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Allison Gonsalves

Academic title(s): 

Assistant Professor

Sociocultural Issues in Science Education
Director, Science Education Laboratories

Allison Gonsalves
Contact Information

Education Room 357



Email address: 
allison.gonsalves [at] mcgill.ca
Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Areas of Interest:

  • Science education
  • Science identities
  • Sociocultural issues in science education
  • Science outreach
  • Informal Education



Ph.D, McGill University (2010)
M.Sc, University of Guelph (2001)
B.Sc, University of Western Ontario (1998)


EDEC 646 Sociocultural and Epistemic Understandings of Math and Science
EDTL 520 Perspectives on Knowledge in Math and Science
EDES 335 Secondary Science Teaching
EDTL 625 Applied Methods in Teaching Science in Secondary School

Current research: 
My research program involves the tracing of "science identity trajectories" across learning spaces, and the intersections of social identities experiences that shape these movements. I have worked extensively in the area of gender and physics education research, and my current research program investigates the role of science outreach in post-secondary students' identity work in STEM fields.

Ongoing studies

Learning for the Future: Understanding the impacts of collaborative learning among future teachers, future environmental scientists and youth as they engage issues of sustainability.
Funding: McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative (2021-2022)
Investigators: Allison Gonsalves (PI), Emily Sprowls (Co-PI), Blane Harvey (Collaborator)
This study investigates the outcomes of a sustainability-focussed outreach program which pairs pre-service teachers (PSTs) with environmental science majors (ESMs) to learn alongside elementary-aged youth. We will investigate the impact of the program on: a) PSTs’ knowledge of and perceptions of teaching for sustainability; b) perceptions that ESMs have of their role as environmental science communicators; and c) youths’ engagement in sustainability issues. We also seek insight into the facilitation of equitable collaborations among youth, PSTs, and ESMs, as we support transdisciplinary inquiry-based learning for sustainability.

Innovative science education in out-of-school-time spaces: Tracing the impact of a science teaching internship experience for pre-service teachers and youth.
Funding: SSHRC Insight Grant (2019-2022)
Investigators: Allison Gonsalves (PI); Jrène Rahm, (Co-PI, Université de Montréal)

In Quebec, and across Canada and the U.S., preservice teachers (PSTs) often leave elementary teacher education programs unprepared to teach reform (inquiry-based) science.  PSTs are also often unfamiliar with elementary-aged youth and the social and learning contexts they come from. This may be because elementary PSTs have limited practical opportunities to develop science teacher identities that are essential to implementing reform science teaching practices. Relatedly, research suggests that youths' disengagement from science begins in the late elementary years and is pronounced in youth from disadvantaged communities. Youth often lack opportunities to participate in inquiry-based science learning situations that support their identification as insiders-to-science. Research suggests that out-of-school-time (OST) science programs can provide opportunities for science to be reconceptualized, and thus support learning for both the youth and the PSTs engaged in the program. Hence, the aim of this study is to evaluate the potential of OST science programs led by PSTs to contribute to 'science identity' development for both PSTs and youth.
Research Assistants: Emily Sprowls (PhD student, Integrated Studies in Education);  Julianna Zelt (MA student, Integrated Studies in Education), Gurveer Brar (MATL, Integrated Studies in Education)

Tracing the impact of a science teaching outreach experience on preservice teachers and undergraduate science majors
: SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2019-2021)
Investigators: Allison Gonsalves (PI); Jrène Rahm, (Co-PI UdeM), Diane Dechief (Collaborator, McGill)

