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TC's Emdin Honored for Dissertation on Urban Science Education



Christopher Emdin, an assistant professor of science education at Teachers College, Columbia University

Christopher Emdin, an assistant professor of science education at Teachers College, Columbia University, has won the 2008 PDK International Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award for his in-depth research on approaches to increase student motivation, involvement and achievement in science education in urban high schools.  

Emdin will receive the award, and – together with his former students from Marie Curie High School in the Bronx – present ideas from his dissertation at a special ceremony and colloquium at Teachers College in New York City on Thursday, April 17th, from 3-5 pm.  Teachers College is located in Manhattan at 525 West 120th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. The event will take place in the College’s Milbank Chapel. The event is open to the media.

Janice Koch, Professor of Science Education, Hofstra University, and past president of the Association for Science Teacher Education, and Kenneth Tobin, Presidential Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, will present formal responses to Emdin’s presentation.

Other speakers will include Frank Nappi, regional board member of PDK; Susan Fuhrman, President of Teachers College; and Thomas James, the College’s Provost and Dean.

Emdin’s dissertation, “Exploring the Contexts of Urban Science Classrooms: Cogenerative Dialogues, CoTeaching and Cosmopolitanism,” can be read by visiting A podcast of an interview with him is also downloadable from that site.

“In a marvelously creative approach, Dr. Emdin’s study identifies strategies for improving the level of engagement and achievement of students within urban schools, and I can’t think of a more compelling topic,” said PDK Executive Director William Bushaw.

As an integral part of his dissertation research, Emdin enlisted students at Marie Curie High School – an institution he helped to found, and where he taught for two years -- in researching the learning experiences of students in their class and in developing strategies to improve teaching and learning in the class. Several of the student researchers will speak with him on April 17th.

Emdin used co-generative dialogues – meetings with small groups of students -- to get feedback on the effectiveness of lessons and find better ways to connect subject matter to students’ lives and concerns.

Emdin also found that African American students, who typically feel marginalized in urban science classrooms relative to their white peers, subjected newer-arrival immigrant students from the Caribbean to a similar marginalization process. Specifically, the more established African American students used their seniority to dominate access to the teacher and to laboratory equipment, and more generally to inflict a sense of “otherness” on Caribbean-American students. In his dissertation he discusses the use of co-teaching, and the importance of instilling a sense of responsibility among each student to ensure that all learn, as ways of breaking this cycle of marginalization.

Emdin will receive $5,000, and a summary of his dissertation will be published in the June 2008 issue of Kappan, the nation’s leading journal on education policy and practice.

The PDK Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award is given for the dissertation written by a PDK member in the previous year that best meets the criteria of sound scholarship that holds promise for the improvement of education. The panel of reviewers comprised Vernon C. Polite, dean of the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University; Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Lynne Weisenbach, dean of the School of Education at the University of Indianapolis; and Casey Graham Brown, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Texas A&M University-Commerce. The panel reviewed submissions from around the world and judged Emdin to be the clear winner. 

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