National study finds that college science experts perceive they are not being fully used to teach science students and prepare future STEM teachers

Article co-authored by Cal State L.A. professor published in BioScience journal

James RuddUniversity faculty members who specialize in preparing future science teachers and undergraduate and graduate science students often perceive they are being hired for their expertise. But institutions of higher learning fail to fully utilize their skills, according to a recently released study by a team of science education experts.

 “This misalignment has implications for the career success of these faculty but also for the success of improving science education at all levels—undergraduate education on a campus, in local K-12 schools, and across the nation,” said James Rudd, a Cal State L.A. professor of chemistry and biochemistry who helped author the study published in the journal BioScience.

The findings were based on a survey of 289 science faculty members with education specialties at universities across the country. The study comes at a time when leaders in the public and private sectors have called for a greater focus on educating students in the crucial STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in an increasingly technological world.

The hiring of faculty-level scientists with education specialties, referred to as SFES, has become more widespread in the past decade, the study noted. But Rudd and his colleagues found that a large number of these faculty members perceived that they were not making valuable contributions training future science teachers.  

The findings are important in light of the need to strengthen science education nationwide and integrate faculty experts into their college and university science departments.

“There is a need to better understand why and how science faculty focused on science education are able – or not able – to address the science education needs of the nation,” said Rudd, who lives in Altadena.

A Cal State L.A. faculty member since 2003, Rudd’s research is focused 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. His specialty includes conducting research in chemistry pedagogy and preparing K-12 science teachers.

Rudd wrote the SFES study with researchers from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Purdue University, San Diego State University, San Francisco State University, and Utah Valley University.

Photo: James Rudd. (Photo credit: James Rudd)

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