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USM Education Faculty Member Wins ‘Best Paper of the Year’ in International Journal

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 09:19am | By: Margaret Ann Macloud

Maria WallaceA research paper written by University of Southern Mississippi assistant professor Dr. Maria Wallace was chosen as the “Best Paper of the Year” by Cultural Studies of Science Education (CSSE), an international science education journal.

Dr. Wallace’s paper, titled “Showtime: the biopolitical performance of ‘effective beginning science teacher’” illuminates the complex ethico-political challenges confronting the work of beginning science teachers and those who do research about them. The paper aims to raise awareness of the social, cultural, and political complexities shaping the work of K-12 science teachers and examines standardized approaches to K-12 science teacher evaluation. It highlights the enduring power of in-school mandates on the work of science teachers and emphasizes the importance of also looking beyond schools at sites of meaningful education experiences.

“I was completely blown away by the honor, as the selection committee is comprised of revolutionary science education scholars from around the world,” Dr. Wallace said. “While it is an honor to be recognized by the journal and my colleagues in science education, I am most excited that the paper being recognized directly honors the complex lives of K-12 science teachers. The issues examined in this paper, are so familiar to many in-service teachers, yet the opportunity to reflect on them at a deeper level is quickly eliminated due to other competing demands. You could essentially ask a K-12 student, teacher, or administrator about some of the findings presented in this paper, and they will be able to elaborate on the findings from their own perspective without missing a beat. That is when you know the research is powerful—when it speaks to the heart of those who live and breathe it every day.”

The paper was chosen as “Best of the Year” after a competitive review and selection process of papers published in all four 2019 CSSE journal issues—a total of 24 original peer-reviewed papers. The annual award is given to publications that are selected by a jury as being worthy of recognition as an innovative work that pushes the boundaries of science education.

“By using a critical lens, I return to the lived experiences and perspectives found in one high school science classroom alongside the desire to standardize teacher ‘effectiveness.’ As a previous elementary science teacher, I feel this project is especially important in paying homage to the realities confronting K-12 teachers,” Wallace said. “On a daily basis, the rigorous intellectual and emotional work of K-12 teachers is compounded by systemic goals to standardize that work. Our collective and individual humanity is not standard, yet accountability metrics seek to standardize. Thus, in this paper, I explore how standardized teacher accountability reifies an already pervasive deficit mindset framing school experiences. This is the tension my paper invites readers to grapple with in their work.”

“Dr. Wallace's manuscript on the biopolitics of teacher effectiveness in science education as defined by evaluation documentation is well aligned with the mission of Cultural Studies of Science Education, which has the mission of fostering socio-cultural research in science education,” said CSSE Co-Editor-in-Chief Dr. Catherine Milne. “I think we need more research

like this that asks questions about practices, which dominate our professional lives, but which are not exposed to the same level of scrutiny as that experienced by beginning teachers.”

Dr. Wallace continues to research ideas similar to that which is found in this award-winning paper. With the support of the Spencer Foundation and Palgrave Macmillan, she is currently conducting additional research related to science teacher education that supports pre-service teachers’ capacity to re-think our relationships with nature and culture. Those projects are titled:

(a) Rendering an/other capable: Posthuman possibilities for intersectional justice within science teacher preparation (Funded by the Spencer Foundation)

(b) Science Education in the Anthropocene (Co-edited collection under contract with Palgrave MacMillan).

Dr. Maria Wallace is an Assistant Professor who focuses on Elementary STEM Education at the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Education. Earning a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with specializations in Curriculum Theory, Science Education, and a graduate minor in Women’s & Gender Studies from Louisiana State University, Dr. Wallace's research and teaching aim to deterritorialize beginning (science) teachers’ subjectivities and practice. Leveraging the insight from multiple academic disciplines, Dr. Wallace's research (re)imagines ways beginning science teachers (and their work) are known, named, and re/produced. In her research on science education, Dr. Wallace works to mobilize critical conversations about how ‘ideas materialize’ (e.g., power, equity, justice, science, research methodologies, etc.). Explored in several of her publications and presentations, Dr. Wallace regularly examines the multifaceted role of ethics and politics as it pertains to science, science education, and teacher education.