Erin Furtak
Associate Dean of Faculty • Professor
STEM Education • CU Teach

School of Education, Room 320-A
University of Colorado Boulder
249 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309

Erin Marie Furtak, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Frustrated while trying to realize educational reforms as a public high school biology teacher, Erin transitioned into a career studying how science teachers learn and improve their daily classroom practices through formative assessment. In a series of multiple studies, Dr. Furtak has been partnering with teachers, schools, and districts to learn how teachers can design, enact, and take instructional action on the basis of classroom assessments that they design. Dr. Furtak is also Program Area Chair of the Mathematics and Science Education Program Area, as well as Chair of the CU Teach Science, Mathematics and Engineering Program.  

Dr. Furtak received the 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) and the German Chancellor Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2006). Her research and professional writing has been published in multiple journal articles,  research-and practitioner-oriented books,  book chapters, humorous essays, and advice columns. She also conducts extensive service to the teaching profession through long-term research and professional development partnerships with school districts and organizations in Colorado and across the US. 


PhD Curriculum and Teacher Education, Stanford University, 2006

MA Education, University of Denver, 2001

BA Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology, University of Colorado Boulder, 1999

Daphne Project - Supporting Beginning Science Teachers in Natural Selection Instruction (funded by the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation)

‘Daphne’ is a three-phase study that will explore how a map of student ideas and misconceptions about natural selection can help to develop beginning teachers' pedagogical content knowledge, leading to a subsequent increase in student learning. Funding for the study began in July 2007 and the study will be conducted during the 2008-2009 school year.

‘Supporting Autonomy in Science Classrooms’ (funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Max Planck Society)

Dr. Furtak is the primary researcher in this experimental study exploring the effects of cognitive and procedurally supportive teaching on student learning and motivation. The study is taking place in Berlin-area international schools during the fall of 2007.

‘Using Evidence’ in Reasoning about Sinking and Floating (funded by the National Science Foundation and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)

This project supported the development of a new analytic framework designed to examine the development of scientific reasoning in elementary, middle, and high school . The framework has been applied to the measurement of different facets of reasoning in science classrooms, specifically with regard to the development of written assessments and the analysis of video recordings of whole-class discussions from classrooms in the US and Germany.

 ‘Romance’ Project (funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing)

A nationwide experimental study, conducted during the 2003-2004 school year, that explored the effects of formative embedded assessment on student learning. The study was a collaboration between Stanford University and the University of Hawaii, and Dr. Furtak participated as a member of the assessment development team and a mentor to the middle school science teachers who participated in the study.


Brown, N., Timms, M., Nagashima, S., & Wilson, M. (2008, March). The using evidence framework: A model of scientific reasoning. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New York.

Furtak, E. (2008, March). Guidance, conceptual understanding, and student learning: Enactment of an inquiry-based curriculum. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New York.

Furtak, E., Hardy, I., Beinbrech, T., Shavelson, R., & Shemwell, J. (2008, March). A framework for analyzing reasoning in science classroom discourse. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New York.

Hardy, I., Kloetzer, B., Möller, K., & Sodian, B. (2008, March). The analysis of classroom discourse: Elementary school science curricula advancing reasoning with evidence. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New York.

Nagashima, S., Brown, N., Fu, A., Timms, M., & Wilson, M. (2008, March). A framework for analyzing reasoning in written assignments. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New York.

Dr. Furtak’s teaching interests are in the area of secondary science education. She is primarily concerned with preparing aspiring teachers for the demands and realities of daily middle and high school science teaching. Dr. Furtak also works with practicing teachers in professional development regarding formative assessment in science education.

Courses frequently taught:

EDUC 5385 Methods and Materials in Secondary Science

Member: American Educational Research Association, National Association for Research in Science Teaching, European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction

Journal Reviewer for the International Journal of Science Education and Educational Assessment

(For complete list of publications, please see the faculty member's curriculum vitae.)


Furtak, E., & Alonzo, A. (2010). The Role of Content in Inquiry-Based Elementary Science Lessons: An Analysis of Teacher Beliefs and EnactmentResearch in Science Education, 40 (3), 425-449. doi: 10.1007/s11165-009-9128-y

Furtak, E. M., & Ruiz-Primo, M. A. (2008). Making students' thinking explicit in writing and discussion: An analysis of formative assessment promptsScience Education, 92(5), 799-824. doi: 10.1002/sce.20270

Furtak, E. M., Ruiz-Primo, M. A., Shemwell, J. T., Ayala, C. C., Brandon, P., Shavelson, R. J., et al. (2008). On the Fidelity of Implementing Embedded Formative Assessments and its Relation to Student LearningApplied Measurement in Education21(4), 360-389.

Ruiz-Primo, M. A., & Furtak, E. M. (2007). Exploring teachers' informal formative assessment practices and students' understanding in the context of scientific inquiry.  Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44 (1), 57-84. doi: 10.1002/tea.20163

Ruiz-Primo, M. A., & Furtak, E. M. (2006). Informal Formative Assessment and Scientific Inquiry: Exploring Teachers' Practices and Student LearningEducational Assessment, 11 (3-4), 237-263. doi: 10.1080/10627197.2006.9652991

Furtak, E. M. (2006). The problem with answers: An exploration of guided scientific inquiry teachingScience Education, 90 (3), 453-467. doi: 10.1002/sce.20130

Furtak, E.M & Ruiz-Primo, M.A. (2005, January). Questioning Cycle: Making Students' Thinking Explicit During Scientific InquiryScience Scope, 28 (4), 22-25 .

Furtak, E.M. (2004, December 1). Standardized science: Mandatory testing’s impact on teaching and learning [Letter to the Editor]Education Week, p. 41. The article referenced in this letter to the editor is also available online.


Furtak, E.M. (2009). Formative Assessment for Secondary Science TeachersThousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Furtak, E.M. (2008). The Dilemma of Guidance: An Exploration of Scientific Inquiry Teaching. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller.

Book Chapters

Furtak, E. M., & Shavelson, R. J. (2009). Guidance, Conceptual Understanding, and Student Learning: An Investigation of Inquiry-Based Teaching in the US. In T. Janik & T. Seidel (Eds.), The Power of Video Studies in Investigating Teaching and Learning in the Classroom , pp. 181-206. Munich: Waxmann.

Ruiz-Primo, M. A., Furtak, E. M., Ayala, C. C., Yin, Y., & Shavelson, R. J. (2009). On the Impact of Formative Assessment on Student Science Learning and Motivation. In H. L. Andrade & G. J. Cizek (Eds.), Handbook of Formative Assessment. New York: Routledge.

Shavelson, R. J., Yin, Y., Furtak, E. M., Ruiz-Primo, M. A., Ayala, C. C., Young, D. B., et al. (2008). On the Role and Impact of Formative Assessment on Science Inquiry Teaching and Learning. In J. Coffey, R. Douglas & C. Stearns (Eds.),Assessing Science Learning (pp. 21-36). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.