From the President




  Books & Film



  My Response

  Letters to the Editor

  Contact Response

  Submit Footnote

  Submit Letter to Editor

  Address Change

  Back Issues

  Response Home

  SPU Home

Spring 2006 | Volume 29, Number 2 | Faculty

Science Lesson

$1.5 million NSF grant funds partnership between SPU and school districts

Teaching by telling doesn’t work,” says Seattle Pacific University Associate Professor of Physics Stamatis Vokos, describing traditional lab- and lecture-based instruction found in most high school and university science curriculums. “It stifles creativity.” With support from SPU’s Science Initiative, a partnership with the School of Education, a grant from the Boeing Co., and now $1.5 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Vokos and his colleagues are developing new teaching strategies to better equip science educators in Washington state and beyond.

Stamatis Vokos, associate professor of physics, is part of a team of SPU faculty members evaluating traditional teaching methods of teaching science.

The grant, based on a proposal by Vokos and a team of other Seattle Pacific physics faculty members, provides funding for a partnership with several Washington state school districts. With technological infrastructure from the research and development company Facet Innovations, SPU professors are now developing diagnostic questions to gauge secondary students’ understanding of scientific principles prior to and after instruction.

Whether right or wrong, “students bring a huge amount of prior understanding into the classroom,” explains Assistant Professor of Physics Lane Seeley, who not only helped write the grant proposal, but is also actively involved in implementing the project. Students answer the diagnostic questions through a strategically designed online program, he says. “Their answers identify problematic or successful reasoning and help teachers leverage students’ prior understanding.”

Think of it as a high-tech way of assessing comprehension. Says Vokos, “This system allows teachers to take a step back and say, ‘Clearly, my students are tracking with this topic in a problematic way. How can I change my instruction to address this?’ After all, a critical part of teaching is knowing where your class is at any given time.”

The second component of the NSF grant brings Seattle Public Schools master teacher Lezlie DeWater to campus for a five-year appointment. DeWater is working with SPU faculty to provide professional development to Washington state science teachers. “We don’t want to be in the ivory tower,” explains Vokos. “We want to connect with teachers, help them turn their science classrooms into diagnostic environments, and teach them how to assess their students’ knowledge.”

Seeley agrees: “Scientific literacy is critical, both for the individual and for society. We have the ability to make a difference, and this funding gives us the resources we need to do it.”

Vokos says the work of the NSF grant comes directly out of Seattle Pacific’s vision for engaging the culture and changing the world. “The theological implication of this is that everyone can learn science — it is not only for a gifted few,” says Vokos. “Our goal is to change the way science is taught on a national level.” Adds Seeley, “Our work may not solve all of the problems facing science education, but it’s a blessing to be part of the solution.”

—BY Sarah Jio
photo by greg schneider

Send This Page Send-to-Printer

Back to the top
Back to Home


Reflections on a Study Leave
President Philip Eaton reflects on his recent study leave: “Stepping back from it all makes me more grateful for this good place, its clear vision, and for the truly good people who make it all happen,” he says.

Shout of Reconciliation
Dr. John Perkins returns to campus for the annual Perkins Lecture Series, and two pastors unite two well-known Christian community development organizations.

By the Book
For an alumni couple living above a bookstore in La Conner, Washington, “The Next Chapter” is the best one yet.

Soundtrack to Saving a Marriage
The singer-songwriter, husband-and-wife team known as Over the Rhine cancelled their 2003 tour to save their marriage.

Road to the Final Four
Led by Coach Hironaka, the Falcons finished their season in the top 10 nationally and earned a shot at a national championship.

My Response
Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Mike Holmgren shares the spiritual lessons of victory and defeat he’s learned from high school football games to Super Bowls.

Copyright © 2006 Seattle Pacific University. General Information: (206) 281-2000