News Archive

News Archive

  • EdWeek Article Cites SMATE's Research Associate's Study

    Dustin Van Orman, a STEM Education Researcher at SMATE, has had his work featured in an article published on the Education Week website titled "What Teachers Should Know About Integrating Formative Tests With Instruction." This recognition brings his research to a broader audience.

    The article pulled from three projects:

    Van Orman, D. S. J., Gotch, C. M., & Carbonneau, K. J. (2024). Preparing teacher candidates to assess for learning: A systematic review. Review of Educational ResearchOnline-first


    Teachers’ approaches and mindsets for assessment affect student learning, motivation, and social-emotional well-being. This systematic review examines how initial teacher education programs prepare teachers to enact one core purpose of classroom assessment—assessment for learning (AfL). AfL (also known as formative assessment) is a planned process of instructionally embedded assessment wherein students and teachers collaborate within goal-driven activity, monitor and communicate around evidence of learning, and reflect on evidence of learning to strategize actions to improve. We examined how teacher candidates learned to enact AfL within 70 studies published between 1998 and May 2022. Results illuminate how teacher candidates can learn to enact AfL through a combination of explicit instruction, modeling of AfL, and cyclical opportunities to enact AfL; get feedback; and attune instruction/assessment during their teacher preparation. However, we also uncovered contexts, structures, and practical considerations within teacher education that limit teacher candidates’ learning and enactment of AfL.

    Van Orman, D. S. J., Riley-Lepo, E. E., & McMillan, J. H. (2024, April 11-14). Defining and Refining Principles of Equitable Classroom Assessment. In S. Pastore & C. Gareis, Reconsidering Teacher Assessment Literacy: Evolving Trends and Practices in Education [Symposium]. 2024 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Philadelphia, PA. [Read the Framework here]


    Implementing effective, equitable classroom assessment depends on a shared understanding of principles that provide an agreed upon basis for what is needed for teachers to enact practices that result in deeper student learning.  While several efforts have promoted lists of teacher competencies and assessment literacy (e.g., American Federation of Teachers et al., 1990; DeLuca et al., 2019; Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, 2003; Klinger et al., 2015; Pastore & Andrade, 2019), none, with the exception of Shepard et al. (2020) have integrated more recent research on deep learning and the need for equity.  Over the past year we engaged an international panel of classroom assessment scholars in Dephi studies, and K-12 teachers in cognitive interviews, to provide feedback on “A guiding framework for effective, equitable classroom assessment for teacher practice and student success.” The purpose was to identify areas of consensus and seek perspectives of scholars and teachers on the framework and further define effective and equitable classroom assessment. A key component of the framework was to reflect research on culturally responsive and sustaining teaching/assessment (e.g., Aronson & Laughter, 2016; Paris, 2012; Santamaria, 2009). This presentation featured areas where there was significant consensus on principles of classroom assessment (e.g., gathering evidence of student learning through multiple methods), as well as areas of significant variability (e.g., principles of equitable teaching). We also featured differences in scholars’ ratings from the first and second version of the guiding framework.

    Van Orman, D. S. J. (2022). Examining formative assessment in teacher education and preservice teacher formative assessment planning [Doctoral dissertation, Washington State University]. ProQuest.


    Teacher education is an essential time for preservice teachers to learn effective assessment practices, particularly formative assessment. If used effectively, formative assessment is a planned process wherein students and teachers reciprocally share and use information generated through instructional and assessment activities to improve and develop agency in their learning. The importance of preparing teachers for effective formative assessment practice is heightened by reports that teachers are underprepared to use it when entering the field and may be under supported in their professional development. In two studies, we examine how teacher education prepares teachers for formative assessment, and how preservice teachers would use assessment with their students.

    In the first study, using systematic research methodology, we reviewed 70 studies investigating teacher education for formative assessment. Within a theory of action for formative assessment, we categorized approaches, processes, and outcomes of efforts in teacher preparation to prepare teachers for formative assessment. Results from this synthesis provide insight into the features of successful approaches to building skills and mindsets for using formative assessment with students and signify a need for innovations and research on how to better prepare teachers for effective assessment practice.

