Posts Tagged ‘professional growth’

DaaneIt is hard to believe I am already beginning my 3rd year as a graduate student at Seattle Pacific University.  I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be supported by both the School of Education and the Physics Department here on campus.

My Education coursework has given me insight into the world of education beyond the classroom and my work with the Physics department has helped me hone my skills as a researcher on the teaching and learning of a specific discipline. Because I have a broad background that spans scientific research as well as classroom teaching experience, this connection to both departments helps support my growth in the Physics Education Research community.

In the past, I earned undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from Mount Holyoke College, an M.S. in Physics from Clemson University, and obtained a Physics Teaching Credential at Chapman University.  Professionally, I was a secondary educator for five years, three of which were spent teaching primarily physics courses to high school seniors. I received a fellowship from the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, an incredible source of support and networking for novice teachers. It was during this time that I learned of a community that connected both research and education – the Physics Education Researchers at Seattle Pacific University.

My work now focuses on learning about energy in the context of the Physics Department’s Energy Project. I began my work by observing the K-12 professional development courses offered by the Energy Project as an Interdisciplinary Research In STEM Education (I-RISE) scholar my first summer at SPU. I found myself drawn to spontaneous teacher discussions, in which teachers brought up social and political aspects of energy that did not correspond to canonical physics topics explicitly supported in the PD. This lead me to realize that while I was a high school teacher, I also taught two units on energy that failed to connect school learning of energy with energy discussed in society. I had inadvertently been missing the opportunity to connect sociopolitical energy concerns with physics energy concepts and in doing so, I left my students with two conflicting, separated views of energy. I want to help other teachers develop ways to connect these ideas for themselves, so that they can take those resources back to their classrooms. Dr. Rachel Scherr, Dr. Stamatis Vokos, and Dr. Andrew Lumpe have supported me in identifying a worthwhile research topic on learner ideas about energy and responsive energy instruction. My aim is to help reconnect those energy ideas for teachers (and students) so that learning about energy in physics sources will be more relevant outside of the classroom. My recent work has been presented at the 2013 American Association of Physics Teachers conference, as well as the 2013 Physics Education Research Conference. Relevant publications can be found here:


The author Abigail Daane is a current PhD student at SPU.


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I began my doctoral work at Seattle Pacific University in 2006. The journey has been long but extremely rewarding. Upon further reflection, I have really enjoyed my time at SPU from start to finish. I have no regrets. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about starting doctoral work to take a serious look at what the School of Education at SPU has to offer. I remember feeling hesitant and a bit fearful about starting my doctoral work, but once that class began all the way back in 2006, I knew that SPU was the right place for me. Those feelings of fear and hesitation quickly dissipated once I began my first class. The key was taking that first step.

Perhaps you are like me. You have a family to look after and you are unsure about completing a doctorate. When I began at SPU, my oldest child was two. Over the next four years two more kids followed. Two of my three children were born while I was a doctoral student. Moreover, I live in Kitsap County, and it takes over an hour to get to SPU. I often took the bus and occasionally rode my bike. (Once I even rode my bike in the snow, but not on purpose.) Maybe you have a good teaching job, like I do, but now you are looking for that next challenge.

I have taught public school for eight years and in this time I have worked with 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students. I earned National Board certification in 2005, coached 11 seasons of junior high sports, taught physical education, language arts, horticulture, math, social studies, and even summer school. Perhaps you have taught for many years, or just a few. However, if you are reading this, you are probably feeling like I was a few year ago. You are looking for that next challenge or that next step in your educational career.

Being a doctoral student has been the most meaningful professional growth experience I have had as an educator. The reason for this is that I have become familiar with important educational theories, developed a set of research skills, and formed relationships with professors and fellow doctoral students at SPU. These have all served me very well since I began at SPU in 2006. For instance, I have written one article (Denton_2009) for an educational journal[i] and have worked with a professor at SPU on other writing projects. Likewise, I have co-taught a class with a fellow doctoral student and, as part of a class titled Topics and Issues in Global Education, I traveled to Russia and participated in a conference at the Black Sea Academy.

When I began the program at SPU I promised myself that I would make the most of each class, learn as much as I could from each professor, and immerse myself in each experience to maximize my learning. I believe that I have done all of these things. Although I have a family and teach fulltime, I have made the most of my doctoral work.

You may have seen one of SPU’s motivational phrases around campus or on the University’s website; it reads “the place where world change begins.” One could dismiss this phrase as a bit idealistic, except I think that my doctoral work at SPU has prepared me to change my small corner of the world. With regard to my career, this means being an effective teacher and a resource for my school. However, I expect in the months ahead that opportunities will present themselves for which I can use the full range of what I have learned as a doctoral student at Seattle Pacific University.

David W. Denton

Doctoral Student, Seattle Pacific University

Public School Teacher

[i] Denton, D. (2009). Reflection and learning: Characteristics, obstacles, and implications. Educational Philosophy and Theory. Retrieved February 28, 2010, from http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123215174/abstract 

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawleyjr/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/alisa7248/

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