Science Educator Profile | Susan Kowalski

Meet the BSCS science educators! Learn why our science educators chose the field of science in general for their careers, and science education in particular. What are they working on right now? Why is this work important, and what will we all gain from it?

Featured work: EMAT (Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers)

How long have you been with BSCS?

I joined BSCS in May of 2007, just as I was finishing my doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota.

What is your area of emphasis?

My research interests are varied. They include: understanding how to best promote both excellence and equity in science education; developing and studying “just in time” online professional development opportunities for teachers; studying the effectiveness of science education programs; and developing a better understanding of the statistical parameters necessary to design well-powered efficacy trials

How/when did you become interested in the field of science education?

I became interested in science education while I was a teaching assistant as part of my tenure as a physics graduate student at the University of Minnesota. Although I enjoyed physics, my passion lay in helping students develop an understanding of physics concepts.

What is your education background?

I received my BA in physics at Colorado College in 1992. I then spent a little over one year studying graduate level physics at the University of Minnesota before I decided to pursue my teaching certificate. I taught high school physics for ten years, and then obtained my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, Science Education at the University of Minnesota in 2007.

Why is science education important in our lives?

Science education provides us all with the tools we need to interpret and act in the world around us. The choices we make every day can and should be shaped by scientific information. The more we use science to guide our choices, the better off we will personally be, and the better off the entire planet will be.

What are you working on at BSCS right now, and with whom?

I am the PI for the EMAT project (Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers). The purpose of the project is to design and test a facilitated, online, multidisciplinary science course for high school teachers. The course is designed to enhance teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogy associated with key science concepts within the context of alternative energy sources.

Our partners on this project include Oregon Public Broadcasting, the National Teachers Enhancement Network, RMC Research Corporation, the National Renewable Energy Lab, and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The BSCS team working on the project includes Pam Van Scotter, Betty Stennett, Steve Getty, Mark Bloom, Karen Askinas, Jon Adams, Rhiannon Baxter, and Stacey Luce.

Who will this work benefit and how does this help bring our mission to life (for you)?

The EMAT course will benefit teachers and their students across the country. Energy concepts permeate all disciplines of science and are traditionally challenging for both teachers and students.
The course will provide teachers with the background they need to effectively teach energy concepts within the socially important context of alternative energy sources. I’m excited about this work because it will have a direct effect on enhancing students’ and teachers’ abilities to use scientific information to inform their life choices. By learning key energy concepts within the context of the variety of energy sources we use to power our society, students and teachers will be better armed to make informed decisions about energy consumption and energy policy initiatives that may appear on a voting ballot.

Have you been published recently in a science journal or publication?

My colleagues Joe Taylor, Chris Wilson, Steve Getty, Janet Carlson and I have recently submitted a manuscript describing the policy implications associated with conducting randomized control trials in science education. We are eagerly awaiting the journal’s decision on our manuscript!

Learn more about EMAT.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1118643. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.