William A. Sandoval Named Head of NC State’s Department of STEM Education

William A. Sandoval—an expert on educational design research who is widely recognized for developing the technique of conjecture mapping—will be the next head of the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education with NC State’s College of Education, effective Jan. 1, 2024. Currently, he’s a professor of urban schooling at the School of Education & Information Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

“Dr. Sandoval will bring the experience and provide the leadership that builds on the many successes and great work of the Department of STEM Education, so it becomes the widely recognized leader in preparing researchers, teachers, scholars, and leaders in STEM education,” said Paola Sztajn, dean of NC State’s College of Education.  

The Department of STEM Education comprises over two dozen full-time faculty members, 400 undergraduate students and 150 graduate students. The department advances STEM education through scholarship, leadership and advocacy, and STEM Education faculty prepare professionals who have deep content knowledge, demonstrate a strong working knowledge of effective discipline-based pedagogies and realize the potential of digital technologies to enhance learning. 

“I’m excited to join the College of Education and lead one of the best STEM Education programs in the country,” Sandoval said. “The top-notch researchers in the department are doing work that matters for communities in North Carolina and provides models for the rest of the country. The students in the department become the state’s educational leaders. I’m humbled to take the reins of a department that works really well.”

Sandoval studied computer science at the University of New Mexico and earned his Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences from Northwestern University. His research focuses on epistemic cognition, or how people think about what and how they know. He is especially interested in how science learning in school can promote a deep understanding of scientific argument that supports productive engagement with science in public life. He co-edited the first International Handbook of Epistemic Cognition

He has published and presented internationally in science education, educational psychology and the learning sciences and served on the editorial boards of several top-tier journals in all of these fields, including Cognition & Instruction, Educational Psychologist, Science Education and Journal for Research in Science Teaching. He also served as an editorial board member and associate editor of the Journal of the Learning Sciences for several years. He has served on two consensus study committees for the National Academies of Science and regularly advises various science education groups. 

Sandoval was elected to the International Society of the Learning Sciences Board of Directors in 2011 and served as the Society’s president in 2017-2018. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Society of the Learning Sciences, and the International Society of Design and Development in Education. He is also a member of the American Educational Research Association and the National Association of Research on Science Teaching.

“My aim as department head is to ensure that the rest of the country, and even the world, recognizes the quality of the work being done in STEM education here at NC State’s College of Education,” Sandoval said. “We all face so many issues that require a solid understanding of STEM to navigate, from the increasingly evident consequences of a changing climate to the unknown risks and promises of artificial intelligence and the algorithms that increasingly shape our interactions with the wider world. My goal is that the STEM Education department becomes a leader for developing the researchers, teachers and educational leaders who can prepare all youth to navigate these issues with real understanding.”

Sandoval will succeed Aaron Clark, who has served as the head of the Department of STEM Education since 2018 and is now co-director of NC State’s new Engineering Education joint program between the College of Engineering and the College of Education.


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