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Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Newsletter

Alumni Spotlight: Jennie Brotman, PhD. ’09, Science Education

By • Sep 16th, 2013 • Category: Science Education

Dr. Jennie Brotman

Dr. Jennie Brotman, graduate of the Science Education PhD program in 2009, grew up in Northern New Jersey. She is the Director of Program Implementation at the non-profit organization, Teaching Matters. The mission of the organization is to develop and retain great teachers, and measurably increase their ability to give students in urban public schools an excellent education.

Dr. Brotman’s inquisitive mind led her to explore and discover how things work throughout her childhood. She had an inspiring high school biology teacher whose brilliance in the classroom influenced Dr. Brotman’s decision to major in biology in college.  After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in biology she worked in a fruit fly neuroscience research lab at the University of California at San Francisco for two years with the intention of attending graduate school to earn a PhD in science. Dr. Brotman realized she most enjoyed the teaching aspects of her job at the research lab, so she decided to pursue science education. Shifting from science research to science education was a major turning point in her academic and professional career.

She soon became a middle school science teacher, creating and teaching an inquiry-based science curriculum for a start-up middle school in Oakland, California.  “Since I began teaching I’ve just been on a path towards learning more and more about the field of both science education and education more broadly, and trying to deepen my understanding of different facets of public schools and how to make change there.” She left the classroom because she wanted to make an impact on a broader scale and to change education broadly; her current job allows her to explore these aspects of education directly.

Dr. Brotman’s love for learning began while she was a child.  Moreover, she enjoyed learning new concepts, especially topics in mathematics and science. Later in her childhood into her early adult life Dr. Brotman began to explore outdoor activities such as hiking and appreciating nature.

For her PhD, Dr. Brotman determined first how urban high school students learn about socially controversial science topics both inside and outside the classroom, and second how these young people use both of these sources of learning in their personal decision-making.  Specifically Dr. Brotman’s thesis research focused on students’ learning and decision-making about HIV/AIDS and sexual health and explored how schools can impact students’ thinking and decision-making about these issues.

During Dr. Brotman’s graduate work, she was afforded the opportunity to engage in several fellowships and assistantships that gave her experience in many New York City public schools.  These experiences were incredibly valuable for her. For example, she was a part of the Urban Science Education Center where she was able to work with a public school teacher on an action research project. “Opportunities to do really deep work in classrooms with teachers and students was a huge benefit of my work at TC.  It was also very helpful to have access to a peer group of other graduate students and researchers who were also working closely with New York City teachers.”

In addition, through her work with Dr. Felicia Mensah, she wrote a literature review on the field of girls and science education while she was a student at TC. “TC provided me with opportunities to do curriculum development, professional development, research, and teacher support in numerous New York City public schools.”

Since then she had the opportunity to write an article about gender-inclusive practices for the Encyclopedia of Science Education. Dr. Mensah was Dr. Brotman’s advisor and supported the development of her work. “She really supported the work I did on gender and education and writing a literature review on this topic, as well as on my dissertation research. She gave thoughtful feedback on my work, which helped me become a stronger researcher.” Her work with a research team in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching under Dr. Nancy Lesko on the HIV/AIDS curriculum in New York City was also a great influence on the work that Dr. Brotman was able to complete at TC. She enjoyed the Urban Science Education courses she took in the science education program, where she had the opportunity to shadow students and deeply analyze students’ experiences in urban classrooms. This positive coursework experience allowed her to better understand New York City public schools, especially since her background was in California schools.

Dr. Brotman has published articles in science education journals related to her dissertation work on controversial topics in science education, HIV/AIDS and sexual health education. During and after her time at TC, Dr. Brotman was an adjunct instructor at Barnard College, where she taught Contemporary Issues in Education, as well as a course entitled Science in the City, where undergraduates partnered with New York City public school teachers and collaborated to make the city a resource for science teaching and learning. From this work she was able to co-author a publication and conference presentation. Additionally, as described above, Dr. Brotman worked with Dr. Nancy Lesko in the Curriculum and Teaching Department on a project investigating New York City’s required K-12 HIV/AIDS curriculum, which also lead to a publication and presentation.

Dr. Brotman is a regular reviewer for the Journal of Research in Science Teaching and has reviewed for Science Education; she has maintained these science education affiliations. She has also presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) conferences and presented about engaging girls in robotics at a girls and STEM conference.

Dr. Brotman has a four-year-old son, whom she spends quality time with outside of work. She enjoys being outdoors, hiking, and cooking, and she regularly visits the American Museum of Natural History with her son. Dr. Brotman is hard working, sincere and dedicated to her work.

Publication Links:

Brotman, J. S., & Mensah, F. M. (2013). Urban high school students’ perspectives about sexual health decision-making:  the role of school culture and identity. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11422-012-9451-x

Brotman, J. S., Dawson, V., & Mensah, F. M. (2011).  Metalogue:  Critical issues in teaching socio-scientific issues.  In T. D. Sadler (Ed.), Socio-scientific issues in the classroom:  Teaching, learning and research. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-94-007-1159-4_19

Brotman, J. S., Mensah, F. M., & Lesko, N. (2011).  Urban high school students’ learning about HIV/AIDS in different contexts. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/sce.20405/abstract;jsessionid=B57ED129F8B6680242E1DDBC17D5AAB0.d04t03

Brotman, J. S., Mensah, F. M., & Lesko, N. (2010).  Exploring identities to deepen understanding of urban high school students’ sexual health decision-making.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tea.20370/abstract

Rivera Maulucci, M. S. & Brotman, J. S. (2010). Teaching science in the city:  Exploring linkages between teacher learning and student learning across formal and informal contexts. http://www1.ccny.cuny.edu/prospective/education/theneweducator/upload/3rd-article-6.pdf

Lesko, N., Brotman, J. S., Agarwal, R., & Quackenbush, J., (2010). Feeling jumpy:  Teaching about HIV/AIDS. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ908527

Brotman, J. S., & Moore, F. M. (2008). Girls and science:  A review of four themes in the science education literature. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tea.20241/abstract
By Deiana Jackson, Graduate Student, Mathematics Education Ed.D.

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