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Brenda M. Capobianco

Science Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Engineering Education


Science teachers' and teacher educators' engagement in action research; young women's participation in science, technology, and engineering and the role teachers play in supporting young women's participation; issues of gender, culture, and identity in science and engineering education.

Current Projects

Using Principles of Design to Advance Teacher Education (UPDATE) is a multi-year development, implementation and educational research project with the following goals, to: 1) refine, implement and assess the impact of an engineering design-based model for enhancing pre-service elementary science teachers' understanding of engineering practices; 2) research the impact of this approach on pre-service elementary science teachers' learning of engineering practices across multiple undergraduates science course; and 3) propagate and assess the model for transferability beyond Purdue University.


Science Learning through Engineering Design (SLED) is a multi-year, large scale NSF-funded Math Science Partnership project. SLED Partners include faculty from the Colleges of Education, Engineering, Science and Technology, Taylor Community School Corporation, Plymouth School Corporation, Lafayette School Corporation, and Tippecanoe School Corporation. The goal of the SLED Math Science Partnership is to increase grade 3-6 student learning of science by developing Indiana’s first integrated, engineering design-based approach to elementary/intermediate school science education. Research activities explore student and teaching learning and partnership development and sustainability.

See: and

Examining engineering perceptions, aspirations and identity among young girls is a multi-year research study that examines the different ways girls approach, experience, and interact with engineering learning activities and how their learning informs their identity formation in science and engineering.



  • Leading Light Award for Outstanding Educator in Science, Technology or Engineering, The Women and Hi Tech of Central Indiana, 2014
  • Inaugural Christian J. Foster Award for Contributions to K-12 STEM Education in the State of Indiana, Board of Trustees of Purdue University, 2014 
  • Seed for Success Award, Purdue University, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009
  • Best Paper Award from Graduate Studies Division at the American Society for Engineering Education, 2011
  • University Faculty Scholar Award, Purdue University, College of Education, 2010-2015
  • Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Purdue University, 2003-2004

Appointments on National/International Organizations

  • Board of Directors
    Association for Science Teacher Education
  • Associate Editor
    Journal of Science Teacher Education


Ed.D.      University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2002, Science Education,
Teacher Education and School Improvment
M.S. Central Connecticut State University, 1993, General Science
B.S. University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1986, Biological Sciences, minor in Chemistry

Selected Publications

  • Dankenbring, C., & Capobianco, B. M. (2016). Examining elementary school students’ mental models of Sun-Earth relationships as a result of engaging in engineering design.  International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 14(5), 825-845.
  • Capobianco, B.M., & Riordain, M. N. (2015). Navigating layers of teacher uncertainty among pre-service science and mathematics teachers engaged in action research. Educational Action Research, 23(4), 581-598.
  • Capobianco, B. M., Yu, H., & French, B. (2015). Effects of engineering design-based science on elementary school science students’ engineering identity development across gender and grade. Research in Science Education, 45(2), 275-292.
  • Capobianco, B. M., & Rupp, M. (2014). STEM teachers' planned and enacted attempts at implementing engineering design-based instruction. School Science and Mathematics, 114(6), 258-270.
  • Capobianco, B. M., & Yu, H. (2014). Using the construct of care to frame engineering as a caring profession toward promoting young girls’ participation. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 20(1), 21-33.
  • Capobianco, B. M., & Mena, I. (2013). A longitudinal examination of children’s conceptions of an engineer. International Journal of Engineering Education, 29(2), 415-425.
  • Capobianco, B. M., French, B., & Diefes-Dux, H. (2012). Engineering identity development among pre-adolescent learners. Journal of Engineering Education, 101(4), 1-22.
  • Capobianco, B. M., Diefes-Dux, H., Mena, I., & Weller, J. (2011). What is an Engineer? Implications of elementary school student conceptions for engineering education. Journal of Engineering Education, 100(2), 304-328.
  • Capobianco, B. M., & Feldman, A. (2010). Repositioning teacher action research in science teacher education. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 21(8), 909-915.
  • Capobianco, B. M. (2007). A self-study of the role of technology in promoting reflection and inquiry-based science teaching. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18(2), 271-296.
  • Capobianco, B. M. (2007). Science teachers’ attempts at integrating feminist pedagogy through collaborative action research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(1), 1-32.
  • Capobianco, B. M. (2006). Undergraduate women engineering their professional identities. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 12(2), 1-24.
  • Capobianco, B. M., & Feldman, A. (2006). Promoting quality for teacher action research: Lessons learned from science teachers’ action research. Educational Action Research: An International Journal, 14(4), 497-512.


2016 - present Professor, Science Education and Engineering Education (Courtesy), Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
2002 - present Affiliated Faculty, Women's Studies, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
2008 - 2016 Associate Professor, Science Education and Engineering Education (Courtesy), Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
2002 - 2008 Assistant Professor in Science Education, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
1998 - 2002 Graduate Research Assistant, Teaching Assistant, and University Supervisor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
1995 - 1998 Adjunct Instructor, Depatment of Physical Sciences, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut
1989 - 1998 Science Teacher, Irving A. Robbins Middle School, Farmington, Connecticut


EDCI 36500 Teaching Science in the Elementary School
EDCI 51700 Survey in Science Education
EDCI 56700 Action Research in Science Education
EDCI 61800/WOST 59100    Gender and Culture in Science Education
EDCI 62200 Seminar in Science Education