Championing Reform in Undergraduate Science and Math Education
May 02, 2011
Hannah Sevian believes that progress in social justice can in part be achieved through access to a high quality science education. So while many talk the talk, Sevian politely yet firmly walks the walk.
In 2006, she received the University of Massachusetts President's Public Service Award for her work with the Boston Public Schools. Explaining his decision to present her with the award, President Jack Wilson wrote: "Professor Hannah Sevian's work addresses a critical need of the Commonwealth: K-12 science education. She has demonstrated a commitment to providing science education of the highest quality to all students, especially underrepresented, overlooked or underprivileged K-12 students in urban communities."
From 1995-2002, Sevian worked as a science teacher at Chelsea High School and later as the science curriculum coordinator for the Chelsea Public School District. In 2002, she arrived at UMass Boston as an assistant professor with a dual appointment in curriculum and instruction in the College of Education and Human Development and chemistry in the College of Science and Mathematics.
Sevian's research interests are plainly stated by her for all to understand: "Adapting materials science, chemistry, and physics research to develop high school and undergraduate laboratory and teaching curricula that adhere to research n cognitive and brain science, and studying its effectiveness and impact on equity in learning, particularly for underrepresented students; studies of effective instructional practices in science teaching in urban contexts; and studies of pedagogical content knowledge in scientific explanations by experts."
In 2004, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Sevian a $12.5 million Math and Science Partnership grant to improve science teaching in the Boston Public Schools. She, in partnership with her colleagues Robert Chen and Arthur Eisenkraft, set about the business of dramatically expanding the work and impact of the Boston Science Partnership (BSP).
In 2006, the NSF awarded Sevian a $712,000 supplemental grant to add Bunker Hill and Roxbury Community Colleges to the BSP. She led a research study on factors that affect students' interests, aspirations, and performance in STEM subjects in an urban public system through high school, community college, and four-year university.
Sevian was BSP director and principal investigator until 2009 when she began a leave of absence from UMass Boston to serve as a program officer in the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education. She still serves on the BSP leadership team and oversees at all partnership levels the associated research on STEM faculty involvement, teacher content knowledge gains, and student learning across grades and science domains.