Janet Carlson is currently the faculty director of CSET where she has been working since 2013. She began her career in education as a life and earth science teacher in rural and small towns. As she moved from classroom teaching into developing curriculum, facilitating professional learning, and conducting research she kept a focus on equity in the science classroom. This focus began with looking at gender equity and trying to understand why so few female-identifying students pursued upper-level science courses and majors in college. She became particularly interested in teachers’ beliefs and actions in the classroom with regard to who teachers thought could learn science, what counted as learning science, and what it meant to be a “good” science teacher. Gradually this focus on gender equity broadened to look at all students who were being disserved in science education and more generally in the K-12 system. Today her work in CSET is centered on naming and disrupting entrenched systems of oppression in K-12 education especially as played out in classroom instruction. She is guided each day by the credo that “white silence is violence.”

Please note that I am no longer accepting graduate students.

Academic Appointments

Research Interests

  • Professional Development
  • Science Education
  • Teachers and Teaching

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Janet Carlson is an Associate Professor (Research) and the Faculty Director of the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET) at Stanford University. CSET works in educational partnerships to solve persistent problems of practice by improving the quality of instruction, keeping equity at the center of the work, and developing leading teachers In doing this work, CSET intends to raise the status of the teaching profession, keep high-quality teachers in classrooms, and improve each student’s access to equitable learning opportunities. This work is taking place within the US and in collaboration with other countries who are examining issues of equity and student learning.

Carlson is responsible for strategic planning with faculty, staff, and leading teachers to identify and continually examine the core principles that will drive the work of CSET. In addition, she is leading the development of a research portfolio that both furthers the mission of the center and supports the translation of research findings in ways that matter to practitioners.

Carlson’s move to Stanford in September 2013 follows a 23-year history at the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), a nonprofit focused on the research and development of curriculum-based support of science teaching and learning. Her research has included studying the impact of educative curriculum materials and transformative professional development on science teaching and learning. With the move to CSET, her research is growing to include the lens of understanding what it means to have practiced-based professional development in the content areas and how to link that to student learning.

Carlson began her career as a middle and high school science teacher and has spent the last 30 years working in science education developing curriculum, leading professional development, and conducting research. She received a BA in Environmental Biology from Carleton College, an MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Kansas State University, and a PhD in Instruction and Curriculum (science education) from the University of Colorado.

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

  • Doctoral Dissertation Reader (AC)
    Kelly Boles
  • Doctoral Dissertation Co-Advisor (AC)
    Candice Kim
  • Doctoral (Program)
    Brandi Cannon, Monica Sircar