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Nancy Songer - Drexel Univeristy Dean of the School of Education
Distinguished University Professor
  • One Drexel Plaza, Suite 100
    3001 Market Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19104
  • 215.895.2167

Nancy Butler Songer, PhD


PhD, University of California, Berkeley
MS, Tufts University
BS, University of California, Davis

Program Affiliation

Philly Scientists

Selected Recent Publications

  • Moulding, B., Songer, N., and Brenner, K. (Eds.) (in press) Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigations and Design at the Center. Washington D.C.: National Research Council.
  • Songer, N.B. (2018) Learning Progressions. SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation 958-959. Washington D.C.: Sage.
  • Fick, S.J. & Songer, N.B. (2017). Characterizing Middle Grade Students’ Integrated Alternative Science Knowledge About the Effects of Climate Change. Journal of Education in Science, Environment and Health (JESEH), 3(2).
  • Songer, N.B. and Kali, Y. (2014) Science Education and the Learning Sciences as Coevolving Species. Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, 2nd edition. 565-586.
  • Songer, N.B. (2014) What is the “Messy Middle”? How Does It Inform the Teaching and Learning of Blended Learning in Science? Concept paper commissioned by ACT Inc.
  • Kwok, A. and Songer, N.B. (2014) Hearing Urban Classrooms. The National Journal of Urban Education and Practice (7) 1, 31-43.
  • Gotwals, A. W. and Songer, N.B. (2013) Validity evidence for learning progression-based assessment items that fuse core disciplinary ideas and science practices. The Journal of Research in Science Teaching 50(5), 597-626.
  • Songer, N.B., Shah, A.M., and Fick, S. (2013) Characterizing teachers’ verbal scaffolds to guide elementary students’ creation of scientific explanations. School Science and Mathematics 113(7), 321-332.
  • Peters, V. and Songer, N.B. (2013) Evaluating the usability of a professional modeling tool repurposed for middle school learning. Journal of Science Education and Teaching (JSET). DOI 10.1007/s10956-012-9422-8.
  • Songer, N.B. and Ruiz-Primo, M. (2012) Assessment and Science Education: Our essential new priority? The Journal of Research in Science Teaching (49) 6, 683-690.
  • Peters, V., Dewey, T., Kwok, A., Hammond, G., and Songer, N.B. (2012) Predicting the Impacts of Climate Change on Ecosystems: A High School Curricular Module. The Earth Scientist. 28:3. P.33-37.
  • Songer, N.B. and Gotwals, A. W. (2012) Guiding explanation building for elementary students at the entry points of learning progressions. The Journal of Research in Science Teaching (49) 2, PP. 141–165.
  • Songer, N.B. (2011) Assessing Essential Science of Nascent Inquirers. In M. Mayrath, D. Robinson and J Clarke-Midura (Eds.) Technology-Based Assessments for 21st Century Skills: Theoretical and Practical Implications from Modern Research. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.
  • Gotwals, A. and Songer, N.B. (2010) Reasoning up and down the food chain: Using an assessment framework to do cognitive research. Science Education. (94) 2. P. 259-281.
  • Songer, N.B., Kelcey, B., and Gotwals, A. (2009) When and How Does Complex Reasoning Occur? Empirically Driven Development of a Learning Progression Focused on Complex Reasoning about Biodiversity. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. (46)6, 610-631.
  • McDonald, S. and Songer, N.B. (2008) Enacting Classroom Inquiry: Teachers’ Conceptions of Science Teaching. Science Education (92) 6. 973-993.

    Dr. Songer's work is focused in these areas: (1) Urban Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. For the past 22 years, Songer and her research teams created and evaluated comprehensive learning environments focused on critical thinking in STEM disciplines. This work included the original design of curricular units, customized technologies, assessment tools, and teacher professional development in interdisciplinary STEM topics (climate change, biodiversity). Research results yielded significant learning gains, for example, among Detroit Public School students (Songer, Kelcey, Gotwals, 2009). As Dean of the School of Education at Drexel University, Songer led urban STEM initiatives investigating new definitions of public school-university partnerships with several west Philadelphia public schools. (2) Small and powerful technologies for learning. Recognized by software designers and others, Songer and colleagues begin with professional STEM tools and codify the necessary thought processes to transform the tool into a high-integrity learning experience for non-scientific or younger audiences. Using these techniques, Songer and collaborators developed eight learning technology tools and eight curricular units for 4-12th grade students that support age-appropriate complex thinking about grand ideas in science. (3) Sound educational research to provide strong empirical evidence of growth spurts and plateaus, as well as documentation of how and when complex inquiry reasoning occurs among students.

    Leadership Highlights, Honors and Awards

    • 2017- Present Chair (w/ B. Moulding), The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Committee, Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center. 11/2018.
    • 2018 Chair, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Review Panel, Citizen Science and Scientific Literacy. Gulf Research.
    • 2018-Present Editorial Board, American Educational Research Journal, An official journal of the American Educational Research Association (AERA)
    • 2016-Present Board of Directors, Prasad Ram, Founder, CEO, Chairman
    • 2017-Present Board of Directors, The Philadelphia Education Fund. F. Jiminez, President
    • 2016-2017 External Expert in Science Assessment, state of Delaware, USA
    • 2015-Present Fellow of the International Society for Design and Development in Education
    • 2013 Fulbright Specialist Award focused on STEM Reform, Turkmenistan
    • 2008 Faculty Recognition Award, The University of Michigan

    Recent Grants and Contracts (current total in excess of 76 million)

    • 2018-2022 Co-Principal Investigator, USAID Egypt, STEM Teacher Education and School Strengthening Activity (STESSA) focused on STEM Teacher Education in Egypt. PI: F. Joseph Merlino. ($22,000.000.)
    • 2016-2019 Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation ITEST (1614511). Kids as Urban Scientists: Mapping the Biodiversity of the Philadelphia Promise Zone. Co-PIs: Nancy Peter and Winifred Black. ($1,174,805.)
    • 2016-2019 Principal Investigator, Dragons Teach Middle Years: Middle School Teachers for Urban Schools. Philadelphia School Partnership. ($1,200,000.)
    • 2015-2017 Principal Investigator, Teacher Preparation Transformation. National Center for Teacher Residencies. ($41,666.)
    • 2014-2017 Principal Investigator, Federal Gear UP grant, U.S. Department of Education. Science Scope and Sequence and Next Generation Science with Philadelphia Public Schools. ($573,645.)
    • 2009-2014 Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation DR K-12. Change Thinking for Global Science: Fostering and evaluating inquiry thinking about the ecological impacts of climate change. Co-PIs: Phil Myers, University of Michigan Zoology and Jim Beach, Informatics, U. Kansas. ($3,440,687.)
    • Drexel University School of Education
      Distinguished University Professor
    • University of Michigan
      Director, Center for Essential Science
      Professor, Science Education and Learning Technologies
      Chair, Department of Educational Studies
      Program Director, Educational Technology
    • University of Colorado, School of Education


    Nancy Songer, PhD, is a Distinguished University Professor of the School of Education at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Songer was the Dean of the School of Education at Drexel University for four years and a Professor at The University of Michigan for 18 years (1996-2014). Songer earned a BS in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Davis, a MS in Developmental Biology From Tufts University and a PhD in Science Education and Learning Technologies from the University of California, Berkeley, working with Marcia Linn.

    About Dr. Songer

    Nancy Butler Songer is a Distinguished University Professor in the School of Education at Drexel University and a Visiting Scholar at in Redwood City, CA. Her work focuses on the design of education innovations for promoting critical thinking in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), environmental awareness, and increased participation by youth in science careers.