“At its best, schooling can be about how to make a life, which is quite different from how to make a living.”

- Neil Postman: The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School


“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.”

- Neil Postman: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business


“The appetite for creation is much greater than any knowledge we presently have, or will have. If that appetite is ever lost to certainty, if we conclude that we know what works, the research enterprise will be dead, classrooms deadly, and children even more fugitive than they are now.”

- Thomas James: A Dewey School Episode


Sharon Derry designs, develops, and studies innovative educational environments for experiential learning. The major problem addressed by her research is how to motivate and help learners of all ages and backgrounds acquire deep conceptual knowledge of subjects such as mathematics and science for the purpose of thinking and working collaboratively on important issues of our time. A goal of her career has been preparation of scientifically and mathematically literate teachers, lifelong learners, and participants in civic discourse.

Basing her work on current theories of situated learning and cognition, Derry strives to engage learners in the most productive educational environments possible, then studies the processes of teaching and learning within those environments so that new and better theories and forms of learning can be discovered. She employs a design-based research paradigm that mixes quantitative with qualitative methods. Working with learners in undergraduate, teacher education, middle school, and military settings, Derry has directed numerous instructional research and development projects and has been generously supported by federal and foundation funding

Derry teaches graduate courses in the learning sciences, design-based research, and video research methods. She has developed an innovative online course that focuses on the science of thinking and learning and what it implies for guiding child and adult learners, for personal development, and for creating learning environments in a rapidly changing technological world.

Educational Background

  • Ph.D. 1982 – University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Educational Psychology
  • M.A. 1975 – University of Alabama-Birmingham, Secondary Education
  • B.G.S. 1970 – Rollins College, English Literature

Doctoral Program Affiliation(s)

Ph.D. in Education - Learning Sciences and Psychological Studies

Research and Teaching Interests

  • Experiential and experience-based learning
  • Learning and cognitive science
  • Teacher education and professional development
  • Video research in the learning sciences
  • Online learning
  • Statistical, civic and algebraic reasoning


  •  Foundations of Learning and Psychological Science I & II
  •  Design-based Research
  •  Video Research in the Learning Sciences
  • Human Abilities and Learning Online (HAL Online)

Honors & Awards

  • Early-Career Achievement Award, Division 15 – Educational Psychology, American Psychological Association, 1989
  • Developing Scholar Award, Florida State University, 1990
  • Vilas Associates Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1993-94
  • American Psychological Association Fellow, 2009
  • University of Wisconsin School of Education Distinguished Achievement Faculty Award, 2011

Selected Funded Research

  • 1993-2000, Development and Assessment of Alternative Tutoring Strategies for an Intelligent Mathematics Tutor. Funded by Office of Naval Research. ($1,300,000)
  • 2000-2003, Reconceptualizing Teacher Education: Video Cases for Collaborative Design on the World Wide Web. Funded by The Joyce Foundation. ($640,000).
  • 2001-2004, Video Cases Online: Cognitive Studies of Preservice Teacher Learning. Funded by National Science Foundation ROLE Program. ($1,300,000)
  • 2001-2007, Collaborative Research: Understanding and Cultivating the Transition from Arithmetic to Algebraic Thinking. Funded by National Science Foundation IERI Program. ($2,070,000)
  • 2008-2012, Collaborative Research and Development: Cyber-Enabled Design Research to Enhance Teachers’ Critical Thinking Using a Major Video Collection on Children’s Mathematical Reasoning. Funded by National Science Foundation DRK-12 and REESE programs. ($900,000)
  • 2012-2015, Implementing a Workflow Visualization System for Design-Based Research. Funded by NSF Cyberlearning Program. $500,000.

Selected Professional Affiliations

  • American Educational Research Association
  • American Psychological Association (Division 15)
  • International Society of the Learning Sciences
  • Cognitive Science Society
  • European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction

Selected Publications

Leonard, M. & Derry, S. J. (in press). Insight into teaching and learning: The complex face of video research. In S. Puntambekar, R. Luckin, J. Underwood, N. Winters, P. Goodyear, & A. Grabowski (Eds) Handbook of Design in Educational Technology. Taylor & Francis.

Derry, S. J. (2011). Vygotsky and teacher education in the knowledge age: A response to Wertsch & Kazak.  In T. Koschmann (Ed), Theories of learning and studies of instructional practice (pp. 223-238). Springer

Derry, S. J., Pea, R., Barron, B., Engle, R., Erickson, F., Goldman, R., Hall, R., Koschmann, T., Lemke, J., Sherin, M., Sherin, B. (2010). Conducting video research in the learning sciences: Guidance on selection, analysis, technology, and ethics. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19, 1-51.

Gressick, J. & Derry, S.J.  (2010). Distributed leadership in online computer-supported collaborative learning groups. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 5, 211-236.

Beitzel, B. & Derry, S. (2009). When the book is better than the movie: How contrasting video cases influence text learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 40, 337-355.

Derry, S. J. (2007). Video research in classroom and teacher learning: Standardize that! In R. Goldman, R. Pea, B. Barron & S. J. Derry (Eds.), Video research in the learning sciences (pp. 305-320). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Derry, S. J., Wilsman, M. J., & Hackbarth, A. J. (2007). Using contrasting case activities to deepen teacher understanding of algebraic thinking, student learning and teaching Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 9(3), 305-329.

Derry, S. J., Hmelo-Silver, C. E., Nagarajan, A., Chernobilsky, E., & Beitzel, B. (2006). Cognitive transfer revisited: Can we exploit new media to solve old problems on a large scale. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 35, 145-162.

DuRussel, L. A. & Derry, S. J. (2005). Schema (Mis)alignment in interdisciplinary teamwork. In S. J. Derry, C. D. Schunn, & M. A. Gernsbacher (Eds). Interdisciplinary collaboration: An emerging cognitive science (pp. 187-220). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Bransford, J.D., Derry, S. J., Berliner, D., & Hammerness, K., (2005). Theories of learning and their roles in teaching. In L. Darling-Hammond & J. Bransford, (Eds). Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do (pp. 40-87). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Derry, S. J., Seymour, J., Steinkuehler, C., Lee, J., & Siegel, M. (2004). From ambitious vision to partially satisfying reality: An evolving socio-technical design supporting community and collaborative learning in teacher education. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing for virtual communities in the service of learning (pp. 256-295). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

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