Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl

Professor, The Learning Sciences and Science Education


Room 4215
610 E. University Ave.
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1259

Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl, Ph.D. is a Professor of Educational Studies at the University of Michigan.  She is a developmental psychologist and learning scientist who is fascinated by how people learn. She brings a holistic, socio-cultural approach to examining how people learn concepts, develop practices, and transform their participation in activities that matter to them. She considers how social and emotional dimensions intersect with intellectual and academic perspectives in learning sciences research.  Most of her research has focused on learning in science, although she is also interested in how practices such as argumentation are similar and different across science and other domains. 

As a designer of learning environments, Dr. Herrenkohl supports powerful learning that is conceptually rich, personally meaningful, and culturally relevant and sustaining.  She creates learning environments inside and outside of school settings and then studies how people learn within them. In order to do this work, she partners with practitioners. These collaborations give her a deep appreciation for the need to integrate theory and practice and to conduct iterative research to better understand the impact of particular approaches and strategies. Her latest collaboration, STUDIO: Build Our World, supported by the National Science Foundation, involved a partnership with a multiservice community-based organization and a public housing community in Seattle. STUDIO is an afterschool STEM program that provides low income, immigrant, and refugee youth opportunities to develop interests, identities, and motivations to pursue further STEM learning. STUDIO built upon an existing youth leadership program and is situated at the heart of a public housing community that provides many health, education, and job training services to youth and their families. UW STEM undergraduates serve as mentors within STUDIO and attend a weekly seminar as part of their undergraduate studies. Dr. Herrenkohl has presented about the STUDIO model in many venues including conferences, NSF webinars, and the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.  In 2015, she was invited to the White House for a Summit on Next Generation High Schools.

Dr. Herrenkohl writes widely about science learning. Her most recent book, How Students Come to Be, Know, and Do: A Case for a Broad View of Learning, focuses on building a theoretical argument and methodological approach for studying science learning in a holistic way. Learning is frequently conceptualized as a process of building knowledge, without paying close attention to the cultural, social, and emotional aspects of what it means to learn.  In this book, she argues that to talk about students’ learning in terms of knowledge alone diminishes and dismisses some profound and complex human experiences that can have both short-term and long-term effects.  Developing interest, persisting in the face of difficulty, actively listening to other’s ideas, accepting and responding to feedback, challenging ideas, being wrong, and identifying with the scientific enterprise in constructive ways are also crucial dimensions of students’ experiences. Dr. Herrenkohl provides examples of urban fourth graders from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds studying science as a way to illustrate how this model contributes to a more complete and complex understanding of learning in school settings.

Dr. Herrenkohl recently joined the faculty at the University of Michigan after 22 years on the faculty at the University of Washington, where she was a Professor in Learning Sciences and Human Development as well as Elementary Teacher Education.  She was also the Co-Director of the 3DL Partnership and served as a member of the Museology Interdisciplinary Faculty Group. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Clark University.


Number Course Name Location Days
EDUC 591
Learning about How People Learn

This course would provide an introduction to major theories of learning and how they have guided educational practice historically and currently. Students will read texts written by featured theorists, and then analyze educational artifacts and learning environments to look for traces of various learning theories. In addition, students will explore how existing artifacts and learning environments might be altered to better align with different theoretical perspectives on learning.

Selected Publications

"Learning in community for STEM undergraduates: Connecting a learning sciences and a learning humanities approach in higher education."

Herrenkohl, L.R., Lee, J, Kong, F. Nakamura, S., Imani, S., Nasu, K. Hartman, A., Pennant, B, Tran, E., Wang, E., Eslami, N., Whittlesey, Daniel, Whittlesey, David, Huynh, T., Jung, A., Batalon, C., Bell, A., Taylor, K.H. (under review).  Cognition & Instruction, Special Issue: STEM Learning: For Whom and Toward What Ends?

"Learning within and beyond the disciplines."