    In a second study, a nationwide U.S. sample of elementary preservice teachers (N = 112) across program stages were situated in dilemmas of assessment practice within elementary classrooms as the teacher making planning decisions. We presented information about students and context around their English, science, and math units, then elicited assessment actions they would take with students in the next three lessons, the next lesson, and within a task using a series of prompts. Following analysis of responses, a nested sample of participants (n = 40) were invited to return for a 45-minute semi-structured interview to further probe assessment conceptions, intuitions, and rationales for assessment in their future classrooms. Combining these sources of evidence, we provide teacher educators, program stakeholders, and researchers with a nuanced description of how preservice teachers may approach assessment in their own classrooms. This information can be used to adjust how programs guide preservice teachers’ development as quality and equitable assessors. 



  • Check out this WWU News story about SMATE affiliated folk at the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) National Conference:

  • SMATE’s Whitney Morrison is a recipient of Western’s President's Exceptional Effort Award

    SMATE’s Whitney Morrison has been honored with Western’s President's Exceptional Effort Award. This award is given to a select few Professional or Classified employees across divisions who have shown outstanding dedication in furthering one or more of the university's strategic plan's core themes: Advancing Inclusive Success, Increasing Washington Impact, and/or Enhancing Academic Excellence.  

    Whitney Morrison has shown outstanding commitment to advancing WWU’s strategic plan by fostering inclusive communities, spaces, and learning experiences within SMATE (Science, Math, And Technology Education). Since May 2023, as SMATE’s Facilities, Collections, and Technology Manager, she has played a key role in building partnerships between SMATE’s faculty, staff, students, and K-12 educators. Whitney’s dedication extends beyond her official duties, as she has been pivotal in transforming SMATE’s spaces to promote a sense of belonging. She has gone above and beyond her regular responsibilities by helping SMATE become a welcoming and supportive community where student learning thrives.  

    With experience as a public-school teacher and WWU faculty member, Whitney brings valuable expertise to her role. Her commitment to ongoing learning enriches the SMATE community, making it both inclusive and collaborative. She has leveraged the expertise she has gained as an educator over the years and added many other skills and knowledge to her repertoire. Whitney's leadership has not only made SMATE a welcoming and inclusive space but also a vibrant community that fosters growth and collaboration. Thank you, Whitney, for your outstanding contributions! 

  • Toward greater Equity and Inclusion in General Chemistry Education

    In an effort to reduce barriers to success in a large enrollment general chemistry course, Dr. Norda Stephenson, Assistant Professor at Western Washington University, proposes to incorporate more active learning pedagogies into the general chemistry curriculum, with the support of learning assistants (LAs). This approach aims to enhance engagement and collaboration for all students, but especially marginalized students, by fostering a more inclusive learning environment.

    Stephenson's plan builds on strategies she implemented in her General Chemistry II course in Winter 2024, where she incorporated collaborative small-group work alongside traditional lectures. Initial feedback from students was positive, highlighting the value of peer interaction, support, and social network building. However, to effectively support a large class, Stephenson proposes the introduction of structured small-group activities and LAs into the General Chemistry II course in Fall 2024.

    The LAs, undergraduate students who have successfully completed the course, will assist in facilitating small group discussions, guiding problem-solving exercises, and keeping students engaged during class. They will also provide valuable feedback to the instructor regarding student progress and challenges, allowing for more targeted support.

    The project aims to achieve several outcomes:

    • Instructor: More timely feedback leading to greater responsiveness and adoption of equitable teaching practices.
    • Learning Assistants: Increased understanding of teaching and learning processes, development of communication skills, and improved content understanding.
    • Students: Increased engagement, a stronger social network, increased sense of belonging, and improved learning outcomes in chemistry.

    This project emphasizes social justice and diversity by promoting equity in science classrooms and fostering a culture of understanding and respect for diverse perspectives. While initially targeted at one chemistry classroom, if successful, this approach could be adopted more widely, potentially transforming the learning experiences and outcomes for all students, particularly marginalized students, in the general chemistry series. Stephenson has been awarded a Social Justice & Equity Committee (SJEC) to support this work in Fall 2024.


