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GSE Alumnus Profile: Bryan Henderson
GSE Alumnus Profile: Bryan Henderson

The sky was the limit for first generation student, J. Bryan Henderson, a 1997 graduate of Ridgefield High School in Ridgefield, WA. Having earned three bachelor’s degrees from the University of Washington in physics, astronomy, and philosophy, and a minor in applied mathematics, he moved to back to the Portland area to work on a master’s in physics at PSU. While science was his first passion, effectively teaching science became his second, which led him to enroll in the GSE’s certificate in Teaching Adult Learners and, finally, a master’s in Postsecondary, Adult and Continuing Education (PACE).

Dr. Henderson then went on to receive his PhD from Stanford University in science education. He is interested in the utilization of educational technology to facilitate peer-to-peer science learning via evidence-based formative assessment techniques. His classroom-based research on peer learning intersects with multiple years of experience studying science argumentation under the guidance of Dr. Jonathan Osborne at Stanford.

As a co-founder and research director of the nonprofit, Braincandy, Henderson is working with teachers across the US to create formative assessment materials and make best practices freely accessible via cloud-based applications. Henderson’s scientific background is in astrophysics, with research positions at major observatories in Arizona, Chile, and the Netherlands. He also has over a decade of experience teaching statistics and physics at both the university and community college levels.

He is currently a lecturer in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford while also conducting postdoctoral research on science argumentation at the Lawrence Hall of Science. In fall, 2014, he will join the faculty at Arizona State University as a tenure-track assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the Learning Sciences Institute.

How did your work at the GSE program help you reach your professional goals?

Prior to the GSE, my research was primarily in astrophysics. GSE was where I was first exposed to the corpus of literature on both pedagogy and how students learn. Today my research stands squarely in these two areas, and in doing so I have never felt more satisfied, as I believe few things stand to better our world more than improving the education of our people.

What has proven to be the most useful thing you learned while at the GSE?

As a research assistant at PSU, I received my first practical exposure to applying statistical methods to social science problems. The statistical skills I developed at PSU allowed me to hit the ground running with my research at Stanford, and indeed I now teach statistical methods courses to master’s and doctoral students.

What is the accomplishment in your career of which you are most proud?

The looks on my parents’ faces when I defended my PhD dissertation. Neither of them completed a four-year college degree, and my mother is a first generation immigrant from Guatemala. That day was a victory for all of us, and honestly I’m not sure I’ll ever experience anything quite as cool as that.