Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl
Associate Professor, Educational Psychology
312E Miller Hall - Phone 616-6306
I am a developmental psychologist and a learning scientist interested in contributing to theory building, research, and practice. My work seeks to understand the contextual and social features of learning environments and their impact on participants’ learning and development. My early work focused on cognitive and social dimensions of learning. In more recent work, I have sought to combine my understanding of the conceptual, social, and discursive nature of learning with the affective and volitional dimensions to provide a more holistic account of learning. I am interested in how people learn across disciplines, contexts, and age of participants, although children remain a key population for me and science learning in both formal and informal settings is a central site for my investigations.
My research program has developed lines of work around three interrelated strands: (1) research on the conceptual, social, and discursive dimensions of science learning; (2) understanding learning as a holistic process of developing people while expanding their knowledge and skills; and (3) bridging research and practice through partnerships in formal and informal settings.
My research on children’s school science learning was conducted in diverse urban settings across the United States, with many racial, ethnic, and linguistic groups represented. Some participating schools had high percentages of students in poverty, with over 90% of students receiving free or reduced price lunches. My findings demonstrated that diverse urban elementary science learners are capable of sophisticated epistemological and conceptual thinking, something that was not widely recognized or understood within the field. My work has impacted the field by providing evidence of how social dynamics and discourse practices in classrooms impact students’ science learning. In addition, while scholars have developed and shared approaches to scientific inquiry that have emphasized important epistemological dimensions of science learning, little is known about the connection between students’ difficulties with inquiry and the kinds of pedagogical practices that successfully support students to develop conceptual and epistemological practices that are robust and sophisticated. Recently I’ve investigated the pedagogical dilemmas that teachers face when engaging elementary and middle school students in scientific inquiry and the practices that the teachers developed to support students’ learning around the most challenging aspects of inquiry.
Early on in my career, I realized that focusing on conceptual and epistemological dimensions of science learning alone did not fully capture how, when, and why students put important knowledge, skills, and practices to use. To address these issues, I have developed a line of theoretical and empirical work that investigates how people come to use knowledge and skills in the way that they do. I began to examine students’ interests, motivations, and affective orientations toward learning. Together with doctoral students, I have examined power dynamics in the classroom and investigated how personal and social values—about what is worth learning and how learning should take place—are negotiated in the classroom. In my recent book with doctoral student Veronique Mertl, How Students Come to Be, Know, and Do: A Case for a Broad View of Learning, I build a theoretical argument and methodological approach for studying learning in a holistic way. Learning is frequently conceptualized as a process of building “knowledge,” without paying close attention to the social and emotional aspects of what it means to learn. In this book, we argue for a perspective on learning that goes beyond mastering knowledge and academic content. We argue that to talk about students’ learning in terms of knowledge alone diminishes and dismisses some profound and complex human experiences that can have both short-term and long-term effects. Developing interest, persisting in the face of difficulty, actively listening to other’s ideas, accepting and responding to feedback, challenging ideas, being wrong, and identifying with the scientific enterprise in constructive ways are also crucial dimensions of students’ experiences. As students become knowledgeable in new areas of study, they also become participants in relation to that subject matter, to one another, and to teachers, parents, and the larger community. Our book makes an argument for a view of human learning that engages the “affective-volitional processes” (Vygotsky, 1987/1934) of “becoming” students together with key processes of knowing and doing science. In the book, we provide examples of urban fourth graders from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds studying science as a way to illustrate how this model contributes to a more complete and complex understanding of learning in school settings.
Through the process of writing the book, I became interested in learning environments that are well suited to developing students as thinkers and people. This led me to a current collaborations with designers in landscape architecture to better understand how practices in studio pedagogy support students to develop ways of knowing, doing, and being essential to their success in future design careers. This is the latest collaboration among many that highlights my interest in creating and maintaining productive and stimulating researcher-practitioner collaborations. I also work collaboratively with faculty and students in the UW Museology Program and staff at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. I enjoy working together with practitioners during all phases of a project, including planning, implementation, data analysis, and presentation of findings. This model has facilitated my ability to understand practitioners’ perspectives and has also allowed them to more clearly understand my perspective as a researcher. I have presented papers and written articles and book chapters with my collaborators to discuss this unique approach. My collaborations with practitioners have also significantly impacted my reflection about my own teaching, helping me to develop better approaches to support student learning in the courses at teach at the UW.
