Transforming Science Education

Dr. Cassie Quigley


angled headshot of Dr. Quigley

Dr. Cassie Quigley is the Chair of the Department of Instruction and Learning and Professor of Science Education at the University of Pittsburgh. She earned her doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction with a Ph.D. minor in Environmental Sciences at Indiana University in 2010. She holds a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Spanish.

Her current projects include understanding how historically underrepresented youth can transform STEM education. Specifically, she is interested in how the students' formation of STEM occupational identity transforms how we teach STEM. Through several federally- funded grants, she works with ten schools across PA to study how the co-designed student-driven curriculum can transform STEM.


My research has always been concerned with the voice whose voice has power and whose perspective is privileged; how do this influence and privilege inform understanding of science, knowledge, and methods? I center those individuals and communities, most often on the margins, as the focus of my work by asking critical questions about their engagement in science and questions about ways to move beyond inclusion towards transformation.

Cover of Dr. Quigley and Dr Hero's book, An educator's guide to STEAM

Liberatory Practices: STEAM Education

My first line of inquiry is closely linked to my work on power and privilege, examining liberatory STEAM Education. It seeks to understand what role pedagogy, specifically the impact of science teaching practices, can have on students (as well as the teachers themselves), their beliefs about themselves as scientists, the degree to which they form a sense of agency to engage in science. This exploration focused on analyzing how teachers implement equitable methods and how best to support teachers in making such pedagogical shifts.

students sitting in a circle on the floor examining bee anatomy

investigating the disappearance of bees

two students looking at a clump of wild vegitation

exploring native plants

over-the-shoulder shot of an individual working on a clip board. Written on the page are critical questions related to housing

designing new housing

close up of moss

Community-Engaged Science: Decolonizing and Disrupting Environmental Education

Throughout my work in environmental education, I draw on decolonizing and disrupting methodologies to center participants as co-researchers. Together, we explored both micro-and macro-structures influencing environmental perspectives and choices. Some of these explorations included the tensions of environmentally conscious decisions, indigenous knowledge systems in sustainability, and exploring environmental perspectives. To date, I explored these questions in a variety of settings. Focusing attention on specific places potentially broadens the scope of whose knowledge garners value in science and communities. I seek to value specific places' scientific, physical, political/economic, and cultural dimensions in my work.

a school garden in Barcelona, Spain thta includes rows of plants, a wheelbarow, rain barrels, and a compost pile

school garden in Barcelona, Spain

student washing forraged plants in a sink

gathering and cooking with wild herbs

split screen showing 55-gallon drum container gardens

container gardening in urban school spaces

Presentation cover slide showing debris on a beech. The slide title reads All about Me, All about Gary.

Participatory Methods to Science Education Research

As my work seeks to transform science education, I work with historically underrepresented communities in science (and STEM broadly). Therefore, my research methodologies reflect these communities as partners in the research process. I work with narrative inquiries, photo-methodologies, and decolonizing methodologies to promote layered data from multiple perspectives instead of just the researcher’s lens.

two kindergarteners showing off their nature photographs

photovoice exhibit at the Indiana Dunes

an open door leading to the staffroom of a school in the Maasai Mara, Kenya

community-based research methods

Bookcover for Moving the Equity Agenda Forward.

methodological choices to center equity

Coding Nature flyer for Dr. Quigley's Coding Pedagogy middle school daycamp

Transformational Computer Science

I am thinking about how two seemingly unrelated fields- environmental justice and computer science might benefit from one another. This connection of these fields included rethinking the US-centric approach to environmental education that disciplines knowledge in narrowly defined terms and uses indigenous ways of knowing to (un)discipline environmental education. This shift has led to a project called “Coding Nature: A Multimodal Approach to Unconcealing our Networked Ecology.” This project supports students in using open-access tools such as GitHub to play within the constraints and affordances of technology and language and communicate their understanding of nature and their world.

National Science Foundation logo

NSF Grant

CS4ALL Strength Across Schools Research to Practice Partnership

HTML code file for My Natur Outing

Coding Nature Workshops

engaging youth in computer science and nature

Screenshot of My Nature Outing website highlighting pedagogical foci

My Nature Study

multimodal web coding

Dr. Quigley's Lab

Strength Across Schools (SAS) Partnership: A Multi-District Collaboration to Develop Justice-Focused Computational Thinking and Computer Science Curricular Materials for Middle School English Language Arts

Low-angle shot of Pitt's Cathedral of Learning with blured traffic lights running along the street

This CSforAll, PreK-8, Small RPP Project brings together a research and practice team comprised of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, a regional education support network funded by the PA Department of Education (Allegheny Intermediate Unit), and teachers and district leaders from four underserved school districts in the Pittsburgh region to create justice-focused (Smythe, 2011) computational thinking (CT) and computer science (CS) instructional materials for integration in middle school English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum. The collaborative team will design and pilot instructional and teacher professional development (PD) materials for grades 6-8 ELA classrooms with the aim of integrating CT/CS into literacy learning in ways that provide groups of students who are underrepresented in CS, particularly female and Black students, with high-quality and relevant instruction in CT/CS.

Environmental Justice Pathway: Empowering Students Through Relevant and Agentic Data Science Lessons

blurred shot of students wandering in the woods above the sea

The purpose of this Grable Foundation grant is to create a co-generative professional learning model, beginning with the Environmental Justice Education Summer Professional Learning offered by University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and ThroughlinesEdu. The objectives are to: 1. Develop a Research-Practice Partnership team of Pitt Education faculty; elementary & middle school educators from 6 school districts in the Pittsburgh region; Columbia University; and Throughlines Director, Aileen Owens 2. Co-design and develop justice-focused (Smythe, 2011) Computational Thinking (CT)/Computer Science (CS) curricular materials for elementary & middle school environmental justice (EJ) classes focused on increasing computational identity, CT/CS knowledge and digital empowerment among students historically underrepresented in CS.

headshot of PhD candidate Holly Plank

Holly Plank

Holly Plank is a PhD student in the Learning Sciences and Policy Program in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include teacher education, environmental justice, and STEAM. She is a former middle school science and physical science teacher, school leader, and instructional coach. As an instructional coach, Holly supported preservice and novice K-12 teachers in a variety of core subject and STEM electives with curriculum development, culturally sustaining pedagogy, learning environment planning, family engagement, real-time coaching, etc. As a graduate student researcher, Holly has worked on research projects including research practice partnerships, supporting STEAM and computer science pathways, and environmental justice.

headshot of PhD student Hillary Henry

Hillary Henry

Hillary Henry is a PhD student in the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Sciences and Policy program. While in the program, she has participated in research developing a longitudinal case study of a mathematics instructional coach’s growth over time, as well as, designing tools to be used by coaches as they work one-on-one with teachers. Both projects are funded by the McDonnell Foundation. Her research interests include content integration and investigating the sciences of how people learn. Before graduate school, Hillary spent six years as a fifth-grade teacher. During this time, she served as grade level chairperson and facilitated professional developments for fellow educators sharing her curriculum implementations at the district level. Additionally, she served on the district’s Science Feedback Committee; where she collaborated to create district-wide assessments, STEAM related activities, and science labs.

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University of Pittsburgh School of Education

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