Iowa State University will showcase its expertise and leadership in science teacher education at a gathering this week of 500 science teacher educators from across the nation and world.
The Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) will hold its 2017 international conference, Jan. 12 to 14 at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. It’s a chance for those who prepare science teachers — from colleges both big and small — to network, present scholarly papers and posters, and attend professional development workshops aimed at informing their work and improving the preparation of science teachers.
“ASTE is a great venue for connecting with other researchers from around the world who are passionate about teacher education and hearing all of the great research around supporting and preparing science teachers,” said Kristina Tank, an assistant professor in the School of Education.
This year’s international conference is co-chaired by School of Education professor Joanne Olson, who served as ASTE president from 2014 to 2015, and Jerrid Kruse, an Iowa State alumnus who is an associate professor of science education and chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Drake University. Participants are coming from as far as Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
“These are my colleagues. They understand what I do,” Olson said. “We’re facing the same issues. We’re facing similar policies. We’re dealing with the same research questions. They get it.”
Iowa State is a sponsor of the event along with American Elements, a manufacturer of advanced and engineered materials; the Iowa Pork Producers Association; Drake University; and Carolina Biological, which offers science supplies and materials for science classrooms.
“The size of this organization enables us to meet in smaller cities,” Olson said. “In the past, we’ve gone to Portland, El Paso, San Antonio, and Charleston, to name a few. We’re headed to Des Moines this year. The city opened its arms to us.”
Leader in innovation
Olson and Michael Clough, who is also a professor in the School of Education, will receive the national Innovation in Teaching Science Teachers award at the event’s awards and business luncheon this Saturday, Jan. 14.
The award — which seeks to encourage new designs for courses and curricula, and new instructional methods or approaches — recognizes a paper authored by Clough and Olson called “Teachers’ classroom practices 2-5 years after having completed an intensive secondary science teacher education program.”
The paper is about Iowa State's pre-service secondary science teacher education programs, primarily the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program in secondary science education, an intensive 15-month program developed to prepare people who already have a science degree to teach science.
The M.A.T. program is a point of pride for the College of Human Sciences. Graduates of the program gain recognition for effective science teaching at a rate that exceeds most programs in the nation.
At least 10 former Iowa State M.A.T. students received the Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Award for New Teachers — a prestigious award from the National Science Teachers Association that’s given each year to up to 25 teachers nationwide for exceptional science teaching in the first five years in the classroom. Two former M.A.T. students received the Exemplary Science Teacher Award from the Iowa Academy of Science.
Kruse, the conference co-chair, is a 2005 graduate of Iowa State’s M.A.T. program who went on to receive his doctorate in education from Iowa State in 2010.
Faculty and students present research
The conference features about 150 poster and paper sessions.
Olson, Tank, assistant professor Anne Estapa, and graduate students Jacob Pleasants and Christopher Spinler will present findings from the first year of Trinect. The teacher education project works with student teachers, cooperating teachers, and engineers to support science and engineering education at the elementary level.
The work is supported by a $4.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to enhance teacher education and improve the teaching of science, engineering, and mathematics in elementary schools.
“Through efforts on the NSF Trinect grant, which involves a partnership between the School of Education and College of Engineering, we have worked to better understand how to support both pre-service and in-service teachers to implement a more integrated approach to STEM in their elementary classrooms,” Tank said. “There is such great potential for student learning within an integrated approach to STEM, and efforts focused on supporting teacher learning in this important work is critical.”
Others attending this year’s conference include School of Education professor Michael Clough, associate professors Gale Seiler and Katherine Richardson Bruna, assistant professor Manali Sheth, and doctoral student Hildah Makori.
Clough will present a paper focused on innovative coursework in secondary science teacher preparation.
Seiler, Bruna, and Makori will present a paper about growing elementary science teachers’ identities around ambitious, culturally responsive teaching. The presentation reports on work done as part of a National Institutes of Health-funded project called Young Scientists and Ambitious Teachers Improving Health in an Urban Ecosystem, which responds to the rapid ethnic and racial diversification occurring in America’s heartland.
Sheth will join Melissa Braaten from the University of Colorado Boulder in presenting a paper about how the struggle to address the relationships between power, race, and science education continues to limit transformative science teaching. The paper uses examples from a methods course to demonstrate the potential to support equitable science teaching.
Keynote speakers tackle standardized testing, privatization
As local conference chair, Olson was in charge of planning the hotel, food, buses, facilities, and speakers for the international event. Keynote speakers include Diane Ravitch and Sara Vispoel.
Ravitch, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on education. She is a prolific writer and renowned historian of education at New York University who has written more than 500 articles and reviews including the New York Times bestseller “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.”
Her speech, scheduled for 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13 in Salons D and E of the Marriott, will be provided by live video feed and is open to the public for $10 at the door.
“It’s wise for all of us to be very aware of the policies influencing K-12 schools,” Olson said. “We need to be more than just reactionary. We have to do what’s best for students, and know how to help research inform policy.”
Vispoel is a former high school biology teacher who is the senior director of assessment design at ACT, Inc, an Iowa City-based nonprofit considered the nation’s leading U.S. college admissions testing company. Vispoel is also one of the original committee members who authored the Common Core State Standards.
The Association for Science Teacher Education will officially kick off its new peer-reviewed practitioner journal, Innovations in Science Teacher Education, at a breakfast sponsored Thursday, Jan. 12 by the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
A Thursday evening poster session and reception will be held at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. Other activities include a pre-conference field trip to the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative, a VIP tour and wine tasting at Jasper Winery, an early morning fun run, exhibits, and a dinner hosted by ASTE’s Women in Science Education forum.