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Catherine Quinlan

Associate Professor of Science Education

  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • School of Education


Dr. Quinlan is Associate Professor of Science Education. She is an author, researcher, and TEDx speaker. She is author of the newly launched chapter book series trilogy, Keystone Passagewhich is a light fantasy children's book series that integrates science ideas, alongside history and cultural. She is Founder and Director of a newly launched curriculum research lab (BRISC Curriculum Research Lab). Dr. Quinlan recently completed her NSF funded research project which led her to create video clips from her interviews and travels to the Gullah/Geechee islands of South Carolina along with research publications, a few of which are still pending. Check out her recent publication on Framing and determining science content and standards for including the lived experiences and narratives of African Americans and Black heritage. 

Twitter handle: @ProfQuinlan



Education & Expertise


Doctorate in Science Education

Teachers College, Columbia University

Science Education

Teachers College, Columbia University

English, Pre-med requirements

Barnard College, Columbia University




Catalyst Project: Creating and Evaluating a Culturally Representative STEM Curriculum Supported by Next Generation Science Standards


National Science Foundation:



TEDx Speaker: The Clarity We Need For Belonging

As a mother and researcher Dr. Catherine Quinlan makes observations about her personal life that lead her to deeper understandings about belonging and identity in her research, and vice versa. She did not want her son boxed in by societal norms she could not respect and that did not respect her. By drawing from her personal and research experiences she helps us understand the clarity we need, so that everyone can develop a sense of belonging and positive identity.

View talk titled: The clarity we need for belonging

Related Articles

Quinlan, C.L. (August 2023). Framing and determining science content and standards for cultural representation of African American heritage in science content knowledge

This article provides a science education framework and table with science standards for inclusion of the lived experiences and narratives of Black heritage, more specifically African American heritage and other Black people who reside in the United States and outside of the United States. This work is part of my NSF funded research project. 

Framing and determining science content and standards for cultural representation of African American heritage in science content knowledge. Cultural Studies of Science Education


Link to Fulltext:

(2023) Unpacking Preservice Elementary Education Majors’ Pre-Covid Experiences with Instructional Technology: Implications for Post-Covid Technology Use;

Virtual learning during the Covid-19 pandemic has made the effective use of technology, as a learning tool, more important than it has ever been. One of the challenges within instructional technology courses for preservice elementary education majors was whether or not to train students to use technology as a means to an end or to focus on technology skills. Instructional technology courses could reinforce traditional approaches or encourage higher order thinking or acquisition of twenty first century skills for formal or informal settings. This study explored the pre-Covid inclinations and experiences of undergraduate preservice teachers who engaged in various types of technology that facilitated both the learning of content and the building of technological skills to varying degrees. This basic qualitative exploratory study looked at preservice teachers’ perceptions about their engagement with the technologies and about their own capabilities. The findings show connections that were most salient to the preservice teachers. These pre-Covid pandemic findings have implications for the current state of instructional technology and learning using technology in the post-Covid pandemic era.



Emergent themes and pragmatic research methods for meaningful cultural representation of Blacks in multimedia products for the science classroom

(2021). Emergent themes and pragmatic research methods for meaningful cultural representation of Blacks in multimedia products for the science classroom. International Journal of Science Education: Vol. 43, No. 14, pp. 2316-2332

Quinlan, C.L., Picho, K., & Burke, J. (2021). Creating an Instrument to Measure Social and Cultural Self-efficacy Indicators for Persistence of HBCU Undergraduates in STEM. Research in Science Education.

This study is part of a larger research that explores the creation of an instrument to capture the social and cultural factors that affect Black students’ persistence in STEM. Most research on self-efficacy in the science education literature were either done at predominantly White institutions, during summer programs for students of color, or on predominantly White populations. This study provides insights into self-efficacy indicators at an institution that was specifically created to consider the social, cultural, and historical implications for educating Blacks in STEM. One hundred sixty-four undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory biology course at an Historically Black College and University completed a questionnaire. The survey addressed the hypothesized factors—expectancy, self-efficacy, familial self-efficacy, cognitive self-efficacy, and commitment. The results highlight the importance of science identity and familial sources of vicarious experiences as important indicators of persistence and performance in STEM. The importance of social and cultural factors for Black students’ persistence in STEM is underscored.View and share article here: LINK TO VIEW ARTICLELink to article:

Quinlan, C.L. (2020). Expanding the Science Capital in K–12 Science Textbooks: A Notable Doctor's Insights into Biology & Other Accomplishments of African American Scientists

This article explores the need to include the science capital and cultural capital of African Americans in science teaching and offers practical exemplars for inclusion in the K–12 science curriculum. The author discusses ideas in the evolution of culture that contribute to the science content and perspectives of current textbooks and their supporting educative curriculum materials. The exemplars provided shed light on the scientific concepts and ideas indicated by the scientific accomplishments and narratives of African American scientists and a notable doctor, Charles R. Drew. The practical considerations described have implications for the disciplinary core ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards, and for understanding the cultural, social, and political values inherent in the nature of science.…

Quinlan, C.L. (2020). Analysis of preservice teachers’ lesson plans to determine the extent of transfer of argumentation. International Journal of Science Education, DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2020.1753125

