Global Educators Cohort Program - Teacher Education

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Christina V. Schwarz - Associate Professor, Science EducationTeacher Education in the College of Education

Phone: (517) 432-4851
Fax: (517) 432-5092
Office: Department of Teacher Education, Erickson Hall, 620 Farm Lane, Room 349, Michigan State University, MI 48824

Brief Bio

Christina Schwarz (Ph.D. 1998, U.C. Berkeley) is an associate professor of science education in the Teacher Education department at Michigan State University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in science education and science and has been the elementary science subject area leader for MSU’s teacher preparation program for over eight years. Schwarz holds degrees in science, math, and technology education from the University of California at Berkeley (PhD and MA) and in earth, atmospheric and planetary science from MIT (BS). Her background includes conducting research in astronomy, designing curriculum materials for science learners and teachers, and working in classrooms with students and teachers. Schwarz’s research primarily focuses on enabling students and teachers (PK-16) to understand and engage in scientific practices – particularly model-based scientific inquiry. She also works with beginning teachers to support and enhance their practices such as noticing and responding to scientific sense-making. She is the principal investigator for the NSF grant, Studying How Beginning Elementary Teachers Notice and Respond to Scientific Sense-making, the co-principle investigator for the NSF-funded project Supporting Scientific Practices in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms and was co-principle investigator of the former Learning Progression for Scientific Modeling project. She is also co-principle investigator of the NSF funded Head Start on Science preschool science project and was Co-PI for the Modeling Hydrological Systems in Elementary Science project. Schwarz received the MSU College of Education Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Award in 2005, has been an associate editor for the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, and has published articles in journals such as Cognition & Instruction, Science Education, the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, the Journal for Science Teacher Education, and Science & Children.

Research Interests, Projects, Selected Manuscripts, Invited Talks, and Curriculum Materials


My areas of expertise include: science education and teacher education across the spectrum including preschool, elementary, middle school, and college. I focus on inquiry-oriented and model-centered constructivist learning environments. My research involves studying the development of scientific modeling practices particularly within upper elementary and middle school. I have also been working with educators (PK-16) to understand and engage their own students in the practices of science. Some of my teacher education work involves developing teaching practices through instructional frameworks, learning technologies, and curriculum materials. Additional interests include curriculum materials in science, technology in science education, the history and philosophy of science, and sociological and cultural practices of the science classroom.

Projects - Current and Past

Noticing and Responding to Scientific Sense-Making (NRSS) (2013- present). Documenting and defining a range of beginning elementary teacher practices for noticing and responding to students' scientific sense-making and contextual factors that impact their practices to determine how these practices open, maintain, or shut down opportunities for student sense-making.

Scientific Practices (2010 - present). Supporting scientific practices in elementary and middle school classrooms including modeling, explanation-building and argumentation. NSF DRK-12 grant DRL1020316.

MoHSES (2012 - 2016). Modeling Hydrologic Systems in Elementary Science.

Head Start on Science (2011 - present):Cluster randomized trials of the efficacy of early childhood science education for low income children. NSF DRK12 grant DRL 1119327.

• MoDeLS: Modeling Designs for Learning Science. Developing and testing a learning progression for the practice of scientific modeling (4th - 7th grades). NSF IMD grant DRL0628199.

ETCM: Elementary teachers and curriculum materials: Helping pre-service elementary teachers learn to use curriculum materials for effective science teaching. Within the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science.

PICRUST: Professional Inquiry Communities for the Support of Urban Science Teaching. Professional development for Lansing, MI teachers.

EIMA: Using a guided inquiry and modeling instructional framework to support pre-service K-8 science teaching synopsis (pdf file).

PT3: Preparing tomorrow's teachers to use technology using computer modeling and simulation tools. One of my projects (pdf file) involved (among other things) creating a website with the help of graduate students Jason Meyer, Ajay Sharma, and Vijaya Rajagopalan entitled Modeling and Simulation Tools for Elementary and Middle School Science Instruction.

Selected Books, Manuscripts, and Conference Papers

Schwarz, C., Passmore, C., & Reiser, B. (in press). Helping Students Make Sense of the World Using Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices. NSTA Press.

Berland, L., Schwarz, C., Krist, C., Kenyon, L., Lo, A., & Reiser, B. (2016). Epistemologies in Practice: Making Scientific Practices Meaningful for Students. The Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 53(7), 1082-1112.

