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Professor of Science Education Soonhye Park Receives Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professorship Award

NC State College of Education Professor of Science Education Soonhye Park believes the goal of working with graduate students is a lot like the ultimate goal of parenting; to empower independence and support the development of knowledge, skills and confidence. 

Her work in helping students become independent researchers who excel in their future careers was recently honored when she was selected to receive the NC State Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Professorship Award, which recognizes outstanding graduate-level teaching across the university.

“Being selected to receive the Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professorship Award holds significant meaning to me. It signifies recognition of not only my own contribution but also those of my former and current graduate students in advancing STEM education through rigorous scholarship and transformative practices in North Carolina beyond,” Park said. “This award validates the privilege I have had in supporting them, laying the foundations that have empowered them to become major catalysts for positive changes in STEM education within their respective career pathways. Furthermore, it serves as motivation to continue striving for excellence in all aspects of my work, while inspiring future generations of scholars and STEM educators.”

Park’s research focuses on science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), which research shows is critical for effective teaching. Although her research work primarily focuses on PCK in middle and high school science classrooms, she said she makes a conscious effort to apply the insights she gains through research to her own teaching. 

Her research findings, she said, inform her pedagogical reasoning and guide her instructional decisions in an effort to stimulate and sustain the intellectual growth of her students. 

Those findings also prompt her to be reflective in her own teaching. 

“Reflection plays a crucial role in developing sophisticated PCK, and I actively integrate reflective practices into my teaching. Through ongoing reflection and informed by my research endeavors, I continually refine my teaching practices and evolve as a teacher educator,” Park said. “My research serves as a valuable resource that informs and enhances my teaching practices, allowing me to create meaningful learning experiences for my students.”

As she consistently reflects on her own teaching practices, Park said one of the most rewarding aspects in her role is engaging in conversation with students who often challenge her own way of thinking. 

“I especially cherish moments when my students challenge my ideas and offer fresh perspectives that I might not have considered otherwise, rather than simply accepting my thoughts. These interactions not only foster the professional growth of my students but also greatly enrich my own development as a scholar and science educator,” she said.