Lisa M. Blank - Curriculum and Instruction
In my first job out of college I worked as an environmental scientist on a Superfund remediation team. My work included regular interactions with the public, sharing air and water quality data and explaining what they meant for families residing near the Superfund sites. These interactions made me acutely aware of how a lack of understanding of scientific information can impact a person’s life. This experience led me to pursue a science teaching license and subsequently work as a middle and high school science teacher, and later as an elementary science specialist. In 1997, I completed a Ph.D. in Science Education and Environmental Education.
At the University of Montana, I have continued my work as a science educator in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. I teach undergraduate courses in science teacher education and graduate courses in curriculum design. My main interest is enabling teachers to positively contribute to curriculum reform efforts that foster creativity and innovation in the classroom.
My scholarship reflects my commitment to science education and curriculum development, scientific inquiry and modeling, geospatial technology, and teacher professional development. Currently, I am focused on developing exemplary science curricula that promote the role of argumentation in science understanding and the use of geospatial technologies as transformative data collection and analysis tools.
What I enjoy most about my research is the opportunity to work collaboratively with teachers throughout Montana and science faculty across the UM campus. In my most recent curriculum project, a group of geologists and earth science teachers and I co-developed Cyber-Enabled Earth Exploration (CE3), an earth science curriculum that has been piloted in ten school districts across Montana.
Because Montana is home to seven Indian reservations, I have also had the unique opportunity to engage in several bi-cultural curriculum development projects using a critical pedagogy of place. My research in culturally responsive teaching led to a faculty exchange award in 2004 that allowed me to work with leading educators in the Maori and Multicultural Education Department at Massey University in New Zealand.
My most recent cross-cultural experience involved developing and teaching a comparative education and service learning course in the Dominican Republic. Students enrolled in the course for a variety of reasons: “I want to experience what it feels like to be in the minority and not be able to understand the primary language… I want to gain an understanding so that I can feel compassion for my students that don’t have English as their first language.” After completing the course, students expressed how “… happy I am I decided to step out of my shell, to put myself out there to gain a better understanding of another culture, life, and ideas…I know this life-altering experience will impact my future teaching for the better.” The opportunity to work with students who are genuinely committed to making enduring contributions to their communities and classrooms is one of the most rewarding aspects of working at the University of Montana.