Ryan Summers, Ph.D.
Ryan Summers, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor - Science
Education Building Room 338
Ryan Summers is Assistant Professor of Secondary Science Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Originally from southern Illinois, Dr. Summers obtained his B.S. in biological sciences, with a minor in chemistry and teacher’s certification, at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL. He taught high school science, including biology, chemistry, physics and other offerings in rural and suburban settings, before leaving to pursue his graduate studies full time at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Summers completed his Ph.D. in May of 2016 at UIUC in Curriculum & Instruction, in the math, science and technology division with a focus in science education.
During his time at UIUC, Dr. Summers was actively involved in research and outreach activities. One major project, the NSF funded EnLiST project aimed at improving science teaching and learning, afforded Dr. Summers with an opportunity to work alongside high school science teachers and expose them to learner-centered teaching practices. As a member of the faculty and UND, Dr. Summers is very committed to teacher education and outreach. He looks forward to opportunities to engage and collaborate with local science teachers and schools.
Dr. Summers is actively conducting research and publishing in his field. He has presented papers and contributed to state, national, and international conferences. During his doctoral studies he cultivated a deep interest in two specific areas that relate to broad goals of precollege science education. The first of these areas centers on the development of informed views about the nature of science in students in precollege settings. In brief, this area draws from the history and philosophy of science to outline the characteristics of scientific knowledge, details of how scientific knowledge is generated, refined by the scientific community, and shaped by the cultural context in which it was created. The second area of interest involves understanding precollege students’ attitudes toward science, including their general feeling about the subject and intentions to continue studying science in the future. Fostering positive attitudes toward science is important because the disposition students develop in K-12 can shape their appreciation of science as adults, and even their willingness to explore science-related careers.
Dr. Summers’ research interests relate to the study of science teaching and learning, with a focus on understanding and promoting students’ appreciation and understanding of science. Specifically, he addresses two main lines of research:
The first line of research focuses on student attitudes with the goal of examining and understanding key preferences related to, and determinants of, student engagement with science. Such engagement is considered key to students’ intentions and decisions to pursue additional science studies and, potentially, science-related careers.
The second line of research examines the perspectives about the nature of science (NOS) held by students, advanced by teachers, and promoted by instructional materials in precollege settings. Drawing from the history and philosophy of science, and supported by a large body of literature in science education research, Dr. Summers advocates an explicit-reflective approach to teaching students about NOS. His research often involves the assessment of views, held by students or teachers, or materials for their treatment of key aspects related to the characteristics of scientific knowledge, details of how scientific knowledge is generated, refined by the scientific community, and shaped by the cultural context in which it was created.
My teaching goals for all preservice science teachers center on reinforcing their conceptual understanding of scientific phenomena and helping them to become comfortable with talking about science. Immersive practical activities afford preservice teachers an opportunity to solidify their understanding of scientific concepts as they relate to visible phenomena, and serve as a platform for discussing the value of learning environments for K-12 classrooms. In the case of the latter, it is essential that preservice teachers are primed to think about the role of scientific practices in their classrooms and about the advantages of specific instructional approaches, such as various forms of inquiry and project-based learning. To accomplish these goals, I support the development of my students’ pedagogical content knowledge by helping them to examine the core ideas in their content areas, explore relevant instructional strategies, and identify desired student outcomes. Part of my role is to illustrate the importance of multiple approaches for teaching, as well as the challenges teachers will face when working with diverse audiences in their future classrooms.
Courses taught at UND
TL 400 Secondary Methods and Materials – Science
TL 472 Teaching Life-Science in the Elementary School
TL 486 Field Experience – Science
TL 495 Independent Study – Life Science
TL 577 Assessment of Learning
TL 580 Graduate Field Experience - Science
Treatment of Nature of Science in U.S. Science Standards: A Historical Analysis with Modern Implications
Precollege Students’ Attitudes toward Science: An Investigation of the Determinants of Future Science Engagement
Rural STEM Outreach Program: Targeted Intervention to Improve Students’ Attitudes and Career Interest in STEM
STEAM Energy! An Interdisciplinary Collaboration for Science Teacher Professional Development