Bill Penuel headshot 22
Distinguished Professor • Director
Learning Sciences & Human Development • National Center for Research in Policy and Practice

Fleming Building, Room 176
University of Colorado Boulder
249 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309

I design and study curriculum materials, assessments, and professional learning experiences for teachers in science. I work in partnership with school districts and state departments of education, and the research I conduct is in support of educational equity in three dimensions: (1) equitable implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards; (2) creating inclusive classroom cultures that attend to students’ affective experiences and where all students have authority for constructing knowledge together; and (3) connecting teaching to the interests, experiences, and identities of learners. I use a wide range of research methods, including one my colleagues and I developed called design-based implementation research, to test what we design.

One line of my research focuses on how research-practice partnerships can support the production and use of evidence in educational decision making. As the Principal Investigator of the National Center for Research in Policy and Practice (NCRPP), a knowledge utilization center funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, I study how school and district leaders use research. I have authored two books on research practice partnerships, Creating Research-Practice Partnerships in Education (Harvard Education Press, 2017), and Connecting Research and Practice for Educational Improvement (Routledge, 2018). I give workshops regularly on how to build and sustain research-practice partnerships centered on promoting equity through inclusive, collaborative design processes and monitoring of equity of educational opportunity.

For prospective PhD students: I seek students who are interested in science learning in and out of school and who are particularly interested in promoting equitable change in public systems—school districts and ecosystems of learning that include schools, families, and community organizations. I seek to prepare my students for careers as boundary spanners who are skilled at multiple methods, knowledgeable about theories of learning and organizational change, and who hope to work as design researchers at the intersection of research and practice. 


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


DeBarger, A.H., Penuel, W.R., Harris, C.J., & Kennedy, C.A. (2015). Building an Assessment Argument to Design and Use Next Generation Science Assessments in Efficacy Studies of Curriculum InterventionsAmerican Journal of Evaluation

Penuel, W.R., Allen, A.R., Farrell, C., & Coburn, C. (2015). Conceptualizing research-practice partnerships as joint work at boundariesJournal for Education of Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 20(1-2), 182-197.

Penuel, W.R. (2014). Studying Science and engineering learning in practiceCultural Studies of Science Education. 1-16. doi: 10.1007/s11422-014-9632-x