    For more information about the SOCIAL JUSTICE & EQUITY COMMITTEE (SJEC) at WWU, please visit:

  • BETTER in STEM Results Presented at NARST Conference

    SMATE researchers Dustin Van OrmanJosie Melton, and Abbey Gray (student) presented results from the BETTER in STEM project—a collaborative research project at WWU, Whatcom Community College, and the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley—at the 2024 National Association for Research in Science Teaching Conference in Denver, Colorado. The presentation included a detailed account of STEM instruction across 22 courses, including students’ perceptions of instruction, and faculty and students’ ratings of the extent to which they understood and used (faculty) or experienced (students) equitable and student-centered teaching. You can read the full conference paper here: Van Orman, Hanley, Melton, Gray, & Wilson, 2024; or see the presentation slides here. Learn more about the BETTER in STEM project at this site.

  • Congratulations Dr. Caroline Hardin for being awarded a National Science Foundation grant!

    Computer Science (CS) education is not just an enjoyable pursuit; it has become increasingly essential for individuals to fully engage in society, industry, and education. However, despite widespread acknowledgment of the significance of Computer Science education, a shortage of qualified CS teachers has resulted in limited access, particularly for underserved schools. This grant aims to address this issue through a collaborative effort involving seven universities across the Pacific Northwest. The primary goal is to establish and nurture an equitable and justice-focused ecosystem for secondary-level CS teaching. This initiative will encompass various activities, such as data collection, highlighting educational pathways, fostering community engagement, and providing support to current and future CS educators. Dr. Hardin, who holds dual appointments at Western Washington University (Science, Math and Technology Education and Computer Science), leads this project, alongside a Master's student from the Index in Bounds research lab, in collaboration with Amy Ko at the University of Washington.

  • Science Education for Equity in K-6

    Emily Borda, Shannon Warren and Tracy Coskie recently awarded nearly $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant: 

    Science Education for Equity in K-6

    The project aims to serve the national need of developing highly qualified science teacher leaders in elementary schools. The quality of elementary science instruction varies significantly between districts and schools. Yet, equitable science instruction, centered in students’ experiences and communities, must start at an early age for all students to see themselves as participants in science and to see science as relevant to their lives. This project will support 16 Master Teacher Fellows in four high-needs districts in Northwest Washington to lead change toward equitable, high quality science instruction in elementary schools, while working with teacher educators at Western Washington University to align curriculum and practices in teacher preparation courses. In addition, two environmental education-focused community organizations will work with the teacher leaders to integrate place-based education into their science curricula.

    This project at Western Washington University includes partnerships with high needs schools in four Northwest Washington districts:  Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Nooksack, and Sedro-Woolley, as well as with the Skagit Conservation Education Alliance, Whatcom Coalition for Environmental Education, and the Northwest Educational Service District. Project goals include: (1) Building a teacher leadership model that will enact a shared vision of equitable, effective science education in participating schools; (2) Developing sustainable partnerships between elementary schools, higher education, and community organizations based on reciprocal learning that builds coherence between K-6 science education and teacher preparation; and (3) Generating knowledge about essential elements and outcomes of equity-focused teacher leader development. We will use research-based processes and tools to enact a model of teacher leadership that uses networked improvement communities to enable rapid testing and evaluation of innovations targeting the schools’ vision for science education. Teachers and principals at high-needs schools will take leadership in creating the conditions to enact truly equitable, high-quality science education at the elementary level. This Track 3: Master Teaching Fellowships project is supported through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program (Noyce). The Noyce program supports talented STEM undergraduate majors and professionals to become effective K-12 STEM teachers and experienced, exemplary K-12 teachers to become STEM master teachers in high-need school districts. It also supports research on the effectiveness and retention of K-12 STEM teachers in high-need school districts.

