Melissa Luna (PhD13) Receives CAREER Award for Science Learning Research

Melissa Luna (PhD13) Receives CAREER Award for Science Learning Research

Mellissa Luna

Learning Sciences alumna Melissa Luna (PhD13) received a prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study teachers’ noticing of students’ thinking about science. Luna is an assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Services (CEHS) at West Virginia University.

Luna received an award in the amount of $790,528 over five years for her project, “Investigating Fifth Grade Teachers' Knowledge of Noticing Appalachian Students' Thinking in Science.” Through extensive work with teachers using video in the classroom, she will examine teachers' knowledge of students thinking about science when planning, teaching, and assessing.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research, according to the National Science Foundation. The ultimate aim is to inform and impact their science teaching practice.

Luna is the first person in the history of West Virginia University's College of Education and Human Services to receive a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.

Luna will be working collaboratively with approximately 18 fifth-grade teachers and 500 students at elementary schools across West Virginia in both rural and semi-rural areas. After observing how teachers pay attention to students' thinking about science, she intends to use her research to develop teacher professional development materials. The study will also incorporate "an existing school-university partnership serving diverse student populations in Appalachian communities, where students significantly underperform nationally in science, technology, engineering and mathematics areas across grades levels,” according to the National Science Foundation.

The project extends Luna's dissertation work at SESP, where her adviser was professor Miriam Sherin, and other work she's been doing at West Virginia University. For this project, as at SESP, an inventive aspect of the research is that teachers will use wearable video cameras that allow teachers to maintain a viewable record of their teaching and to press a button to indicate on the video specific moments of noticing students' thinking.

Luna commented that “noticing students’ thinking” almost certainly “involves a special kind of teacher knowledge that matters for science teaching—important teacher knowledge, for sure, but we don’t know what that knowledge is or what it involves." The focus of the work, according to Luna, is to uncover this knowledge “and leverage it to impact teachers’ practice.”

"Professor Luna is an outstanding educator and scholar,” noted West Virginia University CEHS Dean Gypsy Denzine, adding that Luna’s research project “engages West Virginia science teachers in a five-year collaborative project that will have a positive impact on student learning.  Her work is highly innovative."

Sherin commented, "Melissa's project is both innovative and tremendously important. It will help advance our understanding of the relationship between what teachers understand about students' ideas about science and how teachers engage students in meaningful learning about science."

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 2/4/16