NC State College of Education Assistant Professor Erin Krupa, Ph.D., has been selected as a recipient of NC State’s inaugural Goodnight Early Career Innovators Award.
The Goodnight Early Career Innovators Awards support early career faculty excellence and promote retention of tenure-track assistant professors whose scholarship focuses on STEM or STEM education. Recipients of the award show outstanding promise for future achievement or impact in STEM, demonstrate superior scholarly achievement at an early career stage and have a rigorous research agenda that speaks to their potential to advance knowledge in STEM or STEM education.
“It is a tremendous honor to be selected for the inaugural group of Goodnight Early Career Innovators. After over a year of isolation, away from campus and without access to K-12 classrooms, this is also external validation from the university that my work is valued,” Krupa said.
Krupa joined the College of Education in 2019 at a time when, she said, she was redefining herself as a researcher. NC State, as well as the faculty in the College of Education’s Department of STEM Education, were able to help foster her research and teaching ambitions.
Krupa’s research focuses on improving the quality of STEM teaching and learning through innovative curricular materials and professional development, with the ultimate goal of improving student learning and engagement. She currently serves as the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on several grant-funded research projects that exceed $7 million in external funding.
Her “Using Animated Contrasting Cases to Improve Procedural and Conceptual Knowledge in Geometry” project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is developing animated, digital materials intended to highlight different geometric features and help students better understand the theory behind the mathematics concepts they are learning. The research team for that project recently conducted more than 60 think-aloud interviews with middle and high school students in order to pilot the digital materials.
“We are learning so much to improve our materials and a great deal about students’ geometric thinking,” Krupa said.
Her “Validity Evidence for Measurement in Mathematics Education” project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is creating a publicly available repository of quantitative measures and evidence for the validity of those measures in STEM. For that project, teams of researchers from across the United States have been gathering evidence and, over the next six months, will begin building the repository of measures for researchers to use in their own work.
“We hope this repository helps build more cumulative knowledge about the teaching and learning of mathematics by making research instruments widely shared and easily accessible,” Krupa said.
Krupa’s most recent National Science Foundation-funded grant is “Design and Pitch Challenges in STEM: Merging Entrepreneurship and Mathematics Learning” which will develop nine design challenges rooted in the high school mathematics curriculum that will encourage students to build, test and refine prototype STEM products, design business plans to demonstrate product viability and pitch their products to a panel of judges.
The project, which is based upon one led by Joseph D. Moore Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Education Jere Confrey, Ph.D., on which Krupa is now the principal investigator, is featured in the NSF STEM for All Video Showcase. The video submission highlights how the project team adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering virtual pitch competitions at schools.
Krupa also serves as the co-principal investigator on a project with Friday Institute for Educational Innovation Executive Director and College of Education Associate Dean Hiller Spires, Ph.D., that aims to expand Project-Based Inquiry Global to include STEM learning through rural/urban school partnerships and on the North Carolina High School Master Teachers Fellows Program project with Interim Associate Dean for Research and Innovation Karen Hollebrands, Ph.D., which is preparing 19 high school teachers from high-need districts to get National Board Teaching Certification.
“Science and technology innovation is now at the forefront of our society. It is important to work towards advancements in STEM education to prepare the workforce for the demands of STEM careers,” Krupa said. “STEM education needs to work to produce students who are able to collaboratively and creatively solve real-world problems and adapt to new innovations and tougher challenges.”
As a Goodnight Early Career Innovator, Krupa will receive $22,000 in annual funding for the next three years to use for research materials, professional travel, scholarly publications and support for graduate and undergraduate students who work with her.
She hopes to use her time as a Goodnight Early Career Innovator to continue to refine her research focus, support graduate student researchers and engage in outreach to local middle and high schools. Additionally, she hopes to build connections with other early career faculty on campus, which she has had limited opportunity to do since the pandemic began in March 2020.
“One of the selection criteria for the award was for the nominee to ‘show outstanding promise for future achievement and impact in STEM or STEM education.’ I want to live into that promise over the next three years, taking steps each year to have an impact on STEM education,” she said.