Julie A Luft

Biography

At the University of Georgia, I am a Distinguished Research Professor and Athletic Association Professor of Mathematics and Science Education, in the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies Education, and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I previously held appointments at The University of Arizona, The University of Texas at Austin, and Arizona State University.

Influenced by my years of teaching middle and high school science, my research focuses on how to best support science teachers in building their knowledge and instructional practice. These studies explore science teacher development, professional development programming, and the knowledge and practices of beginning secondary science teachers. My current work explores how teacher leaders influence the instruction of science teachers, and the resiliency of newly hired science teachers.

Funding from the former Eisenhower Mathematics and Science program and the National Science Foundation has primarily supported my research over the years. The resulting studies are in over a hundred and forty research articles, book chapters, editorials, and books. My writings are for teachers, teacher educators, and educational researchers. Several of my publications have won awards, including: the JRST award, ASTE implications of research, and AEP educational practice award. Highlights of my career include being a committee member on the National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine consensus report on "Science teachers learning: Enhancing opportunities, creating supportive contexts," and testifying at the Capital in Washington DC on the importance of science as inquiry.

As an active member of the science education community, I have been a board member and President of ASTE, Director of Research at NSTA, a scholar in residence at NSTA, the NSTA representative to the NARST board, and Associate Editor for different journals including JRST. As an advocate for graduate students and early career faculty, I have served as a mentor in the Sandra K. Abell Institute for Doctoral Students (three times), the South African Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Research School (five times), and the Science Education Research Institute in Thailand. Over the years, I have received awards for my teaching, mentoring and work in the community. I am also an AAAS Fellow, NSTA Fellow, and Owens Institute for Behavioral Research Distinguished Scholar, and was a Fulbright Research Specialist to Vietnam.

Outside of science education, I am runner, hiker, and cyclist. Most recently, I completed marathons in California and Berlin, and the Comrades ultra-marathon in South Africa. While in Georgia, I have hiked around 300 miles of the Appalachian trail and look forward to completing the trail in the next 10 years. When I can, I enjoy a long-distance bike ride that involves camping. Most recently, I rode and camped on the Katy Trial in Missouri.

Areas of Expertise

  • Professional Development of Science Teachers
  • Science Teacher Induction
  • Science Teacher Education

Interests

  • Early Career Secondary Science Teachers
  • Science Teacher Knowledge
  • Undergraduate Science Education

Academic Affiliations

Education

  •  PhD in Science Education
    University of Iowa
  •  MST in Ecology
    New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
  •  BSEd in Life Sciences
    University of New Mexico

Contact

 Aderhold Hall, 110H
 706-542-2068 (office)

Research Summary

As a middle and high school science teacher, I was perplexed by what my students learned when they engaged in science investigations. Some students could quickly grasp complex topics, while other students needed additional supports during the lessons. Overtime, understanding the learning of my students became more important to me. Graduate school became an essential next step to gain insights into my classroom experiences.

As a graduate student at the University of Iowa, my questions about student learning were answered and I was introduced to the professional learning of teachers. My research assistantship involved enacting inquiry-oriented professional learning programs for teachers and studying their impact on teachers. The programs were novel, but purposefully configured. A key feature of the programs involved teachers observing a classroom in the midst of an inquiry lesson, and then debriefing with the teacher of the class following the lesson. This experience was formative and influenced the work I engage in today.

My first position was at the University of Arizona, where I was one of two science educators in the College of Education. Along with teaching science education courses, I built a program that provided professional development programs for science teachers and studied the impact of this programing on their instruction. In working with science teachers throughout Southern Arizona, the graduate students and I saw that newly hired teachers needed sound professional learning programs.

For the next 10 years, at The University of Texas and Arizona State University, I focused on building and studying professional learning programs for newly hired science teachers. With a strong group of graduate students, we were able to track over a 100 newly hired teachers over five years. Several years of this work involved Dr. Gill Roehrig, now at the University of Minnesota and her team. The resulting studies illuminated the challenges newly hired teachers faced in enacting science instruction.

When I arrived at the University of Georgia, my focus on newly hired science teachers continued. With a steady stream of graduate students, studies were completed that attended to teacher knowledge, the influence of context, and the role of professional learning programs. I also had opportunities to work in undergraduate science education. This work was the result of a vibrant discipline-based education research community that sought out cross-college collaborations.

My recent work involves looking at the role of district leadership on newly hired science teachers, and how new teachers cultivate their resilience. The leadership studies involve Dr. Whitworth at Clemson University, the National Science Educational Leadership Association, and local districts. We are looking at the impact of leadership programs for science coordinators on science teachers, many who are new to teaching. The studies focused on new teacher resilience are with Dr. Navy (Lead, PI) at Kent State and Dr. Bo Idsardi at Eastern Washington University. These studies are exploring the role of resources in building resilience among newly hired science teachers.

Grants

Resources Accessed to Cultivate and Enhance Resilience (RACER)
10/21-10/26

Awards and Accolades

OIBR Distinguished Scholar

OIBR, University of Georgia, 2020

Aderhold Professor Award

College of Education, University of Georgia, 2019

Fulbright Specialist - Vietnam

Fulbright Program, 2017

NSTA Fellow

National Science Teachers Association, 2017

Creative Teaching Award

University of Georgia, 2017

Implications of Research for Educational Practice

Association of Science Teacher Educators, 2017

Mentor of the Year

Association of Science Teacher Educators, 2013

JRST 2011 Publication Award

National Association for Research in Science Teaching, 2012

Outstanding Professional Development/School Improvement Book

Association of Educational Publishers, 2010

AAAS Fellow

American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2010