Joseph Polman
Associate Dean for Research  • Professor
Learning Sciences & Human Development

Miramontes Baca Education Building, Room 209
University of Colorado Boulder
249 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309

Joe Polman is Associate Dean for Research in the School of Education and Professor of Educational Psychology & Learning Sciences. He was previously on the faculty of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he was Professor, Chair of the Division of Teaching and Learning, and Associate Director of the E. Desmond Lee Technology and Learning Center. He is an Executive Editor of Cognition and Instruction , and serves on the editorial boards of Journal of the Learning Sciences and Journal of Research in Science Teaching. He has been an active contributor to the learning sciences community over the past 20 years, and was program co-chair of the 2014 International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) hosted by CU-Boulder.

Dr. Polman is interested in how people learn science and history through inquiry and with the support of technology, both in community-based out-of-school programs and in schools. His research uses sociocultural lenses to focus on learning and identity development as young people participate in media construction related to their lives and communities. He seeks to identify and make accessible to young people practices from the disciplines that they can find meaningful and transformative in their lives on an ongoing basis. In particular, an important goal of his research is to inform the design of learning environments that involve young people with powerful tools for democratic participation, in order to better prepare them as citizens.

Over the years, his research and development has received generous support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Spencer Foundation, and the McDonnell Foundation. He is currently working on an NSF-funded research project aimed at developing and refining learning environments that involve young people in authentic data journalism focused on science and technology topics of their choice.


PhD Learning Sciences, Northwestern University, 1997
BA Comparative Literature, Brown University, 1988

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


Polman, J. L., Kyza, E. A., O'Neill, D. K., Tabak, I., Penuel, W. R., Jurow, A. S., O'Connor, K., Lee, T., and D'Amico, L. (Eds.). (2014). Learning and becoming in practice: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2014, Volumes 1-3. Boulder, CO: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Polman, J. L. (2000). Designing project-based science: Connecting learners through guided inquiry. New York: Teachers College Press.

Refereed Journal Articles

Polman, J. L., and Gebre, E. H. (2015). Towards critical appraisal of infographics as scientific inscriptions. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. doi: 10.1002/tea.21225

Polman, J. L., Newman, A., Saul, E. W. & Farrar, C. (2014). Adapting practices of science journalism to foster science literacy. Science Education, 98(5), 766-791. doi: 10.1002/sce.21114

Lamb, G. R., Polman, J. L., Newman, A., and Graville Smith, C. (2014). Science news infographics: Teaching students to gather, interpret, and present information graphically. The Science Teacher, 81(3), 25-30.

Polman, J. L., and Hope, J. M. G. (2014). Science news stories as boundary objects affecting engagement with science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51 (3), 315-341. doi: 10.1002/tea.21144

Polman, J. L., Newman, A., Farrar, C., and Saul, E. W. (2012). Science journalism: Students learn lifelong science literacy skills by reporting the news. The Science Teacher (January), 44-47.

Polman, J. L. (2010). The zone of proximal identity development in apprenticeship learning. Revista de Educación (special issue on Identity and Education),353 (September-December) , 129-155. Available:

Polman, J. L., and Miller, D. (2010). Changing stories: Trajectories of identification among African American youth in a science outreach apprenticeship.American Educational Research Journal, 47 (4), 879-918.

Polman, J. L. (2006). Mastery and appropriation as means to understand the interplay of history learning and identity trajectories. The Journal of the Learning Sciences . 15 (2), 221-259.

Polman, J. L. (2004). Dialogic activity structures for project-based learning environments. Cognition and Instruction , 22 (4), 431-466 .

Polman, J. L. (2004). The perils and promise of afterschool programs on school territory. Afterschool Matters , 3 , 3-12.

O'Neill, D. K., & Polman, J. L. (2004). Why educate "little scientists?" Examining the potential of practice-based scientific literacy. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41 (3), 234-266.

Polman, J. L. & Pea, R. D. (2001). Transformative communication as a cultural tool for guiding inquiry science. Science Education , 85 (3), 223-238.

Gordin, D.N., Polman, J.L., & Pea, R.D. (1994). The Climate Visualizer: Sense-making through scientific visualization. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 3 (4), 203-226.

Book Chapters

Polman, J. L. (2012). Trajectories of participation and identification in learning communities involving disciplinary practices. In D. Yun Dai, (Ed.), Design research on learning and thinking in educational settings: Enhancing intellectual growth and functioning (pp. 225-242). New York: Routledge.

Wertsch, J. V., & Polman, J. L. (2002). The impact of mediation on goal structure. In M. Hildebrand-Nilshon & C.-W. Kim (Eds.), Kultur (in) der Psychologie (Cultural psychology) (pp. 223-232). Heidelberg: Asanger Verlag.

Wertsch, J.V., & Polman, J.L. (2001). The intuitive mind and knowledge about history. In B. Torff & R. J. Sternberg, (Eds.), Understanding and teaching the intuitive mind (pp. 57-72). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.