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First Stepans Scholarship Recipients Selected at UW

May 21, 2015

Inaugural recipients of a major scholarship established in memory of renowned University of Wyoming College of Education faculty member Joseph Stepans have been named by the award’s selection committee.

Dawn Anderson, of Rock Springs, and Sarah Hackworth, of Laramie, are the first graduate students to receive the Joseph I. Stepans Scholarship. Both recipients will give a presentation to the scholarship committee and the Stepans family at the end of the 2015-16 academic year, sharing what they have learned from the work they have completed in the area of recognizing and effectively addressing student misconceptions. 

Qualified applicants for the Stepans Scholarship are students enrolled in a UW College of Education graduate program, including those offered through the UW Science and Mathematics Teaching Center (SMTC). They must possess an interest in identifying and correcting student misconceptions. They also must be either an in-service teacher who plans to return to teaching in a public school setting; a student with experience teaching in a less formal educational setting, who plans to return to this type of setting after completing a graduate degree in education; or an in-service teacher who plans to obtain a doctorate in education.

Anderson will complete research as part of her master’s Plan B paper in the area of identifying and correcting student misconceptions. She will include a review of Stepans’ “Teaching for Conceptual Change Model.”

Anderson is a third-grade teacher at Overland Elementary School in Rock Springs and a graduate student in the SMTC’s middle-level science master’s degree program. She holds national board certification and will complete her third year of coursework this summer at the SMTC. 

Hackworth will use current media technology to create documentation that communicates the existence of student misconceptions and/or demonstrates the use of an effective teaching strategy designed to correct student misconceptions. She is working on her master’s degree in natural science. She also is working to obtain her certification in secondary biology through the Wyoming Teacher Education Program. 

Stepans was a pre-eminent science educator. During his professional career, he engaged in research in the area of student misconceptions and developed a professional development model for teachers (WyTRIAD).

In terms of professional development, Stepans felt that a collaborative effort among the building administrator, teachers and facilitator was essential in developing an environment where teaching and learning were deeply valued. As a facilitator of professional development, he used the conceptual change model, which requires “uncovering” a concept in depth, rather than “covering” many topics superficially. His legacy of excellence in teaching will be carried forward by awardees of this scholarship.

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