Creating an Inclusive Active Learning Culture in Science Education

Presenters: Samantha Daley, Sybil Kelley, Dilafruz Williams

Engaging learners with a variety of background knowledge, academic skills, and social dynamics presents complexities for effective science instruction and NGSS implementation. Daley will share strategies for universally designing active, collaborative learning environments, providing feedback, structuring scaffolding, and supporting peer-to-peer interactions. Williams and Kelley will share curricular and instructional approaches that use learning gardens aligned with NGSS to facilitate motivational engagement among racial and ethnic minority students in low-income schools.


Samantha Daley, Director of Research, CAST
As director of research at CAST, Samantha Daley oversees all research activities, supporting her colleagues, providing guidance in the areas of research methodology and data analysis, and working with many external partners. In her own research, Daley investigates the relationship between emotions and cognitive performance of students, particularly those with learning disabilities. She focuses on the role of emotions in learning activities and how to design instruction to reflect the relationship between emotion and cognition in learning. Recently, her work has focused primarily on reading motivation among struggling readers and on the effects and reduction of stigma and stereotype threat in learning environments. In addition to this work, she has contributed to projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Educational Sciences and the NSF to incorporate universal design for learning (UDL) in middle and high school science curricula and has led efforts in supporting implementation of the principles of UDL in lesson development and school-wide change. Daley teaches a course on UDL at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before joining CAST, she was a clinical fellow in the Learning Disabilities Program at Children's Hospital, Boston; an instructor in the Language & Literacy Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and a learning disabilities specialist working with high school and college students. She received her BS in Journalism and Political Science from Northwestern University, her MA in Education/Teaching of Individuals with Specific Learning Disabilities from Teachers College of Columbia University, and her MED in Mind, Brain, and Education and EdD in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Sybil Kelley, Assistant Professor, Portland State University
Sybil Kelley is an assistant professor of science education and sustainable systems at Portland State University in the Leadership for Sustainability Education program, and she teaches the Elementary Science Methods courses in the Graduate Teacher Education Program. Her programming and research focuses on connecting K–12 students and educators in underserved schools and neighborhoods to authentic, project-based learning experiences that contribute to real-world problem solving. Taking a collaborative approach, Kelley supports teachers and community-based educators in aligning learning experiences across formal and informal contexts. Her research focuses on investigating the impacts of these experiences on student engagement, thinking, and learning; teacher self-efficacy; pedagogical content knowledge; and instructional practices. She is coPI for the DRK–12 project, Science in the Learning Gardens: Factors That Support Racial and Ethnic Minority Students’ Success in Low-Income Middle Schools, which emphasizes the use of school learning gardens as milieu for teaching and learning science. In this role, Kelley has been designing curriculum materials aligned to the NGSS that complement the school district’s adopted middle school curriculum (SEPUP). This work has included developing and organizing garden-based curricula into thematic instructional units, particularly emphasizing engineering design. Additionally, she has led professional development activities for classroom teachers and garden-based educators implementing the curriculum. Prior to her work in education, Kelley worked as an environmental scientist and aquatic toxicologist. She earned her MST from the Center for Science Education and her PhD in Environmental Sciences and Management at Portland State University, with a research focus on teaching and learning science.

Dilafruz Williams, Professor, Portland State University
Dilafruz Williams is professor of educational leadership and policy at Portland State University, where she founded the Leadership for Sustainability Education master’s program. She is also co-founder of Sunnyside Environmental School in the Portland Public School District. She was elected city-wide to the Portland School Board, 2003–11. She taught biology and mathematics in grades 6–12. Her recent research and professional interests relate to the use of school gardens for academic learning. She has also written extensively on environmental/place-based education and service learning. She serves as PI on the NSF DRK-12 project, Science in the Learning Gardens: Factors that Support Racial and Ethnic Minority Students' Success in Low-Income Middle Schools. This three-year project aligns the curriculum with the NGSS and uses school gardens as milieu for teaching science at the middle level to facilitate students’ motivational engagement. Her latest co-authored book is Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education: Bringing Life to Schools and Schools to Life (Routledge, 2012). Williams has degrees in public administration, botany, and philosophy of education from Harvard, Syracuse, and Bombay Universities.