Thomas Tretter

Thomas Tretter
Director, Gheens Science Hall & Rauch Planetarium, Professor, Science Education
Co-Director, Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Teacher Development

Department of Elementary, Middle & Secondary Teacher Education
Room 289 - College of Education and Human Development
tom.tretter @

Dr. Tretter's curriculum vitae [PDF]


After Bachelor (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) and Master (Caltech) degrees in Electrical Engineering, I joined the Peace Corps to become a high school mathematics teacher in Gabon, Africa. After that experience, I realized I wanted to teach and spent the next 10 years in middle and high school mathematics and science classrooms in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Sudan. I joined the University of Louisville faculty as a science educator in 2004 after earning my doctorate in science education at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

My passion for science education revolves around supporting students in making sense of natural phenomena – understanding how and why things happen, being able to plan and predict how to change things. This probably emerged from my experiences growing up on a beef cattle farm in the Midwest where “figuring things out” was a daily expectation. My work at UofL includes working with preservice and inservice science teachers, and my favorite part of that work is being in classrooms with those teachers interacting with students. These experiences guide the strands of my research into studying how both students and teachers learn, and exploring how to continuously improve our system for science education. I enjoy the privilege of interacting with others in the science education community: classroom teachers, district administrators, state department of education, and university science education faculty across the world.

Educational Background

  • Ed.D., Curriculum and Instruction, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004. Focus on secondary science education.
  • Teaching Certification (1993) in physics and secondary mathematics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
  • Masters of Science (1987) in Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. Concentration on control systems.
  • Bachelors of Science (1986) in Electrical Engineering and German Translator’s Certificate, summa cum laude, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana.

Teaching Areas

  • Middle and High School Science Education
  • Graduate Topics in Science Education
  • Doctoral Research and Scholarly Development courses

Research Interests

  • Science Teacher Education
  • Undergraduate STEM education
  • Conceptions of scale and scaling in science
  • Learning with Data Visualizations
  • Applications of Quantitative Methodologies
  • Science Teacher Education (particularly inservice; continuous growth in the profession)
  • Science assessments (particularly formative, aligned with Next Generation Science Standards to include phenomena-based, sense-making orientation, multiple dimensions beyond content only)
  • Engineering Education (across K-12 as well as university students and university engineering faculty learning)
  • Space science education/outreach/public audiences as well as specialized presentations or topics (related to planetarium specifically)
  • Science curriculum & instruction (supporting K-12 teachers in developing and shaping curriculum and instructional approaches consistent with Next Generation Science Standards


  • Teaching: Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned pedagogy. Includes multidimensionality (beyond content only), phenomena-driven storylines, sense-making lenses for students.
  • Research: Wide range of methodological expertise including quantitative analytic approaches such as multi-level modeling and structural equation modeling.
  • Research: Often grounded in actual classroom contexts (sometimes called practice-based research).

Professional Activities

  • Editorial Boards: (2009-present) Journal of Science Teacher Education, (2007-2010) Journal of Research in Science Teaching, (2007-present) Journal of NanoEducation
  • Publications Committee (2012-2015), Association for Science Teacher Education
  • Institute for Education Sciences (IES) Principal Grant Review Panel member for Mathematics and Science Education funding program (2011-2014)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant Reviewer (2008-present)

Honors and Awards

  • 2010 National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) Early Career Research Award
  • 2008, 2007, 2006 Kentuckiana Metroversity Award for Instructional Development
  • Outstanding Dissertation Award 2004, National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
  • Teacher of the Year, Southern High School, Durham, NC (2000-2001)
  • Tau Beta Pi Fellow (nationally competitive engineering honor society fellowship) (1986-1987)

Professional Memberships

  • American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
  • Association for Science Teacher Educators (ASTE)
  • National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)
  • Kentucky Science Teachers Association (KSTA)


  • Ardasheva, Y., & Tretter, T. R. (2017). Developing science-specific, technical vocabulary of high school newcomer English learners. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 20(3), 252-271. doi: 10.1080/13670050.2015.1042356
  • Ralston, P. A. S., Tretter, T. R., & Brown, M. K. (2017). Implementing collaborative learning across the engineering curriculum. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 17(3), 89-108. doi: 10.14434/josotl.v17i3.21323
  • Philipp, S. B., Tretter, T. R., & Rich, C. V. (2016). Partnership for persistence: Exploring the influence of undergraduate teaching assistants in a gateway course for STEM majors. Electronic Journal of Science Education, 20(9), 26-42.
  • Thornburgh, W., & Tretter, T. R. (2017). Explaining patterns in our solar system and the role of gravity in space. Science Scope, 41(4), 78-86.
  • Thornburgh, W., & Tretter, T. R. (2017). Modeling the eclipse. The Science Teacher, 84(3), 47-52.
  • Tretter, T. R., Thornburgh, W. R., & Duckwall, M. (2016). Seeing the solar system through two perspectives: Upper elementary students explore Earth and space science by modeling and observing patterns. Science and Children, 53(5), 60-70.
  • Tretter, T. R., Ardasheva, Y., Bookstrom, E., Bowden, J., & Duckwall, M. (2015). Planetarium-based science visualizations to support complex science learning for first-year middle and high school English Learners. In K. Finson & J. Pedersen (Eds.). Application of Visual Data in K-16 Science Classrooms (pp. 3-26). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc.
  • Zeidler, K., Tretter, T. R., McEntyre, R., Curless, M., & Duke, C. (2017, November). Making the 3-part science assessment system work for your district. Full-day workshop presented at Kentucky Science Teachers Association annual conference, Lexington, KY.
  • Zeidler, K., Tretter, T. R., McEntyre, R., Elkins, S., Curless, M., & Duke, C. (2016, November). Science assessment system: What administrators need to know. Full-day workshop presented at Kentucky Science Teachers Association annual conference, Lexington, KY.