This study will evaluate the potential of a science outreach program to contribute to the development of ‘science identities’ (confident feelings as insiders to science) among elementary pre-service teachers (PSTs) and undergraduate science majors (USMs). This outreach program pairs up PSTs and USMs to co-teach science to elementary-aged youth, in a unique transdisciplinary community-university partnership.  Science education outreach—teaching science to youth in after school contexts—has been shown to be a critical opportunity to influence both science teaching and practice capabilities among PSTs and USMs. This study will examine the outcomes of an intervention that invites four pairs of PSTs and USMs to co-teach reform-based science to youth in a unique science outreach program in two elementary schools in Montréal. We anticipate that these collaborative educational outreach experiences will provide opportunities for both groups to build their science and pedagogical content knowledge; support their confidence-building as teachers and communicators of science; and promote the development of their science identities and science teacher identities.
Research Assistants: Emily Sprowls (PhD student, Integrated Studies in Education); Julianna Zelt (MA student, Integrated Studies in Education)

Completed studies

Vers une stratégie pédagogique plus efficace pour mobiliser les filles de minorités visibles à parler de science de manière productive
Funding:  Fonds de recherche société et culture (2017-2020)
Principal Investigator: Allison Gonsalves

Community-based programs and after-school science clubs have been demonstrated to provide important settings for pre-service teachers (PSTs) to learn about youth, their interests and lives outside of school, and may help PSTs develop connections with young people in ways that open them up to learning about the funds of knowledge that youth bring to learning situations. These placements, outside of the school environment, can provide PSTs with an opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation of the vast and various learning contexts that students navigate. Out-of-school-time (OST) science programs also make important settings for novice scientists to make contact with youth in non-academic settings. Often, after-school clubs are mediated by undergraduate or college-level science students, many of whom have scant experience working with youth. Little is known about how these interactions influence undergraduate science students’ perspectives on science and teaching. We know already that many novice scientists are involved in ‘science outreach’ activities, and that these activities can provide academic supports for tutored students, but we know relatively about how experiences may can support learning experiences for these undergraduate science majors (USMs) in ways that might transform how they think about and enact science communication practices. In this study, we wish to know more about how novice teachers – both PSTs and USMs see science and see themselves in science, and how opportunities to engage young people in science talk might help to build a new generation of science communicators.
Research assistants: Alex Cavalcante (Doctoral Student, Integrated Studies in Education), Hailey Iacono (MA Graduate, Integrated Studies in Education)
Study completed Winter 2020

Understanding networks of support for under-represented STEM students
Principal Investigator: 
Allison Gonsalves
Funding: Internal Social Sciences and Humanities Development Grant (2018-2019), Tomlinson University-Level Science Teaching Project (2018-2019), SALTISE Mini-Grant (2019)

Researchers in science education have demonstrated that women and under-represented minorities, especially women of colour, do not persist in STEM fields at the same rate as their White male peers because of social and interpersonal factors. Research investigating factors related to success in STEM fields suggest that persistence depends on the development of a STEM-identity. Others have shown that participation in STEM clubs/organizations improves under-represented students’ persistence in STEM programs. However, few researchers have examined the link between science-identity formation and the resources students can access through equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives in STEM. We are interested in the roles that these initiatives can play in under-represented students’ identity work and persistence in physics particularly. Research shows that EDI clubs/organizations can provide “counterspaces” for students’ identity work that may impact their persistence. We argue that these spaces may support the development of network ties which allow for the flow of a unique set of resources needed for identity work. Both human and material resources are needed for students to position themselves as “insiders” within their disciplines. To capture the kinds of resources that may flow through these spaces, and the social interactions that facilitate identity work in physics, we propose the use of social network theory and particularly longitudinal social network analysis (SNA). Using analytical tools from SNA and identity theory, this research examines the networks of support that students access through an EDI club developed to support women in physics. 

