Julie Epton with her dog Raja

It’s never too late to continue education. Julie Epton went back to school to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be in the healthcare field or teach”, she says.

After running her own neuromuscular therapy business for seven years, Julie Epton is now following another dream of hers – teaching science. Currently, Julie Epton is pursuing a Master of Science in Education at Oregon State University’s College of Education.

About a year and a half ago, Epton moved to Oregon from Michigan and decided to pursue teaching. While living in Washington, D.C., Epton taught an array of sciences for two years in a public charter high school. It was this experience that made Epton want to earn her degree in the field where she always felt she belonged. She also felt that the STEM field “not only needs more women, but needs to support a diverse array of children to get more involved” in science and she believes that she “can fulfill this role by establishing equitable, inclusive classrooms that encourage all children in the practice of science.”

As a STEM educator, Epton believes that “a good STEM education teaches us how to think critically and question the world around us, and how to be smarter consumers of information and more responsible citizens.”

The progressive style of teaching in the Master of Science in Education program, centered on inquiring-based learning and discourse-oriented pedagogy, incorporates Epton’s belief of providing an engaging learning environment and developing critical thinking in students.

Epton loves the program’s focus on Ambitious Science Teaching and social justice, as she is “learning to create culturally relevant, equitable curricula that facilitates students actively engaging in scientific practices and collaborating with peers to develop deeper conceptual understandings.” She laments that her own K-12 education lacked this style of teaching, noting how well it melds active learning with critical thinking and cooperation to create a stimulating educational environment.

The ten month MSEd program is “fast and intense”, but Epton finds it very rewarding thanks to caring, supportive instructors, the student teaching experience at multiple schools, and the connections she has made with her cohort. Epton values the relationships made with her classmates and hopes to maintain a strong bond when everyone begins their first year of teaching. Epton has noticed that with this cohort structure, “[her] learning is greatly enhanced, and the work is exponentially more fun, when you have such a wonderful group [of people] around you.”

A fifth grade boy who hasn’t been engaged in science class suddenly perks up when the after-school lesson involves a visit to a local bakery where he gets to use a mortar and pestle to grind wheat berries into flour for bread making. It turns out the boy helps his Latina grandmother grind corn at his home. Instantly, science is connected to something he can relate to, and a light bulb blinks on.

A third grade girl from the Dominican Republic visits a local tire shop where she gets to use shiny tools like pressure gauges and tire tread measuring devices, and a connection is made in her young mind that math is all around her and much more than the inky symbols printed on worksheets in a classroom.

A group of elementary students learn fractions at a Mexican bakery where they slice up pastries, weigh the portions on a scales, then literally eat what they’ve learned. A weightlifter pumping iron at a local gym fascinates students, and a science lesson about force and weight is driven home. At a Laundromat, students get to disassemble a washing machine and learn about pulleys. A local car dealership serves cookies while students inspect a car that mechanics have put on display in preparation for an after-school lesson

These are all examples from an after-school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning program/teacher preparation course/research project called FIESTAS that was launched four years ago by OSU College of Education faculty SueAnn Bottoms and Kathryn Ciechanowski and 4-H faculty Ana Lu Fonseca. Since then, the project has grown into a multi-faceted en

terprise that could become a national model for successful STEM learning and teacher education

FIESTAS stands for Families Involved in Educational Sociocultural Teaching and STEM. As the name implies, it is about engaging students from diverse sociocultural backgrounds in STEM learning by involving their families and tapping local businesses to serve as real-world classrooms and hands-on labs.

The experiences help students – and future teachers – see how STEM subjects are woven throughout local communities. FIESTAS is also demonstrating that successful STEM teaching depends on a wide range of factors that go well beyond the walls of any school classroom.

FIESTAS started when Bottoms and Ciechanowski partnered with two 4-H after-school clubs and later the local Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis. Their goal was two-fold: 1) expose underserved youth to STEM related projects to increase interest in STEM, and 2) engage preservice teachers (PSTs) in culturally and linguistically diverse settings.

Four years later, the program has grown exponentially and is benefitting students, parents, local businesses, and the 50-plus PSTs who work with students in two dual-immersion elementary schools each year.

