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Ala Samarapungavan
The Department of Educational Studies
College of Education, Purdue University


My research interests focus on cognition, learning and reasoning. My work explores how social and material supports affect the development thinking and knowing from childhood through adulthood. I study how classroom variables, such as teacher-student or peer interactions, task or activity structures and material supports, influence students' engagement in learning, knowledge, reasoning, and epistemic cognition. I am also interested in the connections between informal or out-of-school and formal school learning.

Select Publications 

Samarapungavan, A. (2018). Construing scientific evidence: The role of disciplinary knowledge in reasoning with and about evidence in scientific practice.  In F. Fischer, K. Englemann, J. Osborne, & C. A. Chinn, (Eds.), Interplay of Domain-Specific and Domain General Aspects of Scientific Reasoning and Argumentation Skills. Taylor and Francis.
Roegman, R., Samarapungavan, A., Maeda, Y., & Johns, G. (2018). Color-neutral disaggregation? Principals' practices around disaggregating data from three school districts. Educational Administratin Quarterly. Online first:
Samarapungavan, A., Bryan, L. and Wills, J. (2017), Second graders' emerging particle models of matter in the context of learning through model-based inquiry. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. doi:10.1002/tea.21394
Samarapungavan, A., Wills, J., & Bryan, L.A. (2017). Exploring the scope and boundaries of inquiry strategies: What do young learners generalize from inquiry-based science learning? In E. Manalo, Y. Uesaka, & C. A. Chinn (Eds.). Promoting spontaneous use of learning and reasoning strategies: Theory, research, and practice. Singapore: Routledge.
Samarapungavan, A., Tippins, D., & Bryan, L.A.  (2015). A modelling-based inquiry framework for early childhood science learning. In K. Trundle & M. Sackes (Eds.), Research in Early Childhood Science Education (pp.259-278). Dordrecht: NL. Springer Publishing. 
Mantzicopoulos, P., Patrick, H., & Samarapungavan, A., (2013). Science literacy in school and home contexts: Kindergarteners’ Science Achievement and Motivation. Cognition and Instruction, 31(1), 62-119.
Samarapungavan, A., Patrick, H., & Mantzicopoulos, P. (2011). What Kindergarten Students Learn in Inquiry-Based Science Classrooms. Cognition and Instruction, 29(4), 416-470.
Chinn, C. A., Buckland, L. A., & Samarapungavan, A. (2011). Expanding the dimensions of epistemic cognition: Arguments from philosophy and psychology. Educational Psychologist, 46(3), 1-27.
Samarapungavan, A. (2010). Ontological Assumptions about Species and Their Influence on Children’s Understanding of Evolutionary Biology. In R. Taylor, & M. Ferrari (Eds.), Epistemology and Science Education: Understanding the Evolution vs. Intelligent Design Controversy. Springer Publishing.
Samarapungavan, A., Westby, E. L. & Bodner, G. M. (2006). Contextual epistemic development in science: A comparison of chemistry students and research chemists. Science Education, 90 (3), 468-495.

  Current Grants

Exploring Biological Evidence (EBE): Helping Students Understand the Richness and Complexity of Evidentiary Constructs in Biology (2017-2020). Agency: NSF (CORE), Award # 1661124. Amount: $1,270,155.00. PI: Samarapungavan, A. Co-PIs: Pelaez, N., Gardner, S., Clase, K.

Undergraduate STEM Education by Integrating Mobile Learning Technologies with Natural Language Processing (2018-2022). Agency: IES (NCER), Award # R305A180477. Amount, $1,398,642. PI: Meneske, M. Co-PIs Samarapungavan, A., Litman, D.

Sensing Science through Modeling Matter: Kindergarten Students' Development of Understanding of Matter and Its Changes (2016-2020). Agency: NSF (DRK12), Award # 1621299. Amount: $2,641,415.00. PI: Staudt, C., Concord Consortium. Co-PIs: Bryan, L.A., & Samarapungavan, A.


I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in cognition, learning, research methodology and educational psychology. I guide graduate student research in the areas of individual and collaborative learning, reasoning, and higher order thinking. 


Professional History

I trained as a clinical psychologist at the University of Delhi and then obtained my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois - Champaign.  I then took my first academic position in the Department of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Amsterdam. After  two years in the Netherlands, I accepted a position at  Purdue. more>> 



The special people in my life are my husband Harm HogenEsch and our daughter, Elena HogenEsch.   


Ala Samarapungavan Photo

Ala Samarapungavan
College of Education, Purdue University 
Beering Hall of Liberal Arts and Education
Room 5108D
West Lafayette, Indiana, 47907-1446 
Voice: (765) 494-7321
Fax: (765) 496-1228 

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