Research Assistants: Hannah Chestnutt (Faculty Lecturer, Integrated Studies in Education), Julianna Zelt (MA student, Integrated Studies in Education), Abigail Spielkevitz (Undergrad student, Department of Computer Science)
Study completed Winter 2020




Selected publications: 

(* indicates co-publication with students)

Peer-reviewed Journals

Gonsalves, A., and Chestnutt, H. (in press). Counterspaces that support identity work in physics. Physics in Canada*. (*PiC is a peer-reviewed professional journal)

Gonsalves, A. (2020). Constructing inside-ness to physics: How matter comes to matter for physics identity work. Cultural Studies of Science Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-020-09999-z

Gonsalves, A. and Chestnutt, H. (2020). Networks of support: Investigating a counterspace that provides identity resources for minoritized students in post-secondary physics. The Physics Teacher, 58, 324

*Gosling, C., and Gonsalves, A. (2020). Lessons from research exploring the underrepresentation of women in physics. The Physics Teacher, 58, 342

Gonsalves, A. (2019). Operationalizing intersectionality to understand recognition in the landscape of becoming. Cultural Studies of Science Education. DOI: 10.1007/s11422-019-09964-5

Danielsson, A., Gonsalves, A., Silfver, E., and Berge, M. (2019). The pride and joy of engineering? The identity work of male working-class engineering students. Engineering Studies, 11, 3.

Gonsalves, A., Silfver, E., Danielsson, A., and Berge, M. (2019). “It’s not my dream, actually”: Students’ identity work across figured worlds of construction engineering in Sweden. International Journal of STEM Education, 6, 13.

Gonsalves, A. and Danielsson, A. (2018) Identity, Masculinity and Materiality: Mapping out new terrain in physics education research. European Science Education Research Association Selected Conference Proceedings.

Gonsalves, A. (2018). Exploring how gender figures the identity trajectories of two doctoral students in observational astrophysics. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 14(1), 010146.

Jao, L., Wiseman, D., Kobiela, M., Gonsalves, A., and Savard, A. (2018). Practice-based pedagogy in mathematics and science teaching methods: Challenges and adaptations in context.  Canadian Journal of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education.  

Gonsalves, A., Danielsson, A., and Pettersson, H. (2016). Masculinities and experimental practices in physics:  The view from three case studies.  Physical Review Physics Education Research, 12, 020120. 

Gonsalves, A. (2014). “Science isn’t just what we learn in school”:  Interaction rituals that value youth voice in out-of-school-time science.  Canadian Journal of Education.  37, 1, 185-208

Gonsalves, A. (2014).  “Physics and the girly girl—there is a contradiction somewhere”: Doctoral students’ positioning around discourses of gender and competence in physics.  Special issue on Gender and Science in Cultural Studies in Science Education, 9, 503-521. DOI:  10.1007s11422-012-9447-6

Gonsalves, A., Rahm, J., and *Carvalho, A. (2013).  “We could think of things that could be science”:  Girls’ refiguring of science and self in an out-of-school-time club.  Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 50, 9, 1068-1097 DOI: 10.1002/tea.21105


Gonsalves, A., and Danielsson, A. (2020).  Physics Education and Gender:  Identity as an Analytic Lens for Research.  Springer Press.  

Selected Book Chapters

Cavalcante, A., and Gonsalves, A. (in press). Undergraduate science majors’ identity work in the context of science outreach: Investigating the role of science capital. European Science Education Research Association Selected Papers. Springer Press.

Gonsalves, A., and Rahm, J. (forthcoming). “It was always about relationships and it was awesome”: Girls performing gender and identity in an out-of-school science conversation club. In L. Archer and H. Holmegaard (Eds). Science Identities: Theory, method, and research. Springer Press.

Gonsalves, A., and Danielsson, A. (2020).  Who needs identity in Physics Education Research?  In (Eds) A. Gonsalves and A. Danielsson, Physics Education and Gender:  Identity as an Analytic Lens for Research. Springer Press.  

Gonsalves, A.,Wiseman, D., *Vanderzwet, L., *Spencer, K.R., *Cartier-Archambault, V. (2020)  Beyond the binary: Are there really only two sexes? In S. Woolley and L. Airton (Eds). Teaching about Gender Diversity: Teacher tested lessons for K-12 classrooms. Canadian Scholars Press.  



