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Physics Education Research Conference 2009 Invited Speakers

Andrea A. diSessa, University of California at Berkeley

Graduate School of Education

Corey Professor of Education Andrea diSessa is a member of the National Academy of Education. He has a PhD in physics from MIT, and an AB, also in physics, from Princeton. His research centers around conceptual and experiential knowledge in physics, and large-scaled and deep implications of the use of computers in education ("new literacies"). His current work focuses on student ideas concerning "patterns of behavior and control"--aka dynamical systems theory. He was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 1997-98 and 2007-08. He wrote the books Changing Minds: Computers, Learning and Literacy (2000); and Turtle Geometry: The Computer as a Medium for Exploring Mathematics (with H. Abelson, 1981); and edited the volume Computers and Exploratory Learning (with C. Hoyles, R. Noss, and L. Edwards, 1995).

Kevin Niall Dunbar, University of Toronto

Professor of Psychology

Kevin Dunbar grew up in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland. He attended The National University of Ireland at University College, Dublin where he obtained a B.A. and M.A degrees.  In 1980 he began work on his PhD. in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto working on attention and automaticity. In 1985 he moved to Carnegie Mellon University to begin postdoctoral work with Professor David Klahr on reasoning and problem solving in science. They developed a model of scientific reasoning and proposed a dual space search model of scientific thinking in both adults and children.  In 1988 he moved to McGill University in Montreal to become Assistant professor of Psychology. He continued his work on scientific thinking and discovery applying it to more complex domains such as molecular biology. At McGill, he pioneered a new way of investigating complex thinking in science, investigating scientists as they worked at their own lab meetings (using video, audio, photographs and documents supplemented by interviews. This new "invivo approach" makes it possible to investigate the social, cognitive, and situational factors that are at the core of science. Prof. Dunbar was promoted to Associate and then Full professor at McGill University. In 2001 he moved to Dartmouth College where he was both Professor of Education and Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Here he helped pioneer the field of Educational Neuroscience conducting neuroimaging work on students' conceptual changes in both Physics and Chemistry as well as investigating students understandings of physics exhibits at science museums. In 2007 he moved to the University of Toronto Scarborough to become a professor of Psychology. His current research at Toronto is on the cognitive, social, and situational factors that lead students to leave the sciences. In particular he is investigating the events that happen in undergraduate science labs that may lead women and men students to abandon science. Coupled with this work, he continues to investigate the brain based mechanisms that lead students to ignore data that are inconsistent with their prior expectations, and impede students understanding and use scientific analogies. These parallel lines of research make it possible to provide accounts of the underpinnings of conceptual changes that occur in undergraduate science classes and suggest different types of interventions that could be used to benefit science education. The goals of this work are thus subsumed under the field of Educational Neuroscience first proposed by Petitto & Dunbar in 2004.

Michael I. Posner, Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology

Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon, Eugene Oregon

Adjunct Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell

Michael Posner is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon and Adjunct Prof. of Psychology in Psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell, where he served as founding director of the Sackler Institute.  Posner developed with Marcus Raichle studies of imaging the human brain during cognitive tasks.  He has also worked on the anatomy, circuitry, development and genetics of three attentional networks  underlying maintaining alertness, orienting to sensory events and voluntary control of thoughts and ideas.  His methods for measuring these networks have been applied to a wide range of neurological, psychiatric and developmental disorders and to normal development and school performance.  His current research involves a longitudinal study of children prior to school designed to understand the interaction of specific experience and genes in shaping attention and self regulation.

Anna Sfard, Michigan State University

Lappan-Phillips-Fitzgerald Professor of Mathematics Education

Division of Science and Mathematics Education

Anna Sfard is a professor of mathematics education in the University of Haifa and has been the first holder of Lappan-Phillips-Fitzgerald endowed chair in Michigan State University. Her research focuses on the development of mathematical discourses in individual lives and in the course of history. She is the author of Thinking as communicating: Human development, the growth of discourses, and mathematizing and the recipient of 2007 Freudhental Medal for research in mathematics education.