Team

The UW College of Education and LIFE Science of Learning Center team brings leadership and expertise in the learning sciences, science education, assessment, literacy, quantitative and qualitative methods, and educational practice to the project.

Dr. John D. Bransford is Professor Emeritus of Learning Sciences and Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Bransford is also Founding Director of The Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) Center, an National Science Foundation (NSF) Science of Learning Center. He has collaborated with a number of colleagues to conduct educationally relevant laboratory research and has increasingly worked in partnership with schools and districts. He has helped develop a number of programs that have been successfully implemented across educational levels and settings, including K-12 schools, (e.g. The Jasper Woodbury Problem Solving Series, the Little Planet Literacy Series), community colleges (e.g. The Case Files and the new (Unsolved) Problem Based Case Learning program), graduate programs (the VaNTH Bioengineering Research Program; the Technology for Teachers program); and workplaces (e.g. the Boeing Company).
Dr. Susan B. Nolen is Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on relationships among motivation, learning, and identity in educational contexts. Funded by a Teachers for a New Era grant from the Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, and Annenberg Foundation, Nolen conducted research on teacher learning and motivation and led the evidence-based redesign and implementation of secondary teacher preparation at the University of Washington. Her work has been published in Cognition and Instruction, Journal of Educational Psychology, and numerous other refereed journals and edited volumes. Her methodological expertise includes mixed methods designs, ethnographic research in classrooms, interview and survey methods, discourse analysis, and advanced correlational techniques (HLM, SEM).
Dr. Walter Parker is a professor of Social Studies Education and Political Science at the University of Washington in Seattle. He studies civic education broadly and the high school government course in particular. Funded initially by the George Lucas Education Foundation in 2007, and then the Spencer Foundation in 2013, he led the implementation research that resulted in the PBL-AP Government and Politics course. His books include Teaching Democracy, Educating the Democratic Mind, and Social Studies Today: Research and Practice.
Dr. Nancy J Vye is a Principal Research Scientist and Co-lead of the UW NSF LIFE Science of Learning Center, with extensive experience designing technology-based learning environments and investigating challenge- and project-based learning in K-12 classrooms. Bransford, Vye and colleagues created The Adventures of Jasper Woodbury, a mathematics problem solving series, The Little Planet Literacy Series, an awarding winning early literacy software, and the STARLegacy inquiry model that underlies the PBL-APES units. She is a Co-PI with Bransford on a NSF-DRK12 project studying challenge-based learning in early elementary science classrooms.
Dr. Sheila W. Valencia, is Professor of Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of Washington, Seattle. She teaches and conducts research in the areas of literacy assessment, instruction, policy, and teacher development. Dr. Valencia has served on national, state, and local assessment committees to improve assessment systems and policies including the Common Core Standards Advisory Panel, several NAEP subcommittees, and IRA/NCTE standards and assessment committees.
Dr. Jane Lo is an assistant professor of Social Studies Education at Florida State University where her research focuses on the political engagement of youth, civic identity development, and political education. She was the chief research assistant on the PBL-AP Government and Politics course during her PhD studies at UW.
Dr. Carol Adams is a Research Scientist with the LIFE Center at the University of Washington in Seattle. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on secondary literacy from the University of Washington in 2013. Her research focuses on reading and writing across content areas in secondary schools and on teacher professional development.
Dr. Diem Nguyen, Project Director is a UW Research Scientist with expertise in qualitative research. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Washington in 2008. She has peer-reviewed articles appearing in the American Educational Research Journal, the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and the Bilingual Review Journal. Her research interests include exploring issues of equity, diversity, and the quality of education for urban youth.
Dr. Lia Wetzstein is a Research Scientist with the LIFE Center at the University of Washington in Seattle. She received her Ph.D. in Learning Sciences with an emphasis on science education from the University of Washington in 2013. Her research focuses on science, environmental and sustainability education and students underrepresented in those fields. Prior to LIFE Center, she worked in the natural sciences in higher education in multiple roles, including teaching, curriculum design, K12 and community outreach.
Katie Kovacich is a Staff Program Coordinator working with the team. She provides a variety of collaborative threads of work to the project.
Amy Sharp, Graduate Research Assistant at the LIFE Center, works closely with Dr. Abbott to coordinate and track cross-institutional subject participation and data collection, as well as preparing quantitative data for analysis. Her years of experience in data coordination at the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center at Arizona State University and the U.S. Census Bureau enable her to support the larger project research goals with effective data management systems.
Hank Clark, LIFE Center Technology Director, has created challenge-based online curriculum and training materials in coordination with Learning Scientists for over 20 years. His work in learning technology includes projects building custom technology, media, and online curriculum delivery solutions for learning science curriculum design.
Lisé Whitfield, formerly a Research Scientist at the LIFE Center, holds a BS in Physics and an MS in Earth and Planetary Science with an emphasis in climate science, oceanography, hydrology, mineral resources and environmental impacts of mining, and significant additional coursework in ecology and conservation biology. She brings experience as a science teacher in urban and suburban schools as well as a curriculum designer for the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology, WestEd, K12, and the Digital Library for Earth Systems Education. She coordinates science curriculum design for AP Environmental Science and AP Physics 1 for the project.
Dr. Robert Abbott is Professor of Measurement, Research Design, and Assessment and lead statistician. Dr. Abbott will lead the Knowledge In Action project’s quantitative research design and data analysis
Graduate Student Researchers:

Dr. Gavin Tierney
Susan Cooper
Alexandra Goodell
Sara Nachtigal
Sarah Amber Evans