Susan Kowalski

Professional Title
Science Educator
About Me (Bio)
I joined BSCS as a Science Educator and researcher in May 2007. I am currently the PI for an NSF-funded research and development project, designing and studying an online professional development course for teachers. In collaboration with Oregon Public Broadcasting, the National Renewable Energy Lab, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, the National Teachers Enhancement Network of Montana State University, and RMC Research Corporation, we are developing an online course to enhance teachers’ content knowledge and practice associated with fundamental energy concepts. I am also a lead researcher on an NSF-funded project to establish power analysis parameters for science education research proposals.

I taught high school science for 10 years in Bloomington, MN. While in Bloomington, I taught a sheltered physical science course for English Language Learners, general and AP physics, and all levels of physical science. I was also an active member of her teachers’ union, serving on the contract negotiations team for six years. I have presented papers at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) conferences, and at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conferences. My primary research interests relate to designing and studying science curriculum resources for both teachers and students.

I received a B.A. in Physics from Colorado College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in the department of Curriculum and Instruction, Science Education at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. My dissertation examined the intersection of race and gender in high school physics group work conversations.
Citations of DRK-12 or Related Work (DRK-12 work is denoted by *)
  • Kowalski, S. M., Taylor, J. A., Askinas, K., Wang, Q., Zhang, Q. Maddix, W. P., & Tipton, E. (2020). Examining Factors Contributing to Variation in Effect Size Estimates of Teacher Outcomes from Studies of Science Teacher Professional Development. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.
  • BSCS Science Learning (2019). A Medical Mystery. Available at
University of Missouri

To act on energy issues, students need a strong understanding of energy flow and energy efficiency. However, students rarely have opportunities to learn about how buildings, such as their own school, drive about 40% of energy use and global carbon emissions. Addressing this gap in science education, this project will design, pilot, and evaluate a 6-week middle school curriculum called Build it Green! (BIG!). Blending classroom experiences and interactive digital learning tools, the researchers will work with rural middle schools in Missouri to implement and test how following the story of energy flow in and out of a hypothetical school building enhances students’ understanding of energy systems in the science of green buildings.

National Teachers Enhancement Network (NTEN), BSCS, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB)

This project will iteratively design, develop, field test, refine, and rigorously study a six-unit, facilitated, online professional development (PD) course focusing on energy-related concepts in the context of alternative energy. The primary audience is high school science teachers teaching out of their field of endorsement and serving students underrepresented in the sciences. The project will investigate whether the PD will precipitate changes in teacher knowledge and practice that result in higher student achievement.

American Institutes for Research (AIR)

This research synthesis study reviews the effects of professional learning interventions and will advance STEM educators' understanding of the critically important relationships among teacher professional learning (PL), teacher knowledge and practice, and average student effects. Understanding these relationships will allow the field to design better PL experiences for teachers that truly benefit student learning.

Botanical Society of America (BSA)

This project will design, develop, and test a new professional development (PD) model for high school biology teachers that focuses on plant biology, an area of biology that teachers feel less prepared to teach. The new PD model will bring teachers and scientists together, in-person and online, to guide students in conducting authentic science investigations and to reflect on instructional practices and student learning.


The purpose of this project is to gather, analyze, and synthesize mathematics and science education research studies published from 1988 to the present that have investigated different approaches to supporting students in grades 6-14 in learning to analyze, interpret, and reason about data.


This project will develop an online curriculum-based supported by a teacher professional development (PD) program by rebuilding an existing life science unit of Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) Middle School Science. The project is designed to be an exemplar of fully digital Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned resources for teachers and students, creating an NGSS-aligned learning environment combining disciplinary core ideas with science and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts.


This project will adapt an effective in-person teacher professional development model to an online approach. A defining feature of the Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis (STeLLA) Professional Development program is its use of videos of classroom instruction and examples of student work to promote teacher learning. Adapting the STeLLA program to an online learning model can reach a broader and more diverse audience, such as teachers working in rural school districts and underserved communities.