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Dr. Christine Cunningham

Dr. Christine Cunningham
Phone: 8148650861
Office Address:
234A Chambers Building
University Park, PA 16802
Campus: University Park
Mailing Address:
234A Chambers Building
University Park, PA 16802


Professor of Practice in Education and Engineering


Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum and Instruction: Science Education

Other Penn State Affiliations

College of Engineering


Christine Cunningham is a Professor of Practice in Education and Engineering in the College of Education whose work aims to make engineering and science more relevant and equitable, especially for populations underrepresented and underserved in engineering and science. She aims to create a next generation of innovators and problem solvers by developing research-based and field-tested engineering curricula and professional learning resources for preK-12 education. Her research focuses on articulating frameworks for precollege engineering education and exploring affordances of engineering for learners. She currently serves on the National Assessment Governing Board. Previously, Cunningham was the Founding Director of Engineering is Elementary (EiE). In 2017, her work was recognized with the prestigious Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. 

Areas of Expertise

Curriculum Areas

Science Ed

Education Levels

Early Childhood
Middle School/Junior High


Education Access
Equity and Diversity

Teacher Preparation

Professional Development

Education History

Cornell University, Ph.D., 1995 Yale University, M.A. 1991 Yale College, B.A. 1991

Representative Publications


Cunningham, C. M. (2018). Engineering in elementary STEM education: Curriculum design, instruction, learning, and assessment. New York, NY: Teacher College Press.


Cunningham, C. M., Lachapelle, C. P., Brennan, R. T., Kelly, G. J., San Antonio Tunis, C., & Gentry, C. A. (2020). The impact of engineering curriculum design principles on elementary students’ engineering and science learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 57, 423–453 doi:10.1002/tea.21601

Kelly, G. J., & Cunningham, C. M. (2019). Epistemic tools in engineering design for K-12 education. Science Education. DOI: 10.1002/sce21513

Cunningham, C. M., & Kelly, G. J. (2019). Collective reasoning in elementary engineering education. In Manalo, E. (Ed.) Deeper learning, dialogic learning, and critical thinking. (pp. 339–355). New York, NY: Routledge.

Cunningham, C. M., Lachapelle, C. P., & Davis, M. (2018). Engineering concepts, practices, and trajectories for early childhood education. In English, L. & Moore, T. (Eds.), Early engineering learning (pp. 135–174). New York, NY: Springer.

Cunningham, C. M., & Kelly, G. K. (2017). Epistemic practices of engineering for education. Science Education.101, 486–505. DOI: 10.1002/sce.21271

Cunningham, C. M., & Kelly, G. K. (2017). Framing engineering practices in elementary school classrooms. International Journal of Engineering Education. 33(1B), 295–307.

Kelly, G. J., Cunningham, C. M., & Ricketts, A. (2017). Engaging in engineering practices as identity work through engineering practices in elementary classrooms. Linguistics and Education. 39, 48–59. DOI: 10.1016/j.linged.2017.05.003

Hertel, J. D., Cunningham, C. M., & Kelly, G. K. (2017). The roles of engineering notebooks in shaping elementary engineering student discourse and practice. International Journal of Science Education. 39, 1194–1217. DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2017.1317864

Cunningham, C. M., & Carlsen, W. S. (2014). Precollege engineering education. In N. Lederman (Ed.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 747–758). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. 

Cunningham, C. M., & Lachapelle, C. P. (2014). Designing engineering experiencesto engage allstudents. In S. Purzer, J. Strobel, & M. Cardella (Eds.), Engineering in pre-college settings: Synthesizing research, policy, and practices (pp. 117–142). Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

Activities and Honors

Selected Awards

Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education, 2017

American Society for Engineering Education K–12 and Pre-College Division Lifetime Achievement Award, 2015

IEEE Pre-University Educator Award, 2015

International Society for Design and Development in Education Prize, 2014

American Society for Engineering Education Fellow, 2014

International Society for Design and Development in Education Fellow (ISDDE), 2010

Outstanding Leadership Award, American Society of Engineering Education K–12 Division, 2005

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Excellence in Extension/Outreach Award, Cornell University, 1999

American Educational Research Association Division K Dissertation Award, 1996

National Association for Research in Science Teaching Dissertation Award, 1996

Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, 1994–95

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, 1991–94

A.D. White Fellowship, Cornell University, 1991–94

Alpheus Henry Snow Prize, Yale University, 1991

Yale Science and Engineering Award, Yale University, 1991

Phi Beta Kappa, Yale University, Inducted 1989, President 1990–91

Selected Current & Recent Advisory Committees and Service:         

National Assessment Governing Board; U.S. Department of Education (2019–present)

EngineerGirl Steering Committee and Essay Contest Judge; National Academy of Engineering (2014–present)

STEMIIEE Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education; University of North Carolina and University of Denver (2018–present)

Engineering in School; Danish Academy of Technical Sciences (2017–present)

Broadening Identities for Diverse Youth in STEM through Socioenvironmental Problem Solving; University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2017–present)

Notre Dame Center for STEM Education; Notre Dame (2014–present)

National Academy of Science Committee “Supporting English Learners in STEM Subjects” (2017–2019)

Monkey with a Toolbelt; Silvergate Media (2018–2019)

Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER) Editorial Board (2010–2019)