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Zen Section

Senior Researcher Image Modified


Areas of Interest

STEM Learning, Robotics


, Computer Science,

K-12, Informal, Design

Design, Curricular Integration

TERC Projects

Design Dimensions

Biographical Summary


's research examines STEM learning in

Bernstein is a Senior Researcher at TERC.  Her research examines curriculum design, implementation, and learning opportunities arising from the integration of technology design activities into K-12 and informal


learning settings.  One

line of this work explores approaches that increase CS engagement and learning to broaden participation of diverse and underserved audiences. A second line of work explores youth and professional engagement in design processes. Before joining TERC, Debra worked at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE), and for the educational television show Blues Clues. Debra holds an MA in Educational Psychology from Teachers College Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

Download Curriculum Vitae


current line of her research examines how integrating robotics design into existing STEM coursework can deepen students’ disciplinary learning and engagement, and support the development of CT practices, while exposing a broader population of students to technology and computing.  A second line of work examines the opportunities and barriers for visually impaired students to engage with CS and robotics content.  A third, evolving line of research examines robotics in early childhood settings, and seeks to understand what goals/need robotics kits are currently being used to serve in school and community organizations.

Download Curriculum Vitae

Recent Publications & Presentations

  • Bernstein, D.,
  • Puttick, G., Cassidy, M., Wendell, K.,
  • Danahy, E., &
  • Shaw,
  • F. (
  • April, 2019). 
Robots and Romeo and Juliet:  Studying Teacher Integration of Robotics into Middle School Curricula. Paper accepted
  • Designing Biomimetic Robots to Support Multidisciplinary Engagement in Middle School.  Forthcoming paper presentation at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Baltimore, MD.
  • Bernstein, D. (April, 2018).  Integrating Robotics Activities in Middle School Disciplinary Classrooms Supports Disciplinary Engagement.  Paper presented at the International Conference of the American Educational Research Association,
Washington, DC
  • New York.
  • Ludi,
  • S., Bernstein, D.,
  • & Mutch-Jones, K.
and Garibay, C.
  • (
  • 2018).
Learning and behavior change in a Girl Scout program focused on energy conservation: Saving energy to ‘save the planet.’ Journal for Sustainability Education, 45 (1).
  • Enhanced Robotics! Improving Building and Programming Learning Experiences for Students with Visual Impairments. In Proceedings of the 2018 ACM SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA
  • Bopardikar, A., Bernstein, D., Drayton, B., &
  • McKenney,
  • S.
  • (
  • 2018). 
Seeding social norms about energy conservation among Girl Scouts.  Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 13(3), 171-182.
  • Bernstein, D., McKenney, S., Barber, J., Bopardikar, A., Drayton, B., Walkup, S., Pareja Roblin, N., & Schunn, C. (2014). Design dimensions: In-depth retrospective studies of K-12 science curriculum design. Poster presentation at the annual meeting of the International Society for Design and Development in Education (ISDDE), Cambridge, UK.
  • Touretzky, D.S., Marghitu, D., Ludi, S., Bernstein, D., & Ni, L.  (2013).  Accelerating K-12 computational thinking using scaffolding, staging, and abstraction.  SIGCSE 2013, Denver, CO.
  • Gomez
    • Work-based curriculum to broaden learners’ participation in science:  Insights for Designers.  Research in Science Education.  DOI:
    • Pareja Roblin, N., Schunn, C., Bernstein, D., & McKenney, S. (2018). Exploring shifts in the characteristics of US government-funded science curriculum materials and their (unintended) consequences. Studies in Science Education, 54(1), 1-39.
    • Bernstein, D., Mutch-Jones, K., Cassidy, M., Hamner, E., & Cross, J. (April, 2016).  Robots and Romeo and Juliet:  Studying Teacher Integration of Robotics into Middle School Curricula.  Paper presented at the International Conference of the American Educational Research Association, Washington, DC.
    • Mutch-Jones, K., Bernstein, D.,
    • Ludi,
    J., & Hamner, E.  (2012).  Building technical knowledge and engagement in robotics:  An examination of two out-of-school programs.  In B.Barker, G. Nugent, N. Grandgenett, &V.I. Adamchuk (Eds.), Robotics in K-12 Education:  A New Technology for Learning (pp. 222‐244).
    • S. (2016).  Creating access to computer science: Enhancing engagement and learning for students with visual impairments. Visual Impairment and Deafblind Education Quarterly, 61(4), 38-51.
    • Bernstein, D.,
    & Hamner
    • Drayton,
    • B.
    (March, 2012).  Exploring the impact of family involvement on youth engagement in a creative robotics workshop.  Paper presented at the meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Indianapolis, IN.
  • Bernstein, D.  (2010). Robot Diaries:  Encouraging and enabling technological creativity.  Poster presented at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Chicago, IL.
  • Hamner, E., Lauwers, T., & Bernstein, D. (2010).  The debugging task:  Evaluating a robotics design workshop.  Proceedings of the AAAI Symposium onUsing Robots to Promote Learning: Design and Evaluation.
  • Bernstein, D. & Crowley, K. (2008).  Searching for signs of intelligent life:  An investigation of young children’s beliefs about robot intelligence.  Journal of the Learning Sciences, 17(2), 225-247.
  • Bernstein, D., Crowley, K., & Nourbakhsh, I. (2007).  Working with a robot:  Exploring relationship potential in human-robot systems.  Interaction Studies, 8(3), 465-482.
    • , McKenney, S., & Schunn, C. (2016).  Designing science curriculum for implementation at scale:  Considerations for diverse and resource-limited settings. In C. Looi, J. Polman, U. Cress, & P. Reimann (Eds.)  Transforming Learning, Empowering Learners: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2016 (pp. 886-889).  Singapore: International Society of the Learning Sciences.