  • NSF Awards "Using Learning Assistants to Make Physics Teaching More Effective, Equitable, and Engaging"


    SMATE's Tra Huynh is a contributor to the National Science Foundation grant: Using Learning Assistants to Make Physics Teaching More Effective, Equitable, and Engaging.   This project, aimed at enhancing teaching and learning in large introductory physics courses for the betterment of STEM education, is a collaborative effort involving investigators from Seattle Pacific University, the University of Washington Bothell, and Western Washington University. The project recognizes the significance of active, student-centered instruction in improving learning outcomes, especially in large class settings. Learning Assistants (LAs) play a pivotal role in making courses more engaging and student-centered, provided they are equipped to address diverse science ideas from students. To achieve this, the project focuses on three key objectives: investigating the teaching and learning approaches of LAs, developing and testing effective pedagogical materials, and promoting diversity among LAs. This transformative approach to LA training, known as "TRELLIS: Training to Elicit and Leverage Ideas about Science," seeks to create a trellis of knowledge, skills, and perspectives to support fruitful ideas in physics education. The project's outcomes are poised to have a nationwide impact on LA programs and potentially extend to other disciplines, aligning perfectly with the NSF's mission to enhance STEM education for all students. This award reflects the project's intellectual merit and broader impact in advancing STEM education.

  • Advancing Equitable Science Education: New Research Project Explores Culturally Responsive Curriculum Adaptation 

    The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.7 million to Western Washington University for a 3-year project that aims to advance equitable science education in the elementary years. CREST: Culturally Responsive Elementary Science Teaching is a collaboration between faculty in Science, Math, and Technology Education (SMATE) at Western Washington University, local school districts, tribal nations, and community partners. The project will provide high-quality practicum-based professional development for elementary teachers to prepare them to implement the Explore the Salish Sea (ESS) curriculum, a place- and project-based science curriculum grounded in both Western science and traditional ecological knowledge from Indigenous communities. Over three years, the project will work with a cohort of 30 elementary teachers, 30 preservice teachers, and approximately 1700 students. 

    Research conducted by the project team will examine how teachers leverage the ESS curriculum materials and customize instructional approaches to meet standards and the needs of diverse student populations. How teachers use and adapt curriculum materials has a significant impact on learning, and can have a considerable effect on curriculum-driven efforts to promote equity in education. Yet, most current studies provide only a snapshot of teachers' curriculum adaptation--often during their first-time implementing curriculum materials. Because research indicates teachers need at least two iterations with curriculum materials to use them purposefully and skillfully, a three-year study by the CREST project will contribute valuable knowledge about how teachers' capacity to make culturally responsive adaptations changes over time as they gain experience using curriculum materials.  

    For more information about the project, please visit or contact the Investigators: Dr. Debi Hanuscin at and Dr. Josie Melton at  


  • Welcome to the new Facilities, Collections and Technology Manager of SMATE, Whitney Morrison

    Whitney Morrison (right) is an educator that has dedicated the last 15 years to public schools and preparing preservice teachers for the workforce.  She is excited to support the students, staff and faculty of SMATE.  In her new role, Whitney hopes to develop the Learning Resource Center into a more inclusive space and draw in more k-12 partnerships!

    Need help thinking about science lessons, checking out curriculum and materials, or finding a children's book that is connected to science content? 

    Whitney is in the Learning Resource Center, ready to help!


    In January, a group of six Western Washington University students and two professors embarked on a seven-week study abroad trip to Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. The main objective of the trip was to deepen students' understanding of multilingual education practices. They returned to Bellingham in March with valuable lessons and cherished memories. The trip was organized through the Woodring College of Education's MLE 437 course, which included two weeks of online courses on multilingual education policies and practices. Professor Don Burgess, highlighted how living and working in the community helped the group understand the local experiences, language, and indigenous knowledge. During their free time, the group enjoyed camping, exploring the area, and immersing themselves in the socially-oriented Mexican culture. This experience taught them the importance of being personable, friendly, and caring in their future roles as bilingual specialists or teachers. The impact of the trip on both the students and faculty members reaffirmed the joy of learning and the significance of cultural relevance in education.