Ke, Li, & Schwarz, C.V. (2016). Examining the Influences of Teachers’ Framing of Modeling Practices on Elementary Students’ Engagement in Modeling. In C. Looi, J. Polman, U. Cress & P. Reimann (Eds.), Transforming Learning, Empowering Learners: The Proceedings of the Twelfth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS), 2016, Volume 2, (pp. 803- 806). Singapore: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Baek, H. & Schwarz, C. (2015). The Influence of Curriculum, Instruction, Technology, and Social Interactions on Two Fifth-Grade Students’ Epistemologies in Modeling Throughout a Model-Based Curriculum Unit. The Journal of Science Education and Technology, 24(2-3), 216-233.

Forbes, C. T., Zangori, L., & Schwarz, C. V. (2015). Empirical Validation of Integrating Learning Performances for 3rd-Grade Students' Model-Driven Explanation-Construction. The Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52(7), 895-921.

Forbes, C., Zangori, L., *Vo, T., & Schwarz, C. (2015). Supporting students' scientific modeling when learning about the water cycle. Science & Children.

Vo, T., Forbes, C., Zangori, L., & Schwarz, C. (2015). Fostering third-grade students’ use of scientific models with the water cycle: Elementary teachers’ conceptions and practices. International Journal of Science Education, 37(15), 2411-2432.

Zangori, L., Forbes, C.T., & Schwarz, C. V. (2015). Scaffolding 3rd-grade students' model-based reasoning about hydrologic cycling through curricular and instructional supports. Science & Education, 24(7-8).

Schwarz, C., Ke, L., Lee, M., & Rosenberg, J. (2014). Developing Mechanistic Model-Based Explanations of Phenomena: Case Studies of Two Fifth Grade Students’ Epistemologies in Practice Over Time. In J. Polman, E. Kyza, D. O’Neill, … , & L. D’Amico (Eds.), Learning and Becoming in Practice: The Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) (pp. 182-189). Boulder, CO: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Forbes, C., Schwarz, C., & Zangori, L. (2014). Development of an Empirically-Based Learning Performances Framework for 3rd Grade Students’ Model-Based Explanations about Hydrologic Cycling. In J. Polman, E. Kyza, D. O’Neill, … , & L. D’Amico (Eds.), Learning and Becoming in Practice: The Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) (pp. 46-53). Boulder, CO: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Hokayem, H., & Schwarz, C. (2013). Engaging 5th graders in scientific modeling to learn about evaporation and condensation. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, (1) 1-24.

Schwarz, C., Reiser, B., Acher, A., Kenyon, L., & Fortus, D. (2012). MoDeLS: Challenges in defining a learning progression for scientific modeling. In A. Alonzo & A. Gotwals (Eds.) Learning Progressions in Science (LeaPS). (pp. 101-137). Boston, MA: Sense Publishers.

Baek, H., Schwarz, C., Chen, J, Hokayem, H., & Zhan, L. (2011). Engaging elementary students in scientific modeling: The MoDeLS 5th grade approach and findings. In M. S. Khine, & I. M. Saleh (Eds.) Models and Modeling: Cognitive tools for scientific enquiry (pp. 195-218). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Schwarz, C., Reiser, B., Davis, B., Kenyon, L, Acher, A., Fortus, D., Shwartz, Y., Hug, B., & Krajcik, J. (2009). Designing a learning progression for scientific modeling: Making scientific modeling accessible and meaningful for learners. Journal for Research in Science Teaching, 46(6), 632-654.

Schwarz, C. (2009, April). A learning progression of elementary teachers' knowledge and practices for model-based scientific inquiry (pdf). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Schwarz, C., Reiser, B, Davis, B., Kenyon, L, Acher, A., Fortus, D., Swartz, Y., Hug, B., & Krajcik, J. (2009). Designing a learning progression for scientific modeling: Making scientific modeling accessible and meaningful for learners. Journal for Research in Science Teaching.

Schwarz, C. (2009). Developing preservice elementary teachers’ knowledge and practices through modeling-centered scientific inquiry. Science Education.

Mikeska, J., Anderson, A., & Schwarz, C. (2009). Principled reasoning about problems of practice. Science Education.

Kenyon, L., Schwarz, C., & Hug, B. (2008). The benefits of scientific modeling. Science & Children 46(2), 40-44.

