Elizabeth A. Davis

Professor, The Learning Sciences and Science Education


(734) 647-0594


Room 4112
610 E. University Ave.
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1259

Betsy Davis is a science educator and teacher educator whose research interests include teacher and student learning. She is especially interested in beginning and experienced elementary teachers, teachers learning to engage in ambitious science teaching, and the roles of curriculum materials and teacher education in promoting teacher learning. Currently, Davis is serving as the chair of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) committee on Enhancing Science in Prekindergarten through Fifth Grade.

One major focus of Davis's work is the use of educative curriculum materials in supporting elementary teachers in ambitious science teaching. Recent research explored the overarching research question: How does teacher use of educative curriculum materials relate to (a) teachers' learning, (b) teachers' practice (and thus students' opportunities to learn), and (c) students' learning of science content and about scientific practices across scientific disciplines? This work—an NSF-funded collaboration with Annemarie Palincsar at U-M and Sean Smith at Horizon Research, Inc.—explored teachers' uptake of ideas and practices embedded in educative features in curriculum materials.

Davis helped to lead the redesign of the Elementary Teacher Education program to have a more deliberate and detailed focus on practice, as well as on content knowledge for teaching and the ethical obligations of the profession. The aim of the program is to help interns learn how to do the work of ambitious elementary teaching. Related to this, one of Davis's scholarly interests is on how novice elementary teachers leverage their work across disciplines to learn to engage in ambitious science teaching. As outgrowths of this program work, Davis is working on two projects related to teacher education. In a Spencer-funded project called ATTEST, Davis and her colleague Annemarie Palincsar explore how novice elementary teachers learn to teach science. They are developing trajectories of development around a set of high-leverage science teaching practices, content knowledge for teaching science, and a set of equity leverage points for science teaching. As part of a project led by TeachingWorks and funded by the Gates foundation, Davis is supporting the development of resources and tools for science teacher educators.

Among other courses, Davis teaches a graduate course on the development of expertise in science teaching and, in the undergraduate elementary teacher education program, the elementary science methods course. She received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998, and received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers at the White House in 2002 and the Jan Hawkins Early Career Award in 2004. She was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi in 2015.


Number Course Name Location Days
EDUC 898
Professional Development Seminar

Prerequisites: none
Introduces students to current scholarly and professional issues within specific specialization areas. Designed to create and sustain a program of academic research.

EDUC 421
Teaching of Science in the Elementary School

Explores objectives, methods, and content in elementary school science instruction, emphasizing concept development in several areas of elementary science; refers to pertinent contributions from research; provides opportunity for student preparation of materials for classroom use.

2241 SEB

EDUC 832
Theory and Research on the Development of Expertise in Science Teaching

Discusses theory and research on science teacher learning and development. Examines contemporary and historical frameworks for characterizing teacher learning and development, focusing on teacher knowledge, particularly subject matter and subject-specific pedagogical knowledge. Examines the use of computer-based tools for promoting teacher learning and development. Students will interview teachers regarding their knowledge and beliefs about teaching and learning science, observe their classroom practice, and analyze how knowledge and beliefs influence their practice.

EDUC 406
Teaching in the Elementary School

Prerequisites: Must be elected concurrently with EDUC 307, 391, and 401.

Studies elementary schooling in relation to learners, teaching, curriculum, and the professional responsibilities and obligations of teachers. Contemporary issues affecting the elementary classroom teacher serve as the specific focus. Taken in conjunction with 307, facilitates the integration of theory and practice by providing students with the opportunity to work with learners and teachers in classrooms.

4212 SEB


Selected Publications

Educative curriculum materials: Uptake, impact, and implications for research and design.

Davis, E. A., Palincsar, A. S., Smith, P. S., Arias, A., & Kademian, S. (2017). Educational Researcher, 46(6), 293-304.

Supporting children to construct evidence-based claims in science: Individual learning trajectories in a practice-based program.

Arias, A., & Davis, E. A. (2017). Teaching and Teacher Education, 66, 204-218.

Teachers and science curriculum materials: Where we are and where we need to go. Studies in Science Education

Davis, E. A., Janssen, F., & Van Driel, J. (2016). 52(2), 127-160. (Authors are listed alphabetically.) DOI: 10.1080/03057267.2016.1161701

Designing educative curriculum materials: A theoretically and empirically driven process.

Davis, E. A., Palincsar, A. S., Arias, A., Bismack, A., Marulis, L., & Iwashyna, S. (2014). Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 24-52.

Beginning teachers moving toward effective elementary science teaching. Science Education

Davis, E. A., & Smithey, J. (2009). 93(4), 745-770

Challenges new science teachers face. Review of Educational Research

Davis, E. A., Petish, D., & Smithey, J. (2006). 76(4), 607-651.

Designing educative curriculum materials to promote teacher learning. Educational Researcher

Davis, E. A., & Krajcik, J. (2005). 34(3), 3-14.


Award Start Date
Aug 01, 2018
Award End Date
Jul 31, 2023
Award Start Date
Sep 02, 2006
Award End Date
Mar 31, 2011
Award Start Date
Feb 10, 2006
Award End Date
Jan 10, 2008
Award Start Date
Feb 01, 2002
Award End Date
Jan 01, 2004
Award Start Date
Feb 09, 2001
Award End Date
Jan 09, 2006
Award Start Date
Jan 02, 2000
Award End Date
Feb 01, 2008