  • The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) stands as the largest and most influential professional organization dedicated to advancing science education on a global scale. With a mission to transform science education for the benefit of all, NSTA strives to promote excellence and innovation in teaching through various means. Through extensive professional learning opportunities, strategic partnerships, and effective advocacy efforts, NSTA empowers educators, researchers, and administrators to provide engaging and impactful science education experiences for students of all backgrounds. By fostering collaboration, sharing best practices, and staying at the forefront of emerging trends and advancements, NSTA continues to shape the future of science education and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and critical thinkers.

    Congratulations to SMATE's very own, Dr. Debi Hanuscin, for being a newly elected NSTA board member!

  • Dr. Stephenson is Awarded an SJEC Grant

    Dr. Norda Stephenson, assistant professor in chemistry and SMATE, has been awarded a Social Justice and Equity Committee (SJEC) grant for the 2023-24 academic year. The title of her project is, Exploring the Participation and Persistence of Underrepresented Women in Chemistry.

  • Irwin L. Slesnick Interactive Symposium 2023

    Please join us for the Annual Irwin L. Slesnick Interactive Symposium. This year, we are excited to welcome our guests to Western's campus and a couple sessions are virtual for those unable to make it to campus. We hope you will join us! The detailed schedule of Symposium events is available online.

  • Former SMATE Students receive National NSTA New Teacher Award

    Hillary Hunsaker and Natalie Reeder, both former Elementary education/General Science BAE students and current teachers in Western Washington, each received the 2023 Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Award for New Teachers from the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA)!  The NSTA Teacher Awards program recognizes extraordinary K–12 teachers, professors, principals, and science educators for their outstanding achievements in science education. Congratulations Hillary and Natalie!!

  • Student Spencer Green Brings Home Award

    Undergrad Spencer Green receives ASTE Award for Implications of Research for Educational Practice!!  WOW!!!

  • Math Education's Katie Rupe has just been awarded a Mathematics Education Trust (MET) Early Career Research Grant.  Way to go Katie!!

  • Looking for helpful insights into the potential role of evaluation in current STEM education research projects.  Listen as Data Dan Hanley talks about the Role of Evaluation in Research Projects for the NSF CADRE (Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education).

  • SMATE's Hanuscin and undergraduate Spencer Green win ASTE Outstanding paper award

    Debi Hanuscin is a professor jointly appointed between Elementary Education and SMATE.  Spencer Green is an undergraduate student in the early childhood education program.  Together they co-authored a paper, (Re)Learning to Teach Science with a Hearing Impairment: An Autoethnographic Study and presented it at the 2022 ASTE conference. In recognition of the implications of their research for educational practice, they have been awarded ASTE’s Outstanding Paper Award for the conference. Based on their own experiences with hearing loss, their study examines possibilities for rethinking ‘inclusion’ in science teacher education. Congratulations Debi and Spencer!!   

  • Give a shout out to our 2022 summer research scholarship awardees:

    Willa Rowan, Conor Naughton, Christopher O'Dell, Rachael Goodwin, Spencer Green, Emma Leeds, and Andrew Kivlighn.

    Way to go!!!

  • SMATE's Dan Hanley co-authors book chapter

    Hanley. D., Miller, M., Sorensen, J., Rogan-Klyve, A. (2022). Preparing University Faculty for Clinically Oriented, Practice-Based Teacher Education in Drew Polly & Eva Garin (Eds.) Preparing Quality Teachers:  Advances in clinical practice. Charlotte, NC:  Information Age Publishing.

  • Read the article, "Growing Understanding from a SPARK" about their educational partnership with the SPARK museum in the May/June 2022 issue of NSTA's journal, Connected Science Learning

  • Following a successful model developed in 2021, SCED 490 students with Dr. Caroline Hardin are hosting a virtual science fair for Happy Valley Elementary students.

  • SMATE grad is awarded Instructional Innovation Award

    One of our General Science Elementary graduates (spring 2019) Garrett Feldtman, in his 2nd year of teaching at Lackamas Elementary in Yelm, WA was awarded the Instructional Innovation Award by his district as well as nominated for his School Bell Award.  Way to go Garrett!!!