Gonsalves, A., Iacono, H. Cavalcante, A., Sprowls, E. (March 2020). What makes science careers possible for undergraduate science majors? Exploring the roles of science capital and science outreach. Paper accepted to the National Association of Research in Science Teaching Annual Meeting*, Portland Oregon. *Cancelled due to COVID-19

Gonsalves, A., Iacono, H, Cavalcante, A. (March 2020). Undergraduate science majors’ stories of identity in the context of a science outreach program. Paper accepted to the National Association of Research in Science Teaching Annual Meeting*, Portland Oregon. *Cancelled due to COVID-19

*Cavalcante, A., Gonsalves, A., and *Iacono, H. (August, 2019). Undergraduate science majors’ identity work in the context of a science outreach program: Understanding the role of science capital. Paper presented to the bi-annual meeting of the European Science Education Research Association, Bologna, Italy.

Gonsalves, A., Chestnutt, H., and *Spilkevitz, A. (August, 2019). Mapping social networks for women in physics. Paper presented to the bi-annual meeting of the European Science Education Research Association, Bologna, Italy.

Rahm, J., and Gonsalves, A. (August, 2019) Performing, claiming and envisioning possible selves in STEM in the flow of life: Methdological and theoretical challenges in STEM identity research. Paper presented to the bi-annual meeting of the European Science Education Research Association, Bologna, Italy.

Ottemo, A., Gonsalves, A., and Danielsson, A. (August, 2019). (Dis)embodied masculinity and the meaning of (non)style in physics, computer science and engineering education. Paper presented to the bi-annual meeting of the European Science Education Research Association, Bologna, Italy.

*Cavalcante, A., Gonsalves, A., *Iacono, H. (June, 2019). Undergraduate Science Majors' orientations to science and teaching in an out-of-school-time science outreach program. Paper presented to the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Studies in Education (Science Education Research Group).

Gonsalves, A. (2019). Understanding identity and social networks among women in graduate physics education.Presentation to the Division of Physics Education (DPE) and the Committee to Encourage Women in Physics (CEWIP)at the Canadian Association of Physics Annual Congress, Burnaby, BC.

Gonsalves, A. Silfver, E., Danielsson, A., and Berge, M. (April, 2019). Brunkers and brave heroes: Dominant subject positions in figured worlds of construction engineering. Paper presented to the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Toronto, Canada.

*Gosling, C., and Gonsalves, A. (January, 2019). Doing gender in the lab. Presented to the American Association of Physics Teachers Conference, Houston, USA.

Rahm, J.,Gonsalves, A.,and Lachaine, A. (April, 2018). Girls’ Identity Work in Science, Understood in Light of their Mobility, Entanglement, and Wayfaring. Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association annual conference, New York, USA.

Adams, J., Carlone, H., Danielsson, A., Johannsen, B., Greenberg, D., Gonsalves, A., Hazari, Z., Holmegaard, H., Johnson, A., Wade-Jaimes, K., Wulff, P., Wong, B., Moore, F. (March, 2018). Science Identities: Embracing the Diversity and Multiplicity of Theory and Research.  Presiders, Avraamidou, L., and Holmegaard, H. A symposium presented to the National Association for Research in Science Teaching annual meeting, Atlanta, USA

Gonsalves, A. and Danielsson, A. (2018). Identity, Masculinity and Materiality:  Mapping out new terrain in physics education research. ESERA-invited symposium presentation to the National Association of Research in Science Teaching annual meeting, Atlanta, USA.


Book images: 
Physics Education and Gender
Graduate supervision: 

I supervise students in the fields of science education, teacher education, doctoral education and faculty development. I welcome applications from students at the MA and PhD level who wish to pursue research in science identity studies, gender studies, and science outreach to engage youth from non-dominant communities in science learning.

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 

2020 Faculty of Education’s Heather Reisman and Gerald Schwartz Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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