I am also currently Co-Director of The 3DL Partnership. The 3DL Partnership is a joint initiative of the UW School of Social Work and the College of Education dedicated to raising the profile and practice of all three dimensions of learning—social, emotional and intellectual. We do our work in the real world, joining forces with local PreK-12 schools and youth organizations to provide innovative, community-based solutions that help prepare the whole child for success in school, work and life. Our interdisciplinary focus crosses traditional boundaries in social work and education, leading to collaborative research, integrated practice and professional development—all dedicated to helping young learners acquire the skills, competencies and resilience they need to thrive in a fast-moving, interconnected world. We also serve as a thought leader to advance the exchange of ideas, accelerate the movement of research into practice, and influence policy nationally and internationally.
Ph.D., Clark University, 1995
Cornelius, L. Herrenkohl, L. R. & Wolfstone-Hay, J. (in press) Organizing Collaborative Learning Experiences Around Subject Matter Domains: The Importance of Aligning Social and Intellectual Structures in Instruction, to appear in Hmelo-Silver, C. E., O’Donnell, A.M., Chan, C. and Chinn, C. A. (Eds.), The International Handbook of Collaborative Learning. Taylor and Francis.
Herrenkohl, L. R.and Mertl, V. (2011). How students come to be, know, and do: A case for a broad view of learning. Cambridge UK, New York City: Cambridge University Press.
Herrenkohl, L. R., Tasker, T., and White, B.Y. (2011) Developing Classroom Cultures of Inquiry and Reflection Using Web of Inquiry. Cognition and Instruction, 29(1), 1-44.
Herrenkohl, L. R., DeWater, L.S., & Kawasaki, K. (2010). Teacher-Researcher Collaboration, In O’Connor, K & Penuel, W. (Eds) Learning research as a human science. (National Society for the Study of Education Yearbook). New York: Teachers College Press.
Herrenkohl, L. R., DeWater, L.S., and Kawasak, K. (2010). Inside AND Outside: Teacher-researcher collaboration. The New Educator, 6(1), 74-91.
Herrenkohl, L. R. (2008). Commentary: Sociocultural theory as a lens to understand organizational learning. American Journal of Education, 114, 673-679.
Herrenkohl, L. R.(2006). Intellectual Role-Taking: An Approach to Support Discussion in Heterogeneous Elementary Science Classes. Theory into Practice., 45, 47-54.
Stevens, R., Wineburg, S., Herrenkohl, L. R., and Bell, P. (2005). The comparative understanding of school subjects: Past, present, and future. Review of Educational Research, 75(2), 125-157.
Cornelius, L. and Herrenkohl, L. R. (2004). Power in the Classroom: How the Classroom Environment Shapes Students’ Relationships with Each Other and with Concepts. Cognition and Instruction, 22, 467-498.
Kawasaki, K., Herrenkohl, L. R., and Yeary, S. (2004). Theory Building and Modeling in a Sinking and Floating Unit: A Case Study of Third and Fourth Grade Students’ Developing Epistemologies of Science. International Journal of Science Education, 26, 1-26.
Herrenkohl, L. R., Palincsar, A.S., DeWater, L.S., and Kawasaki, K. (1999). Developing scientific communities in classrooms: A sociocognitive approach. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8, 451-493.
Herrenkohl, L. R., & Guerra, M. R. (1998). Participant structures, scientific discourse, and student engagement in fourth grade, Cognition and Instruction, 16, 433-475.
Reddy, M., Jacobs, P., McCrohon, C. & Herrenkohl, L. R. (1998). Creating scientific communities in the elementary school: Perspectives from a teacher-researcher collaboration. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
For a full listing of Dr. Herrenkohl’s publications, please see her CV.
Representative syllabi for classes that I teach (all in pdf format):
College of Education, University of Washington
Box 353600 Seattle, WA 98195-3600