Herrenkohl, L.R. & Polman, J. (2018). In Fischer, F., Hmelo-Silver, C.E., Goldman, S. R., & Reimann, P. (Eds.)  International Handbook of the Learning Sciences.

"What Science and For Whom?: An Introduction to Our Focus on Equity and Out-of-School Learning."

Herrenkohl, L.R. & Bevan, B. (2017). Science Education, 101, 517-519.

"Using Peer Feedback to Improve Students’ Scientific Inquiry."

Tasker, T. & Herrenkohl, L.R. (2016). Journal of Science Teacher Education, 27, 35-59.

Herrenkohl, T., Herrenkohl, L.R., Proulx, M., Benner, J., & Calvo, N. (2016). In SAGE Research Methods Cases. London, United Kingdom: SAGE Publications, Ltd.

"Learning and becoming in practice: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS)"

Morozov, A., Herrenkohl, L.R., Shutt, K., Thummaphan, P., Vye, N., Abbott, R.D., and Scalone, G. (2014).  Emotional Engagement in Agentive Science Learning Environments.  In 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.) (Volume 2, pp. 1152-1156). Boulder, CO: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

"Learning and becoming in practice: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS)"

Gottlieb, E. Herrenkohl, L.R., Wortham, S., Rhodes, C., Packer, M.J., Gonzalez, M.R., and Sfard, A. (2014). Connecting Learning and Becoming: Studying Epistemologies and Identities as Interconnected, Dynamic Systems. In 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.). (Volume 3, pp. 1247-1253). Boulder, CO: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

"The International Handbook of Collaborative Learning (pp. 333-350)."

"Cornelius, L. Herrenkohl, L.R. & Wolfstone-Hay, J. (2013). Organizing Collaborative Learning Experiences Around Subject Matter Domains: The Importance of Aligning Social and Intellectual Structures in Instruction.  In Hmelo-Silver, C. E., O’Donnell, A.M., Chan, C. and Chinn, C. A. (Eds.) New York, NY: Taylor and Francis."

"Investigating Elementary Students’ Scientific and Historical Argumentation"

Herrenkohl, L.R. & Cornelius, L. (2013).  Journal of the Learning Sciences, 22(3), 413-461.

 "Developing Classroom Cultures of Inquiry and Reflection Using Web of Inquiry"

"Herrenkohl, L.R., Tasker, T., and White, B.Y. (2011) Cognition and Instruction, 29(1), 1-44."

"How students come to be, know, and do: A case for a broad view of learning"

Herrenkohl, L.R. and Mertl, V. (2010). Cambridge UK, New York City: Cambridge University Press.

"Inside AND Outside: Teacher-researcher collaboration."

Herrenkohl, L.R., DeWater, L.S., and Kawasaki, K. (2010). The New Educator, 6(1), 74-91.

"The comparative understanding of school subjects: Past, present, and future."

Stevens, R., Wineburg, S., Herrenkohl, L.R., and Bell, P. (2005). Review of Educational Research, 75(2), 125-157.

"Power in the Classroom: How the Classroom Environment Shapes Students’ Relationships with Each Other and with Concepts."

Cornelius, L. and Herrenkohl, L.R. (2004). Cognition and Instruction, 22, 467-498.

"Developing scientific communities in classrooms: A sociocognitive approach"

Herrenkohl, L.R., Palincsar, A.S., DeWater, L.S., and Kawasaki, K. (1999). Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8, 451-493.

"Participant structures, scientific discourse, and student engagement in fourth grade, Cognition and Instruction"

Herrenkohl, L. R., & Guerra, M. R. (1998). 16, 433-475.


Award Start Date
Jul 01, 2020
Award End Date
Jun 30, 2025
Award Start Date
Sep 16, 2014
Award End Date
Sep 15, 2015
Award Start Date
Jul 01, 2013
Award End Date
Jun 30, 2018
Award Start Date
Jul 01, 2012
Award End Date
Jun 30, 2013
Award Start Date
Aug 15, 2010
Award End Date
Jul 31, 2014