News Release| National Academy of the Sciences; Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Cal State L.A.

National study reveals new data on science educators, education

Article by Cal State L.A. chemistry professor published in prestigious academic science journal

Los Angeles, CA – In the last decade, an increasing number of U.S. institutions of higher education are hiring more science faculty with education specialties, referred to as “SFES,” according to a recent paper published by James Rudd, associate professor of chemistry at Cal State L.A., and his colleagues on April 15.

The research evaluated the growing and widespread phenomenon of SFES, who are focused on strengthening undergraduate science education, improving kindergarten-through-12th grade science education, and conducting discipline-based education research.

The paper, entitled “Widespread Distribution and Unexpected Variation: Science Faculty with Education Specialties (SFES) Across the U.S.,” is the first large-scale study of SFES at the national level and across science disciplines.  It was recently published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and can be found here: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/04/10/1218821110.abstract.

 “The project began with initial research conducted at the CSU-level and published in Science in 2008,” explained Professor Rudd, who is also chair of Cal State L.A.’s Natural Science Program. “However, in contrast to that initial CSU-based study, the current work examined differences by institution type at the national level, and we found unexpected variations among SFES depending on the type of institution at which they were employed.”

Among respondents, SFES at M.S.-granting institutions were almost twice as likely to have formal training in science education compared to other SFES.

In addition, SFES at Ph.D.-granting institutions were much more likely to have obtained science education funding, despite the fact that they were less likely to occupy tenure-track positions.

Rudd said, “Surprisingly, formal training in science education provided no advantage in obtaining science education funding.”

In this comprehensive study, 289 science faculty members were identified as serving in the SFES role. Of those, 94 percent were trained as basic science researchers and only 43 percent of them had formal training in science education.

A CSULA faculty member since 2003, Rudd has research interests in the study and development of science instruction that promotes active learning through the use of writing tasks, guided-inquiry methods, collaborative learning environments, and computer-based instruction.

Rudd, along with his fellow researchers, indicated that the findings have important implications for integrating SFES into college and university science departments and maximizing their efforts to strengthen science education broadly.

“By providing data on SFES, we hope to promote deeper discussions, especially among policy makers and administrators, on how this approach may or may not succeed at different institution types,” added Rudd.

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