Doris B. Ash

DivisionSocial Sciences Division
DepartmentEducation Department
AffiliationsEnvironmental Studies Department
FAX510 647 8160
Web Site Ash UCSC web site
Ash Research Associates
OfficeMcHenry Library, rm 3142
Office HoursSpring 17 Tues 3-5 PM and by appointment
Campus Mail StopEducation Department
Mail1156 High St
Santa Cruz, CA
Doris B. Ash

Research Interests

The Ash Lab is committed to the following research goals:

1) Generate theory on how families learn in dialogue and interaction with each other, particularly in out-of-school settings;
2) Develop theoretically-grounded tools to collect and analyze data and understand scientific meaning making over time
3) Examine the potential contribution of out-of-school environments to contribute to science education for a public of diverse learners
4) Address issues of equity and access to science education for diverse learning communities

Biography, Education and Training

Dr. Ash was awarded the Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in science education in 1995, after working for many years with Ann Brown and Joseph Campione in the Fostering a Community of Learners (FCL) classroom project. She is a biologist, and has been a science teacher for many years at elementary, high school, Junior College and University levels. She has been at UCSC since 2000. She was science educator at the Exploratorium for five years, working at the Institute for Inquiry.

Dr. Ash's dual research focus is on learning in formal (teacher professional development, student learning) and informal (museums, aquarium, gardens, etc.) learning and teaching, specifically attempting to understand the thematic content and well as the social repertoire of skills that students, teachers and families use in conversations about  science topics, as part of the scientific sense-making process. See the publications page to learn more about this work. Ash takes a resource view of learners' understanding both in and out of the classroom. All of her research is informed by sociocultural theory, specifically Vygotsky, Engestrom, Wells, Wertsch and others. All of her research is focused on issues of equity, specifically working to invite ‘STEM outsiders' to participate in the ideas and practices embedded in STEM.

The aim of all Dr. Ash's research is to understand how social groups make sense of science. With the help of grants from UCSC and several large NSF grants (eg REC #013368, DRL 0515468), the aim is to understand scientific sense-making, but with a second goal of determining how formal and informal learning can serve as a pathway to increasing advancement in academic science settings, especially for those typically excluded from science.

Ash is also interested in how scientific understandings grow and prosper, especially as part of collaborative dialogue within social groups of mixed ability. She is interested in tracking how merged or hybrid forms of discourse emerge from the every day and the scientific, and how these are used in informal settings as well as in classrooms. She relies on activity theory, the sociocultural views of vygotsky and others to create a foundation for this work.

This work is consistent with UCSC'S philosophy of equal access to science learning for all students. To that end, she has forged strong formal collaborative links over the past years' at several informal learning institutions, including the Exploratorium, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Bishop Museum in Honolulu the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, and the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Fl.


Honors, Awards and Grants

1. Successful scaffolding strategies in urban museums: Research and practice on mediated scientific conversations with families and museum educators, 2005-2011, (NSF DRL 0525468, a collaboration between UCSC and the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa Florida), $1.8 million. Co PI, wih Judith Lombana (PI)

2. Research on shared scientific sense-making and bilingual student advancement in science: Linking family and school learning through informal learning research, 2002-2009, (NSF (NSF DRL 0133662), $640,000. PI

3) SCWIBLES: Santa Cruz-Watsonville Inquiry-Based Learning in Environmental Sciences, 2010-2015, (NSF GK-12 DGE-0947923), $2.1 million. Co PI.

4) Apprenticeships in Sustainability Science and Engineering Design  2013-2015 NSF , AISL, Co PI Planning grant with Mike Isaacson (ENG) PI and Jeff Bury (ENVS), co-PI).

4) NOYCE: The Silicon Valley Consortium for Mathematics and Science Teaching (SVCMST) 2009-2011, (NSF DUE 0934748), $74,836. PI.

Advisory Board Science Museum of Minnesota, Making Connections NSF grant
Advisory Board, BERI (Bilingual Exhibits Research Initiative) NSF project.
Advisory Board, Oakland Museum, Hot Spots NSF-funded project.
Advisory Board, ZAARCS, Zoos and Aquariums Action Research Consortium, NSF project.

