Stroupe wins national awards for science education research

May 22, 2017

Michigan State University faculty member David Stroupe was recently honored for his innovative research in science teaching by the field’s leading organizations.

The National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) presented Stroupe with the 2017 Early Career Research Award at the annual conference in April. This honor is granted to a researcher each year who shows the greatest potential to make outstanding contributions in science education within seven years after completing the doctoral degree.

In an era when science education is shifting dramatically, Stroupe has stood out for his work on Ambitious Science Teaching—a framework in which teachers are challenged to truly let their students drive their own learning and develop scientific answers to puzzling questions. His work has been impactful for both professional learning and teacher preparation.

In fact, Stroupe’s investigation of beginning science teachers enacting the practices at the core of Ambitious Science Teaching was recognized by Division K of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) on April 30 with the 2017 Exemplary Research Award. His article, “Beginning teachers’ use of resources to enact and learn from ambitious instruction,” was published in Cognition and Instruction.

Students in a college classroom

Future science teachers work together in a teaching methods class taught by David Stroupe at Michigan State University.

The article documents how five first-year teachers—all peers from the same science methods class framed around ambitious instruction—used resources to plan and learn in schools.

“One of the big questions we have as teacher educators is, if everyone is in my methods class, why might they do different teaching in different schools?” Stroupe says. He found that beginning teachers had varied ways to handle school pressures to use resources to teach in ways that emphasized information delivery rather than ambitious science teaching. However, each of the first-year teachers in his study were successful as new professionals in some way.

“We, as teacher educators, should help new teachers enact really complex instruction. We often hear that first-year teachers can only survive, but we are beginning to see that they are capable of so much more than that,” he said. “But we need better coherence across teacher preparation programs and the schools so that we are not sending competing messages about effective teaching.”

Stroupe is an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education and serves as associate director of STEM teacher preparation in the university’s CREATE for STEM Institute. Through that role, he is working with fellow researchers and developing partnerships with school districts to improve new teacher learning.

Stroupe also was selected this year for the NARST Research Worth Reading initiative, which identifies studies in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching that practicing teachers should read. He co-authored “Designing, launching and implementing high-quality learning opportunities for students that advance scientific thinking” with Hosun Kang (an MSU graduate), Mark Windschitl and Jessica Thompson. Their study investigated how teachers planned, launched and supported tasks aimed to increase intellectual rigor in science classrooms.

“Often people think the task itself is enough to help kids engage in rigorous, equitable science learning opportunities,” he said. “But we find the teacher is really important. The task is not enough.”

Amelia Wenk Gotwals

One of the other three articles selected in the initiative, a partnership with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), was co-authored by fellow MSU College of Education faculty member Amelia Wenk Gotwals. She was recognized for her article with MSU graduate Hayat Hokayem: “Early elementary students’ understanding of complex ecosystems: A learning progression approach.”

The Research Worth Reading awards were presented to Gotwals and Stroupe on April 24.