Maura O’Brien Carlson works to empower teachers in their understanding and practice of inquiry-based teaching and learning, and formative assessment. "I have the greatest respect for teachers and their contributions to the lives of children," says Maura. "They are the professionals in their field. They know each of their students’ strengths and weaknesses and use developmentally appropriate strategies to work with the age group they teach. What we can offer these teachers is an opportunity to expand their view of teaching, assessment, and learning to include inquiry and continuous assessment."
Maura is the Co-Director of the Center for Science Education and Professional Development, at Learning Innovations at WestEd. "In our professional development initiatives, we model good teaching and assessment practices for teachers and teacher educators", Maura explains. Recently, Maura, along with Karen Reinhardt, and Gregg Humphrey, has been working on an NSF funded project to develop materials for these teachers and professional developers that are user-friendly and portray what good science teaching, learning, and assessment look like. "Building expertise in your field means being deliberately reflective about your work with learners," Maura says. She believes that teachers are better prepared to catalyze and support their students’ learning, when they are given opportunities to pursue their own inquiries in science and about science teaching and assessment. This along with having occasions to reflect on their own practice and share with their peers, teachers will be better able to catalyze and support their students’ learning.
Prior to working on these projects Maura served as a research associate for the National Center for Improving Science Education and has co-authored two of the Center’s major reports, and the book, "Elementary School Science for the ‘90s". She has co-directed three large NSF funded grants from l990 to present. Maura, along with other leaders in Vermont, has been instrumental in the development of a vision for systemic change in the State for science education. In this capacity she has served as one of the Co-Principal Investigators, and as a Professional Development Specialist for the Vermont Statewide Systemic Initiative. In her evaluation work, she has been a part of evaluation teams for three NSF funded initiatives. Her background includes teaching elementary science methods courses at the University of Vermont, and twelve years teaching science at the middle and secondary school levels. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology from Trinity College, and a Masters in Education and Environmental Studies from the University of VT, both located in Burlington, VT.
Maura is an outdoor enthusiast and enjoys hiking and cross country skiing. In the summer you can find her in her perennial garden.