Selected Publications

  • Ash, D. (in review). Reculturing Museum: Using contradictions to explore equity in museums. Left Coast press.

  • Ash, D. (in press). Reflective Practice in Action Research: Moving Beyond the ‘Standard Model’. To appear in The Reflective Museum Practitioner. Martin, L., Ash, D. Tran. L.  (Eds). Routledge Press.

  • Ash, D, (2014). Creating Hybrid Spaces for Talk: Humor as a Resource Learners Bring to Informal Learning Context. National Society for the Study of Education, 113, (2), 535–55.

  • Ash, D. (2007). Thematic continuities: Talking and thinking about adaptation in a socially complex urban classroom. Journal for Research in Science Teaching.

  • Ash, D. (2007). Using video data to capture discontinuous science meaning making in non-school settings. In Video Research in the Learning Sciences. Peter Lang Press.

  • Ash, D., (2006). Dialogic inquiry in life science conversations of family groups in museums, Journal of Research in Science Teaching 40(2), 138-162.

  • Ash, D. (2004). Reflective scientific sense-making dialogue in two languages: The science in the dialogue and the dialogue in the science. Science Education 88: 855-884.

  • Ash, D. (2003 ) Dialogic inquiry in life science conversations of family groups in museums. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 40(2), 138-162.

  • Ash, D., Crain, R., Brandt, C., Loomis, M., Wheaton, M., Bennett, C. (2007). Talk, Tools, and Tensions in Informal Science: Tool for Observing Biological Talk Over Time. International Journal for Science Education.

  • Ash, D., & Klein, C. (1999). Inquiry in the informal learning environment. In J. Minstrell, & E. Van Zee (Eds.), Teaching and Learning in an Inquiry-based Classroom. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • Ash, D. & Levitt, K. (2002). Working within the zone of proximal development: Formative assessment as professional development. Journal of Science Teacher Education.

  • Ash, D. & Lombana, J. (2014c) Reculturing museums: Working with diversity in informalvsettings. Journal of Museum Education 38(1). 69-80.

  • Ash, D., Lombana, J., & Alcala, L (2012). Changing practices, changing identities as museum educators: From didactic telling to scaffolding in the zpd. In Sociocultural theory and museum practices, E. Davidsson & A. Jakobsson (Eds.). Rotterdam:Sense Publishers

  • Ash, D., Rahm, J., & Melber, L. (Eds.) (2013). Putting theory into practice: Tools for research in informal settings. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

  • Ash, D., & Wells, G. (2006). Dialogic inquiry in classroom and museum: Actions, tools and talk. In Z. Bekerman, N.C. Burbules & D.S. Keller (Eds), Learning in places: The informal education reader. New York: Peter Lang Publishers.

  • Lombana, J. & Ash, D, (2012) REFLECTS Museum Educator Research Guide: Becoming Reflective Practitioners in Informal Settings Through Research and Scaffolding.Paris, S. G., & Ash, D. (2002). Reciprocal theory building inside and outside museums. Curator. 43: (3) 199-210.

  • Rahm, J., & Ash, D. (2007). Learning environments at the margin: Case studies of disenfranchised youth doing science in an aquarium and an after-school program. Learning Environments Research 11(1) 1387-1579

  • Mai, T. & Ash, D. (2012). Tracing our methodological steps: Making meaning of diverse families’ hybrid “figuring out” practices at science museum exhibits, In Ash, D., Rahm, J., & Melber, L. (Eds.), (2012). From theory to practice: Tools for research in informal settings. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Selected Exhibitions


Teaching Interests

Learning theories and teaching practices in science education, gender and science, informal learning environment research and practice , Introduction to education; learning and cognition

Courses Taught

Education 60: Introduction to Education: Learning, Schooling and Society
Education 185C: Introduction to Teaching in the Content Area: Science
Education 230: Research and Practice in Science Education
Education 261: Think, Learn, Teach
Education 135: Gender and Education
Education 286: Research in STEM topics
Education 187: Leanrning and Teaching