“When we started FIESTAS, it was just two after-school clubs, but it has grown all these tentacles and taken on a life of its own because it really resonated with people,” says Bottoms. “Our PSTs find it very rewarding, and parents like it because they hear what’s going on with their kids. It’s so exciting it keeps me going and energizes me.”

Part of what excites Ciechanowski and Bottoms is seeing how the kids – and the PSTs – connect with and learn from the local businesses.

“The community response to this has been amazing,” says Ciechanowski. “There is all this expertise in the community, and when we do a better job connecting teachers to this expertise, we are better at teaching STEM.”

The PSTs meet briefly with the community partners ahead of time to frame the lessons and offer pedagogical expertise, like how to set up activities at stations for hands-on learning.

“And then the businesses just run with it,” says Ciechanowski. “Many are surprised by how well the kids behave, but that’s one of the keys: if you engage children in real-world, authentic ways, they are learning, because they’re not just reading about it – they’re doing it in context.”

By working with people in the local community who use math and science every day, the students see STEM integrated in everyday life, and not something separate.

“We might not identify these individuals as scientists or mathematicians, but they are using science and math every day, so we help kids see that connection,” Bottoms says.

FIESTAS also has a diversity component aimed at helping budding teachers experience first-hand how kids from different sociocultural backgrounds learn in different ways. The program is intentionally targeted at schools with diverse student populations.

“Teachers are generally white, female, and monolingual,” says Bottoms. “We help them broaden their understandings by creating equitable experiences so teachers teach better because they understand kids might not have backgrounds like theirs. Diversity is big and complex and involves religion, race, socioeconomic background, and much more, and as a teacher, you have to understand that the community of children you’re teaching reflects this complex diversity.”

This diversity is also connected to families, which is why FIESTAS reaches out to include the families of the students.

The mother of a Fourth Grade girl told the researchers how her daughter, who ‘hated’ math and refused to do her homework, is now telling people she wants to be an engineer when she grows up. The mother credits the change to FIESTAS, which actively works to communicate with families and sometimes sends videos of the children engaged in the local lessons home with students so their parents can learn, too.

“Parents are partners in this,” says Bottoms. “I always tell the PSTs that kids come with families, and every family is not like your family.”

FIESTAS also has a research component. In addition to the undergraduate PSTs, doctoral and master’s students are involved in data collection and analysis, and Bottoms and Ciechanowski have presented their findings at conferences and published in journals.

“This is a community based research project,” says Ciechanowski.

Bottoms uses the term, “praxis,” or the intersection of theory and practice. “This is what a theory looks like when you put it into practice – an innovative way of preparing teachers to do science and math.”

The researchers have learned that exposing students to STEM in their own community sparks interest and ignites passion, and that STEM learning works best when rooted in the sociocultural relevant contexts of children’s lives. The program is also helping develop teachers who have a deeper understanding of STEM teaching, diversity, community learning, and more.

“We see from our own analysis of the PSTs who are part of FIESTAS that the experience is shifting their perspectives and making a difference in how they approach teaching,” Bottoms says.

The program has been so successful and grown so fast that Bottoms and Ciechanowski are searching to find funding to hire a program coordinator and to support new doctoral students. They believe FIESTAS is so unique and successful that it could be replicated in other communities across the country.

“We’re underfunded because FIESTAS is so unique that it doesn’t fit into a box,” Bottoms says.

Although programs in other parts of the country include some of the “tentacles” of FIESTAS – activities like family math and science nights, no other program incorporates so many different threads or maintains such long-term connections with community partners, Ciechanowski says.

“The difference between our program and others is the level of complexity and the long-term aspect of FIESTAS,” says Ciechanowski. “Universities are often criticized for going out into a community to do research and then returning without necessarily giving anything back to the community. What we’re trying to do differently with FIESTAS is build long-term relationships that benefit all partners.”

Suzette Savoie found a spark in her teaching talents while working as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Wyoming teaching Physical Geography. As an undergraduate, she was also mentoring kids and found that she is able to make great relationships with them. At Oregon State, she was able to “combine [her] passion for science and mentoring” through completion of the Master of Science in Education program this year.

