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Brian Hand, College of Education, (515) 294-0033
Cathy Curtis, College of Education, (515) 294-8175
Kevin Brown, News Service, (515) 294-8986


AMES, Iowa -- A College of Education professor at Iowa State University has received the 2003 Thomas N. Urban Research Award from the First in the Nation in Education Foundation based in Johnston.

Brian Hand, professor of curriculum and instruction and director of the Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education at Iowa State, earned the award for his research on the use of writing to learn science in secondary school and college classrooms.

Hand's research indicates that students who are required to write about science get better scores on challenging test questions. He received the Urban Research Award for his paper, "Influences of Writing Tasks On Students' Answers to Recall and Higher-Level Test Questions."

Hand and his research team developed a teaching curriculum called "science-writing-heuristic" (learning through investigation and discovery). The teaching strategy engages students in inquiry, reasoning and constructing logical arguments from investigations. The program also teaches students how to communicate their findings to others.

For the past three years, Hand has studied how teachers implement the curriculum and the teaching method's effectiveness on student learning in two central Iowa school districts. The results show a significant increase in student achievement on conceptual questions, as well as improvement in their detail of explanations and their ability to connect new learning to prior learning.

"We as science educators tend to stick to ourselves and so do language educators," Hand said. "We've got to break that down a bit emphasize working with each other. We're really trying to do some border crossing between language and science.

"Language is critical to learning science," Hand said. "We need to understand much more about how students use language to construct understanding and what teachers must do to support students' learning of science." The Thomas N. Urban Research Award was created in 1997 by the First in the Nation in Education Foundation to recognize outstanding educational research efforts in Iowa. The annual award is named for Urban, the former CEO and chairman of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Johnston, who was a longtime supporter of educational research.


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