Barb Austin

Barbara Austin's picture
Barbara Anne Austin
Associate Professor of Science Education
Wittenberg University

I have bachelors degrees in physics and chemistry from the University of Arizona. After graduating, I worked as an electro-organic chemist but found it unfulfilling. I took a back door to education by working in the standardized testing industry for 10 years. Through my work in standardized testing I became very interested in education and then went back to school to earn certification. I taught middle school math and high school physics. I loved teaching but not getting up early so I decided to pursue a doctorate in science education (Ph. D.) from the University of Texas at Austin with a science focus of environmental chemistry. While in graduate school, I participated in the curriculum mapping process of the UTeach program, an innovative science and math teacher education program developed at UT, provided induction support to beginning teachers, developed assessments for biomechanical engineering, and provided professional development for middle and high school science teachers.

After completing my doctoral program, I taught science and math education at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, serving as the only faculty member of their teacher certification program. While at NMT, the program went from about five students to more than twenty. I also provided multiple professional develoment programs for science and math teachers and school administrators all over northern New Mexico.

Following my work at NMT, I taught at Northern Arizona University. NAU was one of the first of fifty replication sites for the national UTeach initiative and so I was active in adapting the model to my institution and creating NCATE assessments to align with the UTeach curriculum. I also transformed a summer, residence-based masters program in science teaching to an academic-year, hybrid face-to-face real-time synchronous program. About half of my students attended class on the NAU campus and the other half participated in real-time. I used online collaborative tools innovatively in order to fully integrate educative collaboration among the two different populations. My third major activity at NAU was teaching physical science to practicing elementary teachers through the Math and Science Partnership program.

I just finished my first year at Wittenberg University. My primary responsibility is to teach science methods courses. I also supervise field placements and assist with NCATE accreditation.

Past research projects involve the role of concept mapping in advancing knowledge about teaching, describing administrator understanding of science as inquiry, and teachers' views of equity in the science classroom. My current research looks at teachers' conceptions of science lesson sequence and measuring understanding of the nature of science.

Subject Areas of Interest:
  • chemistry
  • physics

Education Areas of Interest:
  • science content-specific pedagogy courses
  • project-based learning
  • professional expertise