Originally from Alabama, Savoie “moved out west for the mountains”; and her love for camping and trout fishing definitely fit into the Oregonian culture. Savoie has enjoyed her time at OSU going to a few baseball games, taking a stained-glass class at the craft center and attending some science talks as well. Her last few years of school, she admits, were “quite accelerated and tough; however, I had a great support group in my peers, professors, cooperating teachers, friends, and family which helped me tremendously in sticking it through to the end.”

Through her prior experience and her time at OSU, Savoie discovered a key to building authentic relationships with students. “I think that having a great sense of humor and being able to laugh at yourself is key to becoming a successful teacher. Having strong skills in empathy and compassion are also essential in teaching,” she shared.

After graduation, Savoie plans on being a middle school science teacher. Although Savoie is nervous about the state of the U.S. education system, she still says, “I’m excited about beginning this new chapter in my life where I help to inspire kids to be curious about science.”

 

Graduate Student Stories- Program: Mathematics Education Ph.D.

After five years of dedication, Allison Dorko is graduating this spring with a PhD in Mathematics Education. Dorko recognized her passion for teaching while she was working on her Bachelor’s in Kinesiology and Physical Education from the University of Maine. Later on, she got her Master’s in Mathematics Education in Maine and “fell in love with the research component” which inspired her to pursue a Ph.D. “in order to do more research and teach college mathematics.”

While at Oregon State, Dorko added a Bachelor’s of Mathematics to her studies before working on her PhD. She especially enjoyed her last two years in the PhD program working with the STEM Club (which is part of the FIESTAS project) at Lincoln and Garfield elementary schools in Corvallis, OR. Dorko says “it is a lot of fun to do maths and science with children and to help the Education majors [in the College of Education] learn how to make maths and science exciting” and “we [even] do maths with Legos!”

Dorko’s years as a student have been busy and she advises other graduate students about the importance of getting enough sleep because “when you’re sleep-deprived, your brain simply doesn’t function well.”

After graduation, Dorko is moving to Oklahoma where she has landed a job as an Assistant Teaching Professor. There, she will “coordinate and supervise their college algebra program, teach mathematics, and do research.” Dorko says, “it’s a great job and I’m excited about it… I’ve heard Oklahoma has amazing storms [and] I’m looking forward to seeing some of those.” Dorko has enjoyed her time here in Corvallis, but she is excited to move on to the next step in her career, “being a faculty member instead of being a student.”

Darlene Russ-Eft-“leading the profession through research”

Since 1984, Darlene Russ-Eft has been an on-going contributor to the Human Resource Development (HRD) field by “leading the profession through research” and the “development of new knowledge”.  She is considered one of the founders of the field of HRD, with a passion for teaching and research that has awarded her with an Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) Hall of Fame honor.  

This Hall of Fame award is unique in that it is only given to those who have received the AHRD Outstanding Scholar Award prior. Russ-Eft received this award in 1999 with evidence of scholarly publications that contribute to the fundamental theory and practice of HRD. This practice is more specifically seen in her books and articles that emphasize and highlight the role of program evaluation. At this time Russ-Eft was the Director of Research for Achieve Global, an international training provider. She also contributed to the development and adoption of the AHRD Standards on Ethics and Integrity (AHRD, 1999) and is currently co-chair of a task force working on revisions of those standards. She has served on the AHRD Board, as the vice president for research, and recently as president.

The focus of Russ-Eft’s research involves the connection of human resource development and program evaluation. At OSU, she engages in evaluation of educational programs and activities related to the Bioenergy minor program, the Science and Math Investigative Learning Experience (SMILE) teacher workshops, and the SMILE Summer Bridge program that introduces Bioenergy concepts.

Russ-Eft’s education and research efforts have allowed her to travel as well. As a graduate student, she served as a teaching assistant in undergraduate psychology courses.  While a researcher at the American Institutes for Research in Palo Alto, she taught undergraduate courses in psychology. One of her recent travels for teaching has been to Bangkok, Thailand where she taught a course titled Ethics and Good Governance in Complex Organizations in the doctoral program in Human and Organizational Development at the National Institute for Development Administration (NIDA). Russ-Eft shares that she has also guest-lectured at other universities in the United States and internationally.

