With the recent increases in demand for individuals entering STEM professions, it’s more important than ever for children of all ages to have STEM teachers with strong backgrounds in STEM pedagogy.
In the interest of preparing highly qualified STEM teachers, the College of Education and Human Services will welcome Yuanhua Wang to the Department of Curriculum and Instruction/Literacy Studies as an assistant professor this fall. Wang completed her doctoral degree in educational psychology at Texas Tech University in December 2019 and specializes in student motivation and STEM teaching methods.
“We are quite pleased that Dr. Wang is joining our CEHS faculty,” said Melissa Luna, associate dean for research and associate professor of science education. “In her research, she seeks insight into elementary teachers’ practices that support students’ motivation to learn in STEM areas. Her work informs her own practice with pre-service elementary teachers as well—helping them to gain pedagogical knowledge, skills, and confidence to become effective STEM teachers. She will surely make an impact in the field and with our pre-service elementary teachers.”
As a scholar, Wang’s research is focused in two main areas. In the field of educational psychology, Wang is interested in student motivation, which she examined through her doctoral dissertation. For her dissertation, Wang explored how teachers’ cognitive activation of student thinking can influence students’ motivational behavior, including student choice and persistence.
Cognitive activation refers to the use of strategies to cause students to think deeper and focus on the process they use to reach an answer over the answer itself. As a pedagogical technique, it is commonly used in STEM classrooms.
“I found that this process is mediated by student value, and if a teacher cognitively activates students in the classroom, students are more likely to value learning,” Wang said. “That value can then influence their learning behaviors, including choice and persistence.”
Wang’s second area of research emphasis falls within the field of curriculum and instruction. Specifically, she is interested in science and mathematics teaching methods and their use by preservice teachers. For example, she has investigated preservice teachers’ use of inquiry teaching, a pedagogical method characterized by helping students develop knowledge through making sense of exploratory experiences.
To study the inquiry teaching method, Wang and colleagues validated a rubric to assess science preservice teachers' practice of inquiry teaching. She is also interested in investigating preservice teachers’ knowledge and the questioning pattern they employ in inquiry teaching.
“I want to explore what type of knowledge will influence preservice teachers’ questioning patterns and whether or not their questioning patterns can have an influence on student reasoning,” Wang said.
Moving forward, Wang plans to further her research on preservice teachers to examine what factors can facilitate their knowledge as they prepare to become full-time educators.
“We are very excited to have a researcher and teacher of Dr. Wang’s caliber join our faculty this Fall,” said Nathan Sorber, chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction/Literacy Studies. “As a scholar poised to advance knowledge of student motivation and learning and STEM teacher education and preparation, Dr. Wang will contribute to our mission of improving education practices and outcomes in West Virginia and beyond.”
When Wang joins the CEHS faculty, she will impart her wisdom to future teachers through science methods courses. In addition to teaching, she hopes to further her research in both student motivation and STEM teaching methods.