Scientific Literacy and Cultural Studies Project (SLCSP)
Western Michigan University


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  William W. Cobern, Ph.D.
Professor of Science Education
Western Michigan University

Dr. Cobern received his undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from the University of California, San Diego (Revelle College) in 1971. After teaching high school science for several years he studied for his doctorate in science education at the University of Colorado, Boulder receiving his Ph.D. in 1979. Dr. Cobern then spent five years as a faculty member at the Usmano Dan Fodio University of Sokoto, Nigeria. There he participated in the development of a new science teacher education program and the development of education programs for nomadic groups. His research was on the influence of traditional culture on learning in formal school settings. Dr. Cobern came away from that experience having given much thought to the notion that for many students science is a second cultural experience. From this basis in experience he developed a worldview theoretical framework for conceiving of science as an aspect of culture which warrants the assertion that meaningful science learning only occurs to the extent that scientific knowledge can find a cognitive niche within the everyday thinking of ordinary people. This theoretical work has been developed in several publications which have been studied and adopted by science education researchers in Africa and Australasia who are struggling with cultural issues. In the USA, his work has drawn the attention of science educators working with Native Americans, African Americans, and religious communities. NSF has funded Dr. Cobern's empirical studies of culture and science education, and he has worked with the NSF sponsored Comprehensive Regional Center for Minority Education in Arizona. Dr. Cobern has served on the editorial board for the Journal of Research in Science Teaching. He is the section editor for "Culture and Comparative Studies" for the journal Science Education and is a charter editorial board member for the Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education  He has guest lectured in Australia, Brazil, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway and South Africa. He is committed to the concept of culturally constructed, quality science education for all.

At Western Michigan University, Dr. Cobern has joint appointments in the Department of Teaching, Learning & Leadership and the Department of Science Studies.


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