Schwarz, C., Gunckel, K., Smith, E., Covitt, B., Bae, M., Enfield, M., & Tsurusaki, B. (2008). Helping elementary pre-service teachers learn to use science curriculum materials for effective science teaching. Science Education, 92(2), 345-377.

Covitt, B., Schwarz, C., Mikeska, J., & Bae, M. (2009, in progress). Facilitating the development of preservice teachers’ professional practices through a curriculum materials analysis boundary spanning activity.

Schwarz, C., Meyer, J., & Sharma, A. (2007). Technology, pedagogy, and epistemology: Opportunities and challenges of using computer modeling and simulation tools in elementary science methods. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18(2), 243-269.

Schwarz, C., & Gwekwerere, Y. (2007). Using a guided inquiry and modeling instructional framework (EIMA) to support pre-service K-8 science teaching. Science Education, 91(1), 158-186.

Richmond, G. & Schwarz, C. (2006) Supporting the development of reform-based science teaching in urban contexts through work in professional inquiry communities. Technical manuscript.

Schwarz, C., & White, B. (2005). Meta-modeling knowledge: Developing students’ understanding of scientific modeling. Cognition and Instruction, 23(2), 165-205.

Schwarz, C., & White, B. (2003). Developing a model-centered approach to science education (pdf file), technical paper. [This is the prior version of the Cognition and Instruction paper that includes analysis of the entire data set from two teachers.]

Schwarz, C (2002, April). Using model-centered science instruction to foster students’ epistemologies in learning with models (pdf). Paper presented at the annual meeting for the American Educational Research Association. New Orleans, LA.

Schwarz, C. (2002, October). Is there a connection? The role of meta-modeling knowledge in learning with models (pdf). Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences. Seattle, WA.

Schwarz, C. (1998). Developing students’ understanding of scientific modeling. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Education, Berkeley, CA.

White, B. & Schwarz, C. (1998). Alternative approaches to using modeling and simulation tools for teaching science. In N. Roberts, W. Feurzeig, & B. Hunter (Eds.), Computer Modeling and Simulation in Science Education. Springer-Verlag.

Selected Invited Talks

Schwarz, C. (2016, August). Scientific Modeling Approaches Across a Spectrum of Learning in Science Education. Invited talk given at the Modeling and Model-Based Reasoning in STEM Conference. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

Schwarz, C. (2014, November). Scientific practices for elementary school classrooms. Invited webinar for the National Science Teacher Association virtual conference on NGSS Practices in Action. Presentation agenda can be found at:

Curriculum Materials

Baek, H., Schwarz, C., Beyer, C., Kenyon, L., Hinze, P., & Mankowski, J. (2011). MoDeLS: Would you drink the liquid that came from this dirty water? A 5th grade unit on evaporation and condensation investigating the phenomenon of a solar still. Science curriculum unit, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.

Evaporation and Condensation in a Solar Still Teacher Guide

Evaporation and Condensation in a Solar Still Student Pages


Elementary Science Methods
TE 402 Syllabus (pdf file)

Elementary Science Methods for Interns

Special Topics in Science Education: Teaching and Learning Science With Technology
TE991A Syllabus (pdf file)

Contemporary Issues in Science Curriculum and Teaching: Science Learning and Development
TE955 Syllabus (pdf file)

Integrated Science Research

References in Published Manuscripts

References in Schwarz & Gwekwerere, Science Education 2007 paper, "Using a Guided Inquiry and Modeling Instructional Framework (EIMA) to Support Pre-service K-8 Science Teaching."
Two additional examples of pre-service teachers' lesson plans and their coding

References in Schwarz, Meyer, & Sharma, Journal of Science Teacher Education 2007 paper, "Technology, Pedagogy, and Epistemology: Opportunities and Challenges of Using Computer Modeling and Simulation Tools in Elementary Science Methods."
Interview protocol about modeling and simulation tools
Transcript of four pre-service teachers discussing modeling and simulation tools

References in Schwarz & White, Cognition & Instruction 2005 paper, "Meta-Modeling Knowledge: Developing Students' Understanding of Scientific Modeling."
Comparison of METT software to other modeling software
Transcript of class discussion when METT/modeling ideas are introduced
Transcript of two students interacting with the modeling software
Transcript of two students discussing the nature of models

For more information about the analysis of the entire data set from two teachers' classes as well as further elaboration on causal connections between the curriculum and learning outcomes, see the technical paper entitled, "Developing a Model-Centered Approach to Science Education."