Russ-Eft has worked at Oregon State University’s College of Education since 2002. Today she continues her work as a Discipline Liaison in Adult and Higher Education (AHE) and a Professor in the doctoral program for Community College Leadership, Higher Education, and in the AHE Masters program. Russ-Eft shares how she “love[s] both research and teaching” and how she has “enjoyed the various research and evaluation projects that have been a part of [her] OSU position.” She emphasizes that she has especially “enjoyed teaching the various courses here; including Learning Theory at the masters level, Instructional Leadership at the doctoral level, Research Analysis and Interpretation at the doctoral level”, as well as her current courses.  In addition, “advising both masters thesis students and doctoral advisees have been a highlight” for her.

Along with her love for teaching and research, Russ-Eft says, “for fun [she and her] husband, who is a retired Division Counsel (lawyer) for the Army Corps of Engineers, love to travel, hike, bicycle, and cross cross-country ski, and sing in a choir.”

 

It might be summer but last week Furman Hall was buzzing with teachers and over 30 middle school students from Lane County who participated in the first Quality Teaching and Learning Institute.

The five-day QTL Summer Institute, supported by the OEIB and hosted by OSU, focused on the development of pedagogical skills that will prepare a new generation of teachers to work with students meeting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

QTLCollage

The institute engaged teams in rethinking educator preparation pedagogy approaches to better support models of teacher preparation. Participants include arts and science faculty, educator preparation faculty, and K-12 school partners.

Participants built:

  • a common vision of high quality instruction,
  • a shared language to describe and analyze teaching, and
  • a means for articulating core practices that can be examined and improved.

Learn more about the QTL Summer Institute here.

sponsorshosts

Via Press Release
Contact: Julie Risien, 541-737-8664 or Julie.Risien@oregonstate.edu

MartinStorksdieckCORVALLIS, Ore. – OSU is an international leader in the study of how people of all ages learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) both in and out of school. In recognition of the collective expertise of its faculty OSU established the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning in 2012 with a mission to enhance understanding of how individuals with diverse life circumstances and identities become lifelong STEM learners, practitioners and researchers.

This June Dr. Martin Storksdieck begins his tenure as Director of this unique research center, with the charge to grow it into an internationally distinguished hub of learning research to better prepare us to meet the 21st century challenges that will require a STEM ready workforce and citizenry. Like 16 other OSU Research Centers, the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning is under the direct supervision of the Vice President of Research.

Storksdieck joins OSU after serving as Director of the Board on Science Education at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. There he was responsible for several national efforts to improve K-12 science education, including the first step in the development of the Next Generation Science Standards, oversaw the Academies’ efforts to improve the quality of undergraduate science and engineering education, directed the Academies’ Climate Change Education Roundtable, and worked on science assessment in and out of school. Storksdieck’s research background focused on voluntary, or “free choice” learning, and how learning is connected to behaviors, identities and beliefs. He has also explored the intersection of school and out-of-school teaching and learning.

Storksdieck comes to OSU prepared with an abundant research agenda stemming from the recommendations of the many Board on Science Education reports he oversaw. When asked about his new role Storksdieck said “I am delighted to join OSU and honored to be given the opportunity to shape the Center’s focus. In my new role I will help fill the national research gaps and provide answers where those reports recommended more research.”

The OSU Center is unique among STEM center counterparts in its focus on research and commitment to understanding learning across all settings (in and out of school) and across the lifespan. According to founding Center Director, John Falk, “We are fortunate to have someone of the caliber of Dr. Martin Storksdieck taking over the helm the Center. We are poised to make a profound impact on our understanding of how STEM learning can be advanced to meet the challenges we face as a nation and Martin brings the right combination of experience, vision and skills to move us towards achieving that potential.”

michael-giamellaro-006-web
Michael Giamellaro

Michael Giallermo, Assistant Professor of Science and Math Education at the OSU Cascades campus, garnered mention in the Bend Bulletin last week in an article about Oregon’s new science curriculum.

Giallermo was one of three educators involved in Oregon’s adoption earlier this month of the Next Generation Science Standards, a K-12 science curriculum adopted by nine other states.

