Science Faculty with Education Specialties


lobally, efforts to improve science education continue (1, 2). In the United States, primary and secondary (K-12) science education lags on international assessments and struggles to sustain qualified K-12 science teachers and to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers (2). At U.S. colleges and universities, more than half of entering science majors leave the sciences, most (90%) complaining of ineffective teaching (3). Of those who remain in science, 74% express the same complaint (3). Further work is needed within specific science disciplines on how students most effectively learn that discipline (4). To address K-12 science education, undergraduate science education, and discipline-specific science education research, one approach is seeding university science departments with Science Faculty with Education Specialties (SFES), scientists who take on specialized science education roles within their discipline (5).

We present data on SFES in science departments throughout the 23-campus California State University (CSU) system (6), the largest U.S. university system (annual enrollment ∼450,000 students). The CSU's primary missions are undergraduate, master's-level graduate, and K-12 teacher education. CSU undergraduates are among the top one-third of their high-school graduating classes. The 23 campuses include institutions that differ substantially in their founding dates, settings, student populations, enrollment sizes, and levels of research orientation. We investigated SFES numbers, characteristics, training, professional activities, and persistence.

We identified, with the aid of deans, 156 CSU faculty as SFES and invited all 156 to complete a 111-question survey (7), which we had face-validated using non-CSU faculty. Between December 2007 and January 2008, 103 of the invitees responded (66% response rate), representing 20 of the 23 campuses. We collected data anonymously and excluded surveys that were incomplete (n = 12), submitted by lecturers or non-tenure-track science faculty (n = 10), or lacked informed consent (n = 3). Of the remaining 78 survey respondents, 59 individuals self-identified as SFES, and 19 as not SFES. Our further analyses followed only the 59 tenured/tenure-track science faculty who self-identified as SFES.


This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of the AAAS for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Science on December 19, 2008 Volume 322, Issue 5909 DOI: 10.1126/science.1162072.

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