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Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Newsletter

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Maria Rivera Maulucci, Science Education PhD ‘05

By • Feb 5th, 2014 • Category: Science Education

Dr. Maria Rivera Maulucci

Dr. Maria Rivera Maulucci is an associate professor of education at Barnard College Her responsibilities include foundations courses on contemporary issues, secondary education and science education courses, and student teaching supervision.

Dr. Maulucci is second generation Puerto Rican American, one of eight children, born and raised in Bronx, New York. She attended Bronx High School of Science, and then completed her undergraduate work at Barnard College. She earned her master’s in forest science at Yale University. Dr. Maulucci completed her doctorate in science education at TC ’05.

She began teaching in the Bronx, New York, at a private urban school for low-income gifted youth, where she taught for seven years. Soon after she took a position with the Department of Education in a K-8 science cluster at a school in the Bronx. She became the science, mathematics, and technology developer there. She took a year and a half off to complete her master’s degree at Yale University. Following the completion of her degree she returned to the Department of Education and became a district staff developer and director of the Science and Technology Center for three years.

Many of the projects she was involved in at Yale were interdisciplinary projects, with an education component where her expertise as a science educator was a resource. Urban forestry, her focus at Yale, concentrates on community participation, where the community is involved in the decision-making related to forest resources in their area. Dr. Maulucci’s work at Yale transferred to pedagogical strategy to involve students in the science education curriculum decision-making, which led to her work as a doctoral student at TC.

As a TC student, she was a science educator as well, which afforded her the opportunity to apply the theories she learned to her teaching practice in the classroom. She took a course with Dr. Michelle Knight on critical pedagogy that resonated with her; the course focused on the development of skills for teaching for social justice.

In addition to her academic work as a graduate student at TC she was able to develop and teach two graduate-level courses at TC, which really helped her transition into the faculty position at Barnard College.

Dr. Angie Calabrese Barton was her dissertation sponsor. She worked very closely with Dr. Maulucci in the Urban Science Center. She has been a mentor throughout her career, providing her with advice and opportunities.  

When she was working as a district staff developer, Dr. Maulucci established a Science Center in one of the schools, where urban fellows worked in the school directly with youth and teachers around science education during the school day and developed after-school programs. Dr. Maulucci said, “The work with the Urban Science Center really transformed my thinking in a lot of ways about what’s possible when schools and universities collaborate for the benefit of youth.” 

As an associate professor of education at Barnard College she developed and taught a course entitled Science in the City, where pre-service and in-service teachers form teams. “The essential elements of that course was to incorporate the resources of the city to enhance science teaching and learning.” The teams work directly with the American Museum of Natural History, where the classroom teachers take their students on a field trip to the museum to participate in three seminars held at the museum. “The course is very hands-on, blending theory and practice.” Dr. Maulucci is in the process of developing Science in the City II, to focus on the next generation science standards and the implications those standards may have on teaching and learning. In addition to the standards focus, engaging families in the work of helping students persist in science will be integrated into the course. For example, the teams will develop related after-school programs, such as family science nights.

Dr. Maulucci’s current academic focus is teacher learning. She wants to know what prompts teachers to learn, what helps them learn, and what that learning process is like. Most recently she became interested in teachers’ emotions and the role emotions play in teacher learning. “Really thinking through how we can support teachers in teaching for social justice.” Dr. Maulucci continues to think about how we prepare teachers to cope with the challenges that lie ahead and how we can give teachers the tools and strategies to reflect on their experiences to help them (a) stay in the field, (b) be successful, and (c) hone their craft and improve.

At Barnard College, Dr. Maulucci is the principle investigator of Barnard’s Noyce Teacher Scholar Program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), a five-year 1.2 million dollar grant. The purpose of the program is to develop and carry out programs to recruit and retain quality STEM teachers. All but one component envisioned for the programs have been implemented. By the end of the project they will have recruited and trained 16 new STEM teachers at Barnard. The program provides scholarships, mentoring, and internships for students. This year they have their first cohort of three Noyce Scholars. The intention is to support them now during student teaching, then mentor them for the first two years of teaching.

In the Journal of Research in Science Teaching Dr. Maulucci published an article describing the development of an emotional genealogy of a pre-service science teacher. Through a life history, Dr. Maulucci was able to look at her early school experiences, her beliefs and attitudes about science, experiences becoming a teacher, experiences in teacher education courses, methods courses, student teaching experiences, and the role emotions play in teaching and learning science.

She works in museums with pre-service and in-service teachers about what learning is like in museums, how learning is different, and how learning is similar to learning in the science classroom. Dr. Maulucci considers the influence informal experiences have on teacher learning. When teachers bring their students to the museum, teachers are given the task of analyzing evidence of engagement and learning in their own students. “My current projects are looking at what evidence of learning do teachers identify, what evidence of engagement do they identify, within these museum settings.”

Along with her academic commitments, she is a member of National Association for the Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and American Educational Research Association (AERA). Dr. Maulucci is heavily involved in the NASRT equity committee, both as a volunteer, committee member, strand coordinator, and a part of their ad hoc committee for equity and history. Through her involvement she has been able to mentor scholars of color within that particular organization. Dr. Maulucci is also a member of the equity committee with ASTE.

In addition to her academic work, Dr. Maulucci finds the time to enjoy creating music by playing the guitar, writing music, and singing. She belongs to Our Lady of Grace Parish in the Bronx, where she sings in the choir.



By Deiana Jackson, Graduate Student, Mathematics Education PhD

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