Ronald Anderson, PhD is professor emeritus of education with a focus on science education. His research centers on policy issues in science education and science education reform. In addition to science education, his teaching interests include educational reform.
Dr. Anderson is a member of numerous professional organizations and has served as president of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, president of the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science, and chair of the Education Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received an outstanding paper award from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching in 1980 and in 1986 was awarded a Fulbright Senior Research Award to conduct research in Germany.
PhD Education, University of Wisconsin, 1964
BS Physics, University of Wisconsin, 1959
My research has dealt with policy issues and initiating and sustaining reform in science education.
In 1981-83 I directed a project funded by the National Science Foundation in which we reviewed more than 3,000 research reports (including 1,000 dissertations on microfilm) in science education and did a meta-analysis of 769 studies that addressed six central questions concerning (1) the effects of different curricular programs in science, (2) the effects of different instructional systems, (3) the effects of different teaching techniques, (4) the effects of different teacher education programs and techniques, (5) the relationships between science teacher characteristics and teacher behaviors or student outcomes, and (6) the relationships between student characteristics and student outcomes in science. Reports of the results of this project constitute the entire May 1983 issue of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching.
In a subsequent project (reported in Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Vol. 27, No. 6, pp. 553-574. September 1990) I conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis of 69 interventions proposed by educational reformers for improving science and mathematics education. Recommendations for practice were formulated based on the costs of putting these interventions into practice and their probable effectiveness based on the extant research literature.
From 1991-1995 I directed a U.S. Department of Education funded project to research the improvement of education in science, mathematics, and higher order thinking across the disciplines. A central part of this project was conducting case studies of nine schools from across the U.S. that had been identified as engaged in significant and successful educational reforms. Results of the project are reported in Study of Curriculum Reform published by the U.S. Government Printing Office (1996) and in Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 77, No. 1, pp. 33-36, September 1995.
I directed the U.S. component of a comparative study of activity-based elementary school science conducted in four countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the U.S.) The results were published in 1995 by SUNY Press as a jointly authored book titled Portraits of Productive Schools.
While not a report of research, a book written for practitioners reflects the results of a wide sweep of educational research. This book (authored jointly with H. Pratt) is intended for local school leaders and was published by the National Science Supervisors Association/Kendall-Hunt under the title Local Leadership for Science Education Reform. (1995).
My current work on educational change has extended into the area of religion. A grant from the John Templeton Foundation supported work that resulted in the publication by Peter Lang Publishing of Religion and Spirituality in the Public School Curriculum (2004). A book based on case studies is under contract and in preparation with an expected title of Religion and Teaching.
My teaching interests are in the area of science education and educational reform. I am committed to preparing people with undergraduate majors in one of the natural sciences to be effective secondary school science teachers, assisting current science teachers to become the most effective teachers possible through graduate education, and preparing exemplary persons in doctoral programs to become leaders in the field of science education.
Courses frequently taught:
EDUC 4382/5385: Methods and Materials in Secondary School Science
The overarching goal of all student work in this course is professional development as a science teacher, with particular attention to being prepared to begin student teaching shortly. Specific objectives of the course are to:
- Develop a sound rationale for the work of teaching.
- Learn how to locate and use materials and resources.
- Develop facility with various teaching strategies.
- Acquire information on various topics such as safety and testing.
- Develop professional initiative and collaboration skills.
EDUC 8804: Seminar in Science Education
People enrolled in this course include both MA and PhD students. The purpose of this seminar, especially for the PhD students, is to read, discuss, and evaluate the research in science education. The MA students enrolled in this class typically are experienced science teachers who intend to continue in this career. Many of them take a more practitioner-oriented approach to their work in this course than the PhD students. Such a practitioner orientation is encouraged for them, i.e., giving more attention to selection of teaching materials and ways of using them in the classroom. A given student’s orientation to the course is reflected both in the choice of readings and the writing done by that particular student.
EDUC 5115: Modern Trends in Teaching
This course is taken by MA students in elementary education and all fields of secondary education and has two major foci for its participants: (1) gaining an understanding of the extensive literature on improving the manner in which education is practiced in this country (sometimes referred to as "educational reform"), and (2) developing a personal approach to becoming the most effective teacher possible. These two matters are highly related in that (1) the "reform" of education demands new approaches on the part of teachers and (2) teachers' attempts to become more effective teachers are dependent upon the structural and cultural context in which they are doing their work.
Service & Outreach
- Member, Committee on Taking Stock of the National Science Education Standards: The Research, National Research Council, 2001-2002.
- Member, Editorial Board, Journal of Science Teacher Education, 2001-present.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science - fellow Chair, Education Section, 1998-1999 Member, Association Council, 2002-2005
- Association for the Education of Teachers in Science President, 1972-1973
- National Association for Research in Science Teaching President, 1975-1976
- National Science Foundation, Program Director, Office of Studies and Program Assessment, Directorate for Science and Engineering Education, National Science Foundation, Washington, DC. 1989-1990.
- Associate Dean for Research and Service, 1972-1978
- Director, Bureau of Educational Field Services, 1972-1978
- Chair, Instruction and Curriculum in the Content Areas, 1994-95
- Individual Tenure and Reappointment Committees
- Faculty Search Committees
- Faculty Advisor, University of Colorado chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, 1998-2005
(For complete list of publications, please see the faculty member's curriculum vitae.)
Anderson, R. D. (2002). Reforming science teaching: What research says about inquiry. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(1), 1-12. Available online at:
Anderson, R. D., and Helms, J. V. (2001). The ideal of standards and the reality of schools: Needed research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(1), 3-16.
Anderson, R. D. (1995). Curriculum reform: Dilemmas and promise. Phi Delta Kappan, 77(1), 33-36.
Anderson, R. D. (1990). Policy decisions on improving science education: A cost effectiveness analysis. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 27(6), 553-574.
Anderson, R. D., Kahl, S., Glass, G., & Smith, M. (1983). Science education: A meta-analysis of major questions. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 20(5), 379-385.