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Clark earns national academy fellowship

December 12, 2006

Doug Clark, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction with the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, has been awarded the prestigious National Academy of Education's Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship.

The award is supporting Clark's study, titled “International Analysis of Students' Knowledge Structure Coherence.” The two-year study, begun this fall, was designed to examine the impact of different language and cultural factors on students' understanding of core science concepts.

The investigation will include student populations in Turkey, China, Korea, Mexico and the United States.

There is a debate among researchers regarding the topic of conceptual change, and the structure and coherence of science knowledge among students. Clark's multinational study aims to contribute to the resolution of the debate by addressing language and cultural issues as they relate to science teaching and student-achievement.

“Most science education research in this country has traditionally focused on monolingual English speakers,” Clark says. “As a result, the science education curricula developed through that research has been tailored by default to the needs of monolingual English speakers. This research will help to clarify the level of variation in students' conceptual change processes resulting from differences in culture or language.”

The study will draw from ongoing science education research at ASU and from analytic frameworks designed by two leading researchers, which support the predominant theoretical positions in the field.

“Doug Clark has taken the major debate in his field and placed himself right in the middle of it, designing a study that has the potential to show how, and under what conditions, theories on each side of the argument are correct,” says Jim Middleton, director of the Division of Curriculum and Instruction with the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education. “This is an intellectually bold move: to propose to two of the top researchers in the field that they are both right, and they are both wrong, and to design a resolution to the debate.”

Middleton said the results of Clark's research promise to be more than just intellectual.

“His work is ‘on the ground,' improving the scientific experiences and learning of children here in Phoenix, and in other nations around the world,” he says.

Since 1986, the National Academy of Education (NAEd) has awarded the Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship in order to ensure the future of education research by supporting the best and brightest emerging scholars in the advancement of their work and careers.

The fellowships are presented to researchers who work in critical areas of education and whose proposals promise to make significant contributions to the field. Fellows receive either $55,000 for one academic year or $27,500 for two consecutive academic years of research.

Mary Vinzant ,
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