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BBL: Erin Peters-Burton, George Mason University

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This week, our speaker is Erin Peters-Burton. Dr. Peters-Burton’s research agenda is based in social justice and she pursues projects that help students who feel excluded in science classes become more aware of the scientific enterprise and how scientific knowledge is generated. She will give a talk about Building Student Self-Awareness of Learning to Enhance Diversity in the Sciences” in this week’s BBL.


Time: 2/15 (Thursday) from 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Place: HCIL, Room 2105, Hornbake building – south wing
Lunch: Free pizza


Many students are being left out of pursuing further studies in science because the current system of science education values students who learn via completion in an isolated, rather than collaborative way (Tobias, 1990). The stereotype of students who excel in science tend to be the ones who can conform to the institutional structure where the teacher is the sole source of knowledge (Friere, 2000). Through the idea of “Education as the Practice of Freedom” (hooks, 1994), the presentation will explain investigations that explore tangible ways to break down that stereotype. This research begins with the assumption that if teachers taught the ways science operates as a discipline, then students gain more power to construct their own scientific knowledge because they understand the “rules” of knowledge validation (Duschl, 1990). Learning how scientific knowledge is constructed and being self-aware of one’s own learning in science can help level the playing field so that students can do inquiry well (NRC, 1996; AAAS, 1993) and the science classroom will be a more inclusive, positive environment rather than relying on isolated competition for teaching. In this presentation, I will present an overview of research I have done over the past 10 years that focuses on helping students to become self-aware of their learning in science and how scientific knowledge is constructed. The work involves 8th grade students, undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals. The studies include constructs such as self-efficacy, motivation, metacognition, self-regulated learning, and visualization. Findings of the studies are synthesized into self-awareness priorities and how those constructs will ultimately impact social justice by providing more opportunities to see alternative perspectives and learn the “rules” of knowledge validation in science. As a result, students develop a sense of agency and an identity where anything is possible because they can learn independently in any situation.


Erin E. Peters-Burton is the Donna R. and David E. Sterling Endowed Professor in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. She has a B.S. in Physics from the University of Illinois, a M.Ed. in Educational Psychology and Social Foundations of Education from the University of Virginia, and a Ph.D. from George Mason University (VA) in Educational Psychology and Educational Research Methods. She has taught middle school and high school science and mathematics for 15 years prior to her academic work and was a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence Science. She has published in science education, teacher education, educational psychology, marine biology, geology education, history and philosophy of science, technology, educational leadership, and learning disability journals. Her book, Thinking Like Scientists: Using Metacognitive Prompts to Develop Nature of Science Knowledge, and her edited book, The STEM Road Map: A Framework for Integrated STEM Education have led to the curriculum series books from the National Science Teacher Association entitled, STEM Road Map for Elementary School, STEM Road Map for Middle School, and STEM Road Map for High School. In 2016 she was awarded the Association of Science Teacher Educators Outstanding Science Teacher of the Year in recognition of her work with the professional development of secondary science teachers.