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Ravit Golan Duncan

Associate Professor of Science Education
Learning & Teaching
GSE Room #221

Ravit Golan Duncan is an associate professor of science education with a joint appointment in the Graduate School of Education and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. She received her Ph.D. in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University. She currently has two main research strands: designing and studying of inquiry-based learning environments in life sciences that engage students with modeling and argumentation, and studying learning progressions in science education, and specifically in genetics.

Her work on inquiry learning involves the design and study of scaffolded model-based inquiry learning environments for secondary science students. The scaffolds developed for these environment support growth in epistemic reasoning and specifically target the conceptually challenging task of evaluating evidence quality and relating evidence to competing scientific models. Through this research she has examined the ways in which students construct scientific arguments, whether and how they attend to epistemic features of good evidence and good arguments, and how these capacities develop over time. Given the current reforms in science education understanding how we can better support students’ scientific reasoning, and in particular the development of a critical stance towards claims (models) and evidence, is imperative in order to support the development of more effective learning environments and of valid assessments of student learning.

Her work on learning progressions explores central questions about the validity and utility of these constructs for informing curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Towards this end she has developed learning environments in genetics that provide alternate sequences of instruction based on two competing learning progressions for genetics extant in the literature. Both environments focused on the same core ideas and on key scientific practices (modeling and argumentation) but altered the order in which the core ideas were addressed in the units. This research extends our field’s understanding of how different instructional contexts interface with the theoretical learning progression constructs. The question of whether we can identify a small set of paths through a putative progression that are invariant (i.e. not dependent on instructional sequence) or whether there are numerous different paths that depend on the instructional and student contexts is a contentious one in the field. The latter finding would reduce the potential of learning progressions to inform curriculum and assessment, whereas the former would suggest that we could develop learning environments that support student growth through a more “universal” set of learning trajectories.

In addition Duncan also coordinates and teaches in the certification program in biological sciences at Rutgers University, and has studied the development of pre-service teachers’ knowledge and beliefs as they progressed through the program. Duncan is the recipient of several U.S. federal grants, she is a section co-editor of the journal Science Education and her research has been published in several research and practitioner journals including: Journal of the Learning Sciences, Science, Science Education, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, and Journal of Science Teacher Education.

• B.S. in Biological Science, Hebrew University at Jerusalem (1996)
• M.S. in Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago (1999)
• Ph.D. in Learning Sciences, Northwestern University (2005)
• American Educational Research Association (AERA)
• International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS)
• National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
• National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)

  • Expertise & Research Interest

    Science education

    Epistemic cognition

    Teacher education

  • Research Work With Students

    Scaffolding Explanations and Epistemic Development for Systems (SEEDS)- This NSF-funded research project explores how late elementary students reason about different kinds of evidence as they develop mechanistic models of ecosystem phenomena. In particular, we are interested in understanding how students coordinate data from simulations and empirical data and how they understand the epistemic aims, ideals, and reliable processes involved in each form of evidence. As part of this project we are developing a software tool that will allow students to view different types of evidence (from a resource library) and link them to a mechanistic model that they build in the tool. The new software tool will be used by 5th grade students learning about aquatic ecosystems using empirical evidence and NetLogo simulations.

    Promoting Reasoning And Conceptual Change In Science (PRACCIS) project- this is a NSF- funded project with the goal of investigating instructional strategies and scaffolds for supporting student engagement in scientific modeling and argumentation in middle school science classrooms. As part of this project we have developed a suite of scaffolds to evidence-based reasoning, evidence-model coordination, and argumentation. We have embedded these scaffolds in instructional units on a variety of biology units (natural selection, genetics, cellular organelles, etc.). These instructional materials have been used in middle and high school science classrooms with great success. We have also developed extensive professional development materials to support teacher use of the materials.

    Investigating Issues in Learning Progressions in Science (I2LeaPS)– This is an NSF-funded project to investigate learning progressions in science, in particular progressions of genetics core ideas and scientific modeling. As part of this project we developed two complementary units on classical and molecular genetics and examined the ways in which the ordering of these units impacts students’ learning of core ideas in genetics as well as their development of modeling practice. The units were developed based on a hypothetical learning progression for genetics spanning grades 5-10. To assess student learning we developed a 54- item assessment using ordered-multiple-choice items that mapped onto five constructs of the progression. Studies of the progression were carried out in high school classrooms and suggest that a molecular-first approach in slightly more effective than a classical-genetics we are currently exploring effect of the different sequences of genetics instruction on students development of modeling practice.

  • Recent & Selected Publications

    Haskel-Ittah, M., Duncan, R. G., Vazquez Ben, L., & Yarden, A. (in press). Reasoning about genetic mechanisms: Affordances and constraints for learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching.

    Ruppert, J. & Duncan, R. G., & Chinn, C. A. (2019). Disentangling the role of domain-specific knowledge in student modeling. Research in Science Education, 49(3), 921-948.

    Duncan, R. G., Chinn, C. A., Barzilai, S. (2018). Grasp of evidence: Problematizing and expanding the Next Generation Science Standards’ conceptualization of evidence. Journal of Research in Science Education, 55(7), 907-937.

    Duncan, R, G., Choi, J., Castro-Faix, M., & Cavera, V. L. (2017). A study of two instructional sequences informed by alternative learning progressions in genetics. Science and Education, 26(10), 1115-1141.

    Ruppert, J., & Duncan, R.G. (2017). Defining and Characterizing Ecosystem Services for Education: A Delphi Study. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54(6), 737-763.

    Rinehart, R. W., Duncan, R. G., Chinn, C. A., Atkins, T. A., & DiBenedetti, J. (2016). Critical design decisions for successful model-based inquiry in science classrooms. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 7(2), 17-40.

  • Honors & Awards
    Graduate School of Education Outstanding Research Award
    Research Fellowship, Knowles Science Teaching Foundation ($110,000)
    Postdoctoral Fellow, National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation ($55, 000)
    Early Career/Junior Researcher Consortium, Competitive NSF funded workshop, The 7th International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Bloomington, IN ($500)
    Dissertation Year Fellowship, The Graduate School, Northwestern University ($15,660)
    Outstanding Teaching and Service Award, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Files
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