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Luft elected to National Science Teachers Association Board

December 09, 2008

Arizona State University Professor Julie Luft has been elected by her peers to represent them for a three-year-term as the Research in Science Education Division Director for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Board of Directors. NSTA is the largest science education organization in world committed to promotion excellence and innovation in teaching and learning.

Luft, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, joins the 13-member board that oversees NSTA’s finances, policies and procedures, and strategic planning. During her tenure on the board she will specifically strive to put science education research in the hands of teachers, administrators, and policy makers.

Some of her activities will include participating in the writing of NSTA position statements and working with other science education organizations. She will also work with the leadership of NSTA as it works with the Obama administration and with Congress in support of new federal programs and the funding of those programs.

According to NSTA President Page Keeley, the newly elected board members are some of the nation’s most outstanding contributors to science education. “They will use their expertise in the field of science education to bring about positive change and effective solutions to pressing issues facing the association and its members,” she said.

George Hynd, senior vice provost for education and innovation and dean of the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, said Luft’s election to this national position is a reflection of her scholarly accomplishments at ASU and her enthusiasm for science teacher education and retention.

"Dr. Luft is a dynamic faculty member who now will help guide the association in defining and articulating the world of science education as it pertains to research,” Hynd noted.

Luft, a past president of the Association for Science Teacher Education, said she is excited about her new role on the NSTA board:

“This is the perfect position for me. I like the potential of blurring boundaries between research and schools and teachers and policymakers. It’s a large association that involves a lot of people. I think our work is about making a difference in the lives of teachers, and this is an association that can do it.”

“I think I’m a little unique in that I bring a strong relationship with the research community, the Association for Science Teacher Education and the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST),” she said. “I can bring these entities together, which is something that other directors have tried, but I’m in a pretty good position to be in that discussion."

Several NARST committees already are working together on an initiative to better connect research to practice, and Luft said she hopes to further that effort. These committees are planning on writing research briefs, which can be expanded to a variety of audiences with the help of NSTA. "If we work together, we can develop briefs for policymakers, teachers and academics,"  she said.

“How does the research we are doing in academia connect to the practitioner, the teacher? Similarly, how does the research the teachers are doing inform or guide the work of academics? My role is to try to foster more of that conversation and to try to make more linkages that haven’t been there before,” she said.

At ASU, Luft’s research focuses on understanding the factors that contribute to successful science teacher induction and retention programs. She leads a $1.6 million grant-funded project titled “Exploring the Development of Beginning Secondary Science Teachers in Various Induction Programs.” Several of her research programs and initiatives have been funded continuously by the National Science Foundation since she joined the Mary Lou Fulton College in 2005.

In addition to understanding how to support new science teachers, she also is active in recruiting more undergraduate science majors into science teaching. This program, which also is funded by the National Science Foundation, allows undergraduate science majors to work Mesa Public Schools to determine if they are interested in becoming a science teacher.

Prior to joining ASU, Luft was a faculty member at the University of Arizona and the University of Texas at Austin. She has taught middle and high school science and served as an associate editor for several science education journals. She has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles on science education, and most recently published a series of books in which she is a co-editor.

These books are Science as Inquiry in the Secondary Setting; Reforming Secondary Science Instruction; and Technology in the Secondary Science Classroom, each with Randy L. Bell, associate professor of science and technology at the University of Virginia, and Julie Gess-Newsome, the J. Lawrence Walkup Distinguished Professor of Science Education at Northern Arizona University. In support of her vision to put research in the hands of teachers, these books are free electronically to any science teacher through NSTA.