“The standards represent a move away from just a list of facts students need to master before graduation,” Giamellaro said this week. “The vision is that as students move up, they are not just progressing from topic to topic, but seeing connections across core ideas. Standards are also tied to performance expectations, where knowledge and skills are applied.”

Oregon last adopted a new set of science standards in 2009. While those standards began to incorporate more engineering content, the Next Generation Science Standards, adopted March 6, push that even further. However, Giamellaro said the challenge isn’t over what to include, but what to leave out, given how much could be included in a science curriculum.

“In past national efforts on standards, by the time everything that should be there is in, it’s an overwhelming collection of ideas that’s impossible to get to,” Giamellaro said. “Our big focus is on getting to the most important things people will need in a future, as we interact with technology and engineering more.”

The next challenge is deciding how to implement the standards and bring teachers up to speed on the state’s new expectations for science education.

The adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards coincides with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, a set of math and English education goals Oregon and most other states will implement in the 2014-15 school year. The Common Core is intended to emphasize critical thinking and has been characterized as more rigorous than current Oregon standards by the state Education Department.

Three visiting scholars from South Korea will be spending the next year at Oregon State University. They will be putting on two workshops (April and October) about science education in Korea. Here are bios and backgrounds on the three scholars below:

Hyo-Suk RyuHyo-Suk Ryu, Post-Doctoral Fellow with the College of Education at Ewha Womans University in Korea

Research Interest
My works have been mainly focused on developing programs and circumstances for secondary students in the formal and informal learning contexts. My dissertation is about the effects of science outreach program based on high school students’ experiences in university laboratory. I also collaborated on the project (called WCU) which is about developing materials and training in-service teachers in order to enhance scientific literacy for the young global citizens at Global Institute for STS education in Korea. My interests also include to boost the awareness and support of the public by expanding the bases of science community and public understanding on science.

Education: 

  • Ewha Womans University (Ph.D. in science education) 2007-2011
  • Ewha Womans University (M.Edu. in physics education) 1998-2002
  • Ewha Womans University (B.S. in science education) 1993-1997

young-shin parkYoung-Shin Park, Assistant Professor at the Dept. of Earth Science Education and Director of the Science Culture Education Center at Chosun University, South Korea

Research Interest
My research interest covers two different tracks; informal science learning as well as formal one. One is about science teaching in formal setting covering teachers’ beliefs and knowledge through induction program as well as teacher preparation program in the context of scientific inquiry and argumentation. I also developed Korea Teacher Observational Protocols (K_TOP) to improve teachers’ teaching strategies on the basis of their teaching practices. The other research interest is about educators’ interacting with visitors in informal setting of science learning, such as how to train science docents to be expertise in their interacting with visitors and how to implement science communication into supplemental educational program and how to analyze science communication embedded in science exhibition. I developed the manual ‘guide for science docent expertise’ in Korean (2012) and the book of ‘introduction to being science educator in science center’ by running professional development program for prospective science educator (2013).

Education

  • Oregon State University (Ph.D. in science education) 1998-2005
  • Oregon State University (M.S. in science education) 1996-1997
  • Seoul National University (B.S. in earth science education) 1987-1991

jonghee kimJonghee Kim, Associate Professor with the Department of Earth Science Education at Chonnam National University in South Korea

Research Areas & Interests
Earth Science education

  • Misconception
  • Task Analysis in Earth Science
  • Informal science education (science museum)
  • ICT education, Computer-assisted science learning
  • Special education for the gifted

Resent Research Theme
Development Applications for the Diagnostic & Formative Assessment in the Earth Science Class

Education
Busan National University (Ph. D. in Earth Science Education) 1997- 2003
Busan National University (M.S. in Earth Science Education) 1989-1994
Busan National University (B.S. in Earth Science Education) 1985- 1989

 

 

College of Education professor Shawn Rowe

As an assistant professor of science education at Oregon State University, Shawn Rowe studies how people learn about science and the ocean outside of the classroom.

According to Rowe, people do most of their learning over the course of their entire lives, rather than the years they spend in formal education.

Here, Rowe talks about “free choice learning,” and how his work can help promote it.