Argumentation research often addresses the nature of argumentation as a complex set of procedures that can aid learning of complex scientific knowledge and practices. Thus, studies might look at transfer of knowledge and processes to specific science domains or to other types of procedural knowledge, such as teacher implementation in the elementary classroom or attention to argumentation procedures. This study explored the extent of transfer of the procedures and knowledge of argumentation to preservice teachers’ lesson plans. Participants were four African American female preservice graduate students enrolled in an elementary science methods course. The students engaged in argumentation exercises in science from segments of the IDEAS project [Osborne, J., Erduran, S., & Simon, S. (2004). Ideas, evidence and argument in science (IDEAS) project. University of London Press], then participated in a socioscientific crime scene investigation. Students’ capstone unit plans were analysed to explore the extent of transfer of argumentation knowledge and procedures to students’ lessons. Schema theory as an analytic framework shows the nature of psychological and architectural features consistent with students’ abstractions and attention to argumentation. The research has implications for understanding the importance of considering transfer of learning in relation to students’ prior knowledge, especially when it comes to understanding the connections that African American students make to science pedagogy and content.… 

Quinlan, C. L. (2019). Use of schema theory and multimedia technology to explore preservice students’ cognitive resources during an earth science activity. Contemporary Issues in Technology & Teacher Education, 19(3) 413-438.

 AbstractMeaningful integration of multimedia technology into the three-dimensional learning promoted by the Next Generation Science Standards (i.e., Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas) is critical in helping students to understand science. Furthermore, preservice teachers need to be able to engage in argument from evidence, as recommended by the National Research Council, before they can help students develop argumentation in the classroom setting. This study explored the dialogic arguments and conversations of five female African American preservice graduate elementary education students enrolled in a science methods course. Students carried out a Crime Scene Investigation Toolkit in Earth science that was created by the New York Hall of Science. Schema theory and Marshall’s (1995) knowledge types provide an explanatory framework to explore and explain participants’ dialogue. The findings show that schema theory has implications for understanding participants’ cognitive resources during an activity that integrated multimedia technology resources within a three-dimensional science investigation. The use of schema theory as a framework shed light on participants’ dialogues and was important in understanding how to integrate multimedia technology meaningfully into the three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards.… 

Quinlan, C.L. (2019). An Interdisciplinary Investigation of African Rock Art Images to Learn about Science & Culture: Blending Biology, Geology, History & Ethics. American Biology Teacher 81(1), 40-46. 

 AbstractImage analysis of African rock art creates a unique opportunity to engage in authentic explorations of science and culture using rock art images as data. African rock art and its context provide insights into the intersection of science, scientific research, research ethics, intellectual property, law, government, economy, indigenous people, and crime. This article specifically considers the rock art and other cultural contributions of the San people of Southern Africa, which offer a rich interdisciplinary exploration of biology—including the climate and weather of biomes, plant biology, human physiology, and more. An understanding of the nature of science, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is implicated.

Quinlan, C.L. (2018). Use of Crime Scene Investigations in Anatomy and Physiology: Potential for Going Beyond Knowing in NGSS Dimensions. The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 80 No. 3, March 2018; (pp. 221-226) DOI: 10.1525/abt.2018.80.3.221

 AbstractTo create and implement meaningful tasks that go beyond the cognitive processes of understanding and that integrate all three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is challenging for both educators and curriculum makers. This issue is compounded when considering a content-rich biology course such as anatomy and physiology that requires first familiarity and understanding before engagement in higher-order thinking. The use of crime scene investigations that encourages students to examine evidence even as they learn specific biology concepts can encourage meaning making about scientific practices and science content. This paper deconstructs the implementation of a crime scene investigation titled the “Jewel Heist,” created by the New York Hall of Science and implemented in twelfth-grade anatomy and physiology classes in a diverse urban high school in the northeastern United States. The NGSS, the Framework for K-12 Science Education, along with Bloom's taxonomy and Krathwohl's revisions, are implicated in this process.… 

Quinlan, C.L. (May 2016). Exploring Data to learn about the nature of science. American Biology Teacher, 78(5), 404-409.

 AbstractBiology is often taught as disconnected facts, even though the subject itself provides a holistic approach to the study of life, particularly through the overarching frame of evolution. The Framework for K–12 Science Education and Next Generation Science Standards promote a coherent approach to science that uses a developmental approach to learning. This is consistent with the use of data, reflective strategies, and a research inquiry approach that encourages students to confront their own thinking and reasoning, and thus encourages the engagement of argumentation in the classroom. This article presents narratives and classroom scenarios that might provide insights into learning strategies, with implications for a more cohesive approach to learning both biology concepts and the practices of science.

Quinlan, C.L. (October 2015). Bringing Astrobiology down to Earth. American Biology Teacher 77(8): 5-12. October feature article:

 AbstractAstrobiology seeks to understand life in the universe through various disciplines and approaches. Astrobiology not only provides crosscutting content, but its study supports the three dimensions of learning promoted by the Next Generation Science Standards. While astrobiology research has been progressive and has accomplished great feats for science and society, astrobiology education in schools and colleges has lagged behind astrobiology research. Astrobiology can be used in the classroom as an engaging context for the Socratic method or in long- or short-term projects to encourage higher-order thinking.…

Presentation: Webinar 1 (July 15,2020): Creating a Culturally Representative STEM Curriculum Supported by NGSS presentation provides a sneak peek into some of the products of Dr. Catherine Quinlan’s NSF funded research on using the lived experiences and narratives of African American Gullah Geechee. Dr. Catherine Quinlan is an Assistant Professor at Howard University School of Education and will present on Creating a Culturally Representative STEM Curriculum Supported by Next Generation Science Standards.