  • WWU students present at October NSTA Conference

    WWU students and alumni presented a session titled “SPARK Discovery and Invention” with Abby Whatley from the SPARK Museum. The session showcased NGSS-aligned curriculum modules the team developed in 2019 in collaboration with SPARK, Bellingham Public Schools, and their SCED 480/490 course with Dr. Hanuscin.

  • PESB Grant Awarded to Hardin

    Caroline Hardin, Computer Science/SMATE, received a grant from PESB (Professional Educator Standards Board) to engage in-service teachers in professional development on teaching Computer Science! This grant will help SMATE build important partnerships with teachers that can help support the new CS BAE!

  • Better in STEM grant funded

    SMATE's Hanley, Borda & Warren receive a new NSF grant. The National Science Foundation has funded a study at Western Washington University, entitled Building educational theory through enacting reforms (BETTER) in STEM. BETTER in STEM is a $3 million collaborative research project across three institutions to embed the use of inclusive, research-based instructional strategies within undergraduate STEM courses and departments.

    For more information about the project, please visit the website: BETTER in STEM

  • SMATE/Computer Science faculty Hao and Hardin, were successful in getting PESB to add a Computer Science Endorsement!!

  • May 5th and 6th saw our first Virtual Slesnick Symposium.  Dr. Bryan Dewsbury gave an exceptional keynote and workshop attended by over 100 participants.  Watch the recording of the keynote or explore Dr. Dewsbury's resource list for faculty development and improving campus practices on inclusion.

  • A team of SMATE faculty lead by Debi Hanuscin have just published a paper in the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, Supporting the Professional Development of Science Teacher Educators Through Shadowing. 

  • Annaliese Miller, 2020 recipient of the Summer Research scholarship and SMATE student employee, has published a paper in  Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from her summer research. Check-out the abstract for Orbital and Stellar Parameters for 2M06464003+0109157: A Double-lined Eclipsing Binary of Spotted, Sub-solar Twins.

  • SMATE's Dimitri Dounas-Fraser and Teaching Assistant Isabel Mills have just co-authored an article for the American Physical Society (APS) Forum on Education (FEd) Spring 2021 Newsletter! The article describes a virtual panel in SCED 201

  • NSF funds grant for Multi-Disciplinary Exploration of Student Engagement in Scientific Practices

    Erin Duffy (PI), Lina Dahlberg (co-PI), Dimitri Dounas-Frazer (co-PI), and Norda Stephenson (co-PI) will collaborate to study science practices in chemistry, physics, and biology labs.

  • Noyce Capacity Building Project Funded

    A project aimed at improving K-6 Science education has been funded by the NSF.  This work will be done in partnership with with high needs schools in four districts in Northwest Washington: Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Nooksack, and Sedro-Woolley.  SMATE's director, Emily Borda, with Debi Hanuscin, Shannon Warren, Dan Hanley & Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez all collaborated on the proposal.


  • SMATE's Dan Hanley has book chapter accepted

    The book chapter submitted by Hanley, Miller, Sorensen, and Rogan-Klyve entitled, Preparing University Faculty for Clinically-oriented, Practice-based Teacher Education, for the book, Advancing Clinical Practice in Teacher Education, by Information Age Publishing was accepted!!

  • Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez's research profiled in Western Today

    WWU Biologists to Study the Hunting Behavior of Local Seals From the Air

  • Debi has authored a chapter entitled "Considering the Classroom Assessment of Nature of Science " in the newly published book, Nature of Science in Science Instruction; Rationales and Strategies, edited by William McComas.

  • Thanh Le, Physics/SMATE faculty member, awarded NSF Grant

    Grant Title:

    Collaborative Research: A Study of Socio-metacognition, Emotions, and Power Dynamics When Undergraduate Physics Students Engage in Collaborative Activities that Elicit Confusion


  • C-Core Paper

    MIT student Emily Schumacher, Shannon Warren, Dan Hanley, Ed Geary, and Emily Borda have a new paper out in The International Journal of STEM Education about the work done on the Change at the Core grant.  Initial implementation of active learning strategies in large, lecture STEM courses: lessons learned from a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary STEM faculty development program