William Penuel

Areas of Expertise
Administration and Leadership, After-School Programs, Assessment, Classroom Instruction, Curriculum Development and Theory, Early Childhood Education/School Readiness, Equity-Minded Reform, Learning Processes, Organizational and Systems Theories, STEM Education, Sociology of Education, Teacher Education, Technology and Media


Bill Penuel is Professor of Educational Psychology and Learning Sciences. He joined the faculty in the School of Education in 2011.

Professor Penuel began his career in the field of youth development, developing expertise in program development and evaluation. In his doctoral and early career research, he developed a framework that integrated traditional psychosocial perspectives on identity formation with Vygotskian theories of development. As Director of Evaluation Research at the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International, Professor Penuel developed a broad program of education research in STEM education. During his thirteen years at SRI, he conducted a variety of design, assessment, and evaluation research studies and developed expertise in educational technologies, classroom assessment, implementation research, and large-scale cluster randomized trials of educational innovations.

Professor Penuel’s current research focuses on teacher learning and organizational processes that shape the implementation of educational policies, school curricula, and afterschool programs. He examines learning and development from sociocultural, social capital, and complex social systems perspectives. In one project funded by the National Science Foundation, he is developing and testing models of teacher professional development related to the Next Generation Science Standards. In another project with Cynthia Coburn (Northwestern University) funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, he is studying the dynamics of research-practice partnerships focused on instructional improvement in mathematics. Two of Professor Penuel’s current projects, Synergies (Noyce Foundation, with John Falk and Lyn Dierking of Oregon State University) and the Longitudinal Study of Connected Learning (MacArthur Foundation), are examining how children’s interests develop over time and across different kinds of settings.

Professor Penuel’s teaching interests focus on research methodologies for the learning sciences, adolescent development, and educational technology. He recently developed a new course for the Education Minor called Learning with Technology in and out of School.

Professor Penuel is the author of over 60 refereed journal articles and conference papers. He recently edited two National Society for the Study of Education Yearbooks: Learning Research as a Human Science (2010; with Kevin O’Connor) and Design-Based Implementation Research (2013; with Barry Fishman, Anna-Ruth Allen, Nora Sabelli, & Britte Cheng).

Professor Penuel serves on the editorial board for Teachers College Record, American Journal of Evaluation, and Cognition and Instruction. He is co-chair (with Susan Jurow and Kevin O’Connor) of the 11th International Conference of the Learning Sciences, which will be hosted at CU-Boulder in June 2014.


1996 PhD, Developmental Psychology, Clark University
1992 EdM, Human Development and Psychology, Graduate School of Education, Harvard 
1991 BA, Psychology, Clark University