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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 research examines how social and cultural factors affect the development of 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.


Sample Publications 

Samarapungavan, A., Bryan, & L. Wills, J (in press). Examining Second Graders' Emerging Particulate Models of Matter in the Context of Learning through Model-Based Inquiry. Journal of Research in Science Teaching.
Samarapungavan, A. (in press). 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.
Samarapungavan, A., Wills, J., & Bryan, L.A. (in press). 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. 
Jen, E., Samarapungavan, A., & Moon, S. (2015). Use Design-Based Research in Gifted Education, Gifted Child Quarterly, 59(3), 190-200.
Senocak, E., Samarapungavan, A., Aksoy, P., & Tosun, C. (2013).  A study on development of an instrument to determine Turkish kindergarten students’ understandings of scientific concepts and scientific inquiry process skills.  Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 00(0), 1-12. DOI: 10.12738/estp.2013.4.1721
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.
Chinn, C. A., & Samarapungavan, A. (2009).  Conceptual change—Multiple routes, multiple mechanisms: A Commentary on Ohlsson.  Educational Psychologist, 44(1), 1-10.
Samarapungavan, A. (2009). Theories as a form of knowledge. In E. Anderman, & L. Anderman (Eds.), Psychology of Classroom Learning: An Encyclopedia (PCL). Thomson Gale, Farmington Hills, MI, 48331.

Samarapungavan, A. (2009). Reasoning. In E. Anderman, & L. Anderman (Eds.), Psychology of Classroom Learning: An Encyclopedia (PCL). Thomson Gale, Farmington Hills, MI, 48331.

Chinn, C. A. & Samarapungavan A. (2008). Learning to use scientific models: Multiple dimensions of conceptual change. In R. A. Duschl & R.E. Grandy (Eds.), Establishing a Consensus Agenda for K-12 Science Inquiry (pp. 191-225). Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, NL, 2006.

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.

Nakhleh, M., Samarapungavan, A., & Saglam, Y. (2005). Middle school students’ beliefs about matter. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(5), 581-612.

Chinn, C. A., & Samarapungavan, A. (2001) The importance of distinguishing between understanding and belief. Theory into Practice, 40, 235 - 241

Nakhleh, M. B., & Samarapungavan, A. (1999). Elementary school children’s theories of matter. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36(7), 777-805.

Nakhleh, M. B., & Samarapungavan, A. (1999). Elementary school children’s theories of matter. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36(7), 777-805.

Brewer, W. F., Samarapungavan, A., & Chinn, C. (1998). Explanation in scientists and non-scientists. Minds and Machines, 8(1), 119-136.

Samarapungavan, A., & Wiers, R. (1997). Children's thoughts on the origin of species: A study of explanatory coherence. Cognitive Science, 21(2), 147-177.

Samarapungavan, A., Vosniadou, S., & Brewer, W. F. (1996).  Thinking about the earth, sun, and moon: Indian children's cosmologies. Cognitive Development, 11, 491-521.

Samarapungavan, A. (1992).  Children's judgments in theory choice tasks: Scientific rationality in childhood. Cognition, 45, 1-32.

 Recent Grants

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, Bryan, L.A. (Co-PI), & Samarapungavan, A. (Co-PI).

Modeling in the Primary Grades (MPG) (2012-2015). Agency: NSF - Award # 1222853. Amount: $431,916.00. PI: Ala Samarapungavan. Co-PIs, Lynn Bryan, Nicholas Giordano, & Yukiko Maeda.

Developing Talents and Improving Student Achievement among Traditionally Underrepresented Populations (2009 - 2012). Agency: US Dept, of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) – Award #R305K050038. Amount: $2,243,965. PI: M. Gentry, Co-PIs: R. Mann; L. De Olivera; A. Samarapungavan, & Y. Maeda; J. Peterson, J; and E. Mann.

The Scientific Literacy Project: Enhancing Young Children's Scientific Literacy through Reading and Inquiry-Centered Adult-Child Dialog. (2005-2010). Agency: US Dept, of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Award # R305K050038. Amount: 1, 490, 693.00. PI: Y. Mantzicopoulos, Co-PIs: H. Patrick & A. Samarapungavan.


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. more>>


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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