Dr. Danielle Keifert


Danielle Keifert is a learning scientist, researcher, and educator in the College of Education at the University of North Texas. She studies learners’ lines of experience across settings and designs that connect these experiences. Danielle centers repertoires of practice, particularly family inquiry practices, to understand families as a primary site of learning. Her work explores participants’ activity in their own terms to foreground the full diversity of human sensemaking and avoid evaluating everyday sensemaking through the lens of Western conceptualizations of science as doing so normalizes White middle-class norms. By casting a wide net with the lens of inquiry, Danielle’s research recognizes children’s competence, expands learning theory to understand family cultural practices, and informs designing more equitable learning environments that privilege an array of inquiry practices for learning. Dr. Keifert contributes to designs for children’s’ learning in preschool or early-elementary classrooms, K-5 teachers engaged in professional learning, and pre-service teachers (K-12) preparing to draw upon learning theory for equitable and just practice. While her K-5 settings focus on science and STEM, her K-12 pre-service teacher preparation focuses broadly on learning and developmental theories. However, all of her designs draw upon the idea of lines of experience to foreground equitable learning designs.  

Defining Inquiry and a Brief Illustration of Inquiry Practices

Dr. Keifert defines inquiry as moments when participants orient to a phenomenon as puzzling, and engage in exploring that phenomenon using resources they deem relevant to the point of their own satisfaction (Keifert & Stevens, 2019). This definition of inquiry focuses on participant’s own activity as identifying moments of inquiry, rather than using an exogenous lens based on the practices of scientists or students in science classrooms. This lens has been used to understand an array of inquiry practices such as engaging in imaginative embodiment like imagining being a water particle with others to run around and create gas or wiggle in place at a distance to create solid, or engaging in thought experiments like imagining standing in boiling water to think about the differences between water at its boiling or freezing points, or drawing to explore the mechanisms that explain the inner workings of a physical model of a desalinating water tower (see Keifert & Stevens, 2019; Keifert, accepted to C&I; Keifert et al., 2020). 


Danielle earned her undergraduate degree (special major in Astronomy-Education) from Swarthmore College before teaching for five years in NYC. She earned her PhD from the Learning Sciences program at Northwestern University. She also earned a certificate in Educational Sciences as a fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Educational Sciences (MPES), an Institute for Education Sciences training program at Northwestern University. Since her graduation, Danielle served as a post-doc for the Institute for Inquiry at the Exploratorium (2015-16) and with Noel Enyedy at University of California (2016-18) and Vanderbilt University (2018-19) before becoming an assistant professor at the University of North Texas.

Before attending Northwestern University, Danielle received her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College with a special major in Astronomy Education (advisors Drs. Lisa Smulyan and Eric Jensen). During her time at Swarthmore College she worked in the field of public science education at the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia Fels Planetarium, and contributed public astronomy nights hosted by the Physics and Astronomy Department at Swarthmore College.

Gracie, the cancer-surviving, cuddling, amazing, rescue-pup.

After graduating, Danielle moved to New York City where she taught middle school math and science for five years. Since graduating Northwestern University, Danielle has worked as a learning scientist/post-doctoral researcher for the Exploratorium (2015-2016), and as a post-doctoral researcher with Dr. Noel Enyedy first at the University of California Los Angeles (2016-2018), and then at Vanderbilt University (2018-2019). Danielle is currently an assistant professor on the faculty of Educational Psychology in the College of Education at the University of North Texas. Danielle is also the delighted human of a sweet Tijuana rescue pup who keeps her company during her analysis and writing binges, and reminds Danielle to stop and take a walk on the regular!

Further Information

Please explore this website for information about Danielle’s research interests and current projects, teaching at University of North Texas, recent and upcoming presentations, CV, and contact information.