By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—Dr. James Hollenbeck, professor of education and a science specialist in secondary and post-secondary education, has received the Distinguished Award for Innovative College Science Teaching from the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. (HASTI).
HASTI was created in 1969 as a state affiliate of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). Its mission is the advancement, stimulation, extension, improvement, and coordination of science education in all fields of science at all educational levels.
The award is given annually to an outstanding Indiana college science educator who exhibits a passion for innovative science teaching.
It is based on nominations by colleagues in the field of science education and former students, as well as reviews and record of teaching science, technology and society (STS).
Hollenbeck’s record is based on his expansive vision, his interdisciplinary mindset and his extraordinary accomplishments.
His course for science students and social studies educators, “Science, Technology and Society for the Changing World,” brings the worlds of science and the humanities together, and interdisciplinary approach is seen in other courses, such as “Teaching Science Literacy and Science Fiction,” Using Art To Teach Science” and others.
The courses express his conviction that as the world grows ever more complex, education must improve in grasping that complexity, as much as in individual disciplines.
“The world is a village and to be a functional member of the village we have to understand the interrelations of science, technology and society,” Hollenbeck said. “This is the future of research in the world.”
Certainly that future has been glimpsed at IU Southeast, where the tireless efforts of Hollenbeck and his colleagues across the disciplines have nurtured an interdisciplinary reality to go along with the theory, and made possible a curriculum that positions graduates to be successful in a changing world.
“Interdisciplinary study is the best solution to being a citizen in our society,” Hollenbeck said. “Our science and social studies teachers have an advantage in that they see the world as multi-dimensional.”
Besides communicating this global vision, Hollenbeck is also known for helping students hone fundamental skills that are keys to success in any field: processing information, critical thinking, and above all, communication.
A champion of preparing students, especially women, to pursue careers in STEM areas, Hollenbeck is a vocal proponent of celebrating thinkers and problem-solvers in the classroom, and the world. He challenges students to think big, to understand themselves in the context not just of their future employment, but of the universe.
“Think of the universe as a grand tapestry, we are all threads creating the masterpiece, no thread is more special than another, yet together they weave a brilliant work,” Hollenbeck said.
Hollenbeck is the recipient of two Fulbright awards. He received one to teach and conduct research in STS at Sofia University in Bulgaria. In 2015, he was the first Fulbright Research Chair at Lakehead University in Orillia, Ontario, Canada. He spent a semester there, conducting research in the areas of scientific literacy and sustainability education. Assisted by four professors and two students, Hollenbeck researched the application of technology to enhance scientific literacy and problem-solving for learning inquiry. He also looked at the role of technology in new national sciences standards, the potential for teachers of science to network, and new products for science literacy and support services.
In addition to frequent travel, Hollenbeck is a member of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, and a member of the committee on science research of the national Science Teachers Association. He has been nominated for the Chancellor’s award for teaching and research numerous times during his 16 years at IU Southeast.
For Hollenbeck, the essence of teaching is applying science to solve problems in order to improve the lives of individuals and of society, today and tomorrow.
This emphasis on empathy and social purpose gives meaning to those many hours students spend mastering tasks that can otherwise appear tasks of mere minutiae. In fact, being a scientist, and a science educator, is inherently forward-looking.
“We are preparing our students for the future,” Hollenbeck said.
Homepage photo courtesy of Lakehead University Office of Marketing and Branding.