Gale M. Sinatra

  • Stephen H. Crocker Chair
  • Professor of Education and Psychology
  • Associate Dean for Research

Research Concentration

  • Educational Psychology


PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 

MS, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 

BS, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


  • Learning Theory • Knowledge Construction • Conceptual Change Learning • Science Learning • Public Understanding of Science
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Dr. Gale Sinatra is a Professor of Psychology and the Stephen H. Crocker Professor of Education at Rossier. Her areas of expertise include climate science education, evolution education, learning theory, knowledge construction, conceptual change learning, literacy acquisition, assessment, and the public understanding of science.

Her recent research focuses on understanding the cognitive and motivational processes that lead to successful learning in science. Specifically, Sinatra focuses on the role of motivation and emotion in teaching and learning about controversial topics, such as biological evolution and climate change. Sinatra developed a model of conceptual change learning, which describes how motivational factors contribute to the likelihood that individuals will change their thinking about a scientific topic. Her co-authored book, Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It, was published in 2021 by Oxford University Press. 

Sinatra received her B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Sinatra is the past Editor of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 15 journal, Educational Psychologist. She served as Vice President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Division C, Learning and Instruction and President of APA's Division 15, Educational Psychology. She is a Fellow of both APA and AERA and a Member of the National Academy of Education.

Awards and Grants

2022     Elected Member of the National Academy of Education.

2021     Recipient of the USC Rossier School of Education Excellence in Research Award.

2020     Recipient of the American Educational Research Association, Division C Learning and Instruction Sylvia Scribner Award.

2018     Ranked in Top 20 of Women Educational Psychologists Publishing Productivity Study by Greenbaum et al. (2018)

 2018     Named Stephen H. Crocker Chair, USC Rossier School of Education.

2017     Named a Finalist for the Frank Prize in Research in Public Interest Communications.

2017     Elected President of American Psychological Association Division 15, Educational Psychology.

2017     Awarded USC Mentoring Award for Faculty/Postdoctoral Mentoring.

2016     Named a Fellow of The Society for Text and Discourse.

2013     Winner of the International Award for Excellence from the International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses for article co-authored with students Abby Beck and Doug Lombardi.

2009 Elected Vice President of Division C, Learning and Instruction, of the American Educational Research Association.

2009 Named Fellow of Division C, Learning and Instruction, of the American Educational Research Association.

2009 Ranked 16th in Educational Psychology Publishing Productivity Study by Jones et al. (2009)

2008 Named Member, International Advisory Board of the Centre for Learning Research, University of Turku, Finland.

2007 Named a Fellow of Division 15, Educational Psychology, of the American Psychological

  • Association.

Courses Taught

  •  EDUC 642 Controversies in Learning and Instruction
  • EDUC 712 Issues in Human Motivation


Professional Affiliations and Memberships

2012 Professor, Joint Appointed in Psychology, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

2012  Professor, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California.

2003-2006  Interim Graduate Dean, Graduate College, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Professional Organizations

  • American Educational Research Association, Division C, Fellow
  • American Psychological Association, Division 15, Fellow
  • Conceptual Change Special Interest Groupof EARLI
  • European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI)
  • International Society for the Learning Sciences (ICLS)


Dr. Sinatra research agenda explores the cognitive, motivational, and emotional processes that lead to attitude change, conceptual change, and successful learning, particularly in STEM and public understanding of science


2018     National Science Foundation, AISL Program. Co-PI. Re-Living Paleontology: Studying How Augmented Reality Immersion and Interaction Impact Engagement and Communicating Science to the Public. Awarded $1,471,459.

2014     Mattel Children’s Foundation. Mattel Speedometry Phase II District Wide RTC, Co-PI. Awarded $784,000.00.

2014     Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Co-PI, Fostering epistemic belief change: The role of epistemic emotions and self-regulated learning. Total Award: $497,286 (CAD). Awarded $13,700 (CAD) to USC.

2014     Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Scaled Models for Certificate Delivery Phase II, Awarded: $99,242.00.

2014     Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education First in the World Program, Key Personnel, Improving Access to College through Games, Technology, and Social Media. Awarded: $3,200,000.

2013     Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Scaled Models for Certificate Delivery, Awarded: $9,523.81.

2012     Mattel Children’s Foundation. Using Hot Wheels to Teach Mathematics and Science Concepts. Awarded $250,000.

2011     Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Epistemic beliefs and emotions: Examining their roles in self-regulated learning and epistemic change. Awarded $167,236 (CAD).

2010     National Science Foundation, REESE Program, Co-PI.  Understanding Emergence.  Awarded $130,000.