Skip to main content

Heidi Carlone

Katherine Johnson Chair in Science Education, Department of Teaching and Learning

Research Areas

K-12 science, engineering, and environmental education; learning in/out of school; anthropological studies of K-12 STEM learning settings; teacher professional learning; co-creating teacher networks and youths’ STEM ecosystems

Short Biography

Professor Heidi Carlone joined the Peabody College’s Department of Teaching and Learning as Katherine Johnson Chair of Science Education in Fall 2021. Her work disrupts narrow meanings of science, engineering, and STEM competence so that more youth and teachers come to see themselves and get recognized by others as science and engineering knowers, doers, and critics.  She sheds light on questions about power, the dynamics of inequity, and the significance of teachers’ and learners’ improvisation, creativity, and resilience amidst constraining structures of race, gender, and class. Three threads of her work, applied to K-12 science, engineering, and environmental education, include:

1) cultural studies of learning settings;
2) designing for and studying youths’ identity work in school and out-of-school settings; and
3) the co-creation of teacher professional learning networks to support innovative and equitable STEM education, collective teacher empowerment, and teacher retention.

Recent Projects

The BRIDGES Project: Broadening Identities in STEM (Data Analysis Ongoing)

BRIDGES (Broadening identities for diverse groups engaging in science) engaged diverse middle school youth and teachers in out-of-school learning that integrated science, engineering, and computing to address environmental problems. Leveraging and bolstering youth’s enthusiasm to make a difference in the world, this problem-based, integrative approach was designed to recognize, explicitly name, and draw on youths’ emerging academic/STEM identities as resources to broaden what counts as doing science and engineering and “being” a science and engineering person in after-school, summer, and Saturday programs. The team is currently investigating the ways that shorter-term, situated identities have “stickiness” as youth navigated different STEM learning settings and the ways socioecological caring develops in practice. The project team developed a framework for integrating science, engineering, and curriculum that has proved helpful as a design tool for curriculum, a research tool to surface and study youths’ identity work, and a pedagogical tool to provide youth an opportunity to grapple with the fluid, non-linear, and evolving nature of their STEM identities.

Video Links for BRIDGES:

  1. 2019 BRIDGES Project (Broadening Identities for Diverse Groups Engaging with STEM) STEM for All Video Showcase (3-minutes)
  2. 2020 BRIDGES Project (Multi-faceted Youth, Multi-faceted STEM) STEM for All Video Showcase (3-minutes) 

The STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative

Carlone co-founded The STEM TLC in 2012 in Greensboro, NC, and it remains an active network as of Fall 2021. This is a network of 200+ elementary teachers, university faculty, graduate students, school and district administrators, and community members passionately dedicated to creating multi-faceted support for teachers’ science and engineering in elementary schools that serve high percentages of minoritized youth. Carlone aims to co-create a teacher network in Nashville with interested teachers, faculty, graduate students, and other stakeholders.

Video Links for STEM TLC:

  1. Engineering in Elementary Schools
  2. Engineering as an Empowering Tool for Teacher Leaders
  3. Engineering as an Empowering Tool for Children’s STEM Identities

The HERP Project

The HERP Project included short- and long-term identity studies of diverse high school students who engaged in out-of-school field science focused on the study of reptiles and amphibians. The team designed the curriculum to leverage youths’ natural curiosity and wonder, attraction to and/or wariness about the “scary” and “unknown,” and respect for the wide-ranging cultural narratives they had about wildlife, snakes, “tree-huggers,” and the outdoors. Example research studies that emerged from this project focused on youths’ identity-boundary work, how youths’ enactment of the curriculum disrupted neoliberal discourses of education, ways that Lumbee participants shifted the culture of the community of practice, and critiquing the lack of field sciences included in school science.

Longitudinal Studies of Students’ STEM Identity Work from 4th-7th Grades

Through an NSF CAREER grant, Carlone and her research group studied the relationship between school science and youths’ science-related identity work. The studies of classroom cultures revealed that equitable science classrooms include: 1) teachers and students co-creating norms and practices for scientific work, making those norms and practices believable and achievable for all learners, and holding one another accountable to perform themselves in ways that align with those norms and practice; 2) practices that leverage students’ social identities in service of their scientific understanding and engagement so that “being me,” “being a good community member” and “being scientific” are mutually reinforcing, overlapping performances; 3) practices that emphasize scientific knowledge as socially constructed with/by the group versus individually owned; 4) practices that disrupt sorting mechanisms and hierarchies and celebrate a wide range of competencies and repertoires of experience. Longitudinal studies of students’ identity work as they moved into middle school revealed: 1) increasing salience of race, class, and gender on students’ science identity work; 2) increasing emphasis on “doing school” versus “doing science”; and 3) the importance of out-of-school science experiences for sustaining youths’ science identity work when the quality of school science waned.

Videos Related to Identity Studies

  1. CAISE website’s special series on Identity
  2. STEM for ALL Multiplex: Expert Panel on Identity development and STEM Learning
  3. Who gets to be a smart science student? (Animated video created by Christy Morrison Thomas)