Kenneth Tobin is recognized for his thirty years of research on the teaching and learning of science. In 2004 he was awarded a Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, the highest honor bestowed by the National Science Foundation, which is accompanied by NSF support for research on improving the quality of science education in urban high schools. His research interests focus on the teaching and learning of science in urban schools, which involve mainly African American students living in conditions of poverty. A parallel program of research focuses on coteaching. His research practices cohere with theories from cultural sociology, the sociology of emotions, and activity theory. His approach, largely critical ethnography, is augmented with microanalyses that involve intensive research using video. Tobin wishes to promote independence in his students and employs methods that aim to get learners actively involved in reading, writing, and researching.
Tobin’s current research focuses on the science of learning. He examines the expression of emotions and develops interventions for individuals and collectives to ameliorate the emotional climate when needed. This is important in urban schools where, research suggests, there is insufficient positive emotion and too much anger and sadness. He is coauthor of the award-winning At the Elbow of Another: Learning to Teach Through Coteaching (2002) and editor of Teaching and Learning Science (2008); he has coedited several other books, including Transforming Urban Education: Urban Teachers and Students Working Collaboratively (2014). An article of his was designated one of the thirteen most influential in the history of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching and was reprinted in a special edition of JRST in 2003. Before coming to the Graduate Center, he was a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, Florida State University, and Western Australian Institute of Technology. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.