching and mentorship goals and activities are shaped by theories of learning in general and of teaching and learning in science more specifically. My theoretical orientation aligns with social constructivist and situated views of learning. From this perspective, individuals learn by constructing and situating new ideas into existing frameworks, and these processes are intimately related to the social and material contexts in which they transpire. Therefore, robust contexts which provide multiple opportunities for individuals to engage in meaningful experiences with ideas and resources as well as peers and mentors provide ideal settings for learning. My teaching experiences include middle and high school biology, science teacher education, and doctoral education.