Faculty Spotlight on Dan Carpenter

Meet the Faculty: Daniel Carpenter, Assoc. Professor of STEAM Education

By The Room 241 Team March 18, 2019

An Army veteran and passionate teacher, Daniel Carpenter, PhD, is one of our highly regarded associate professors. Carpenter has served as a teacher, administrator, soccer coach, and university professor, as well as a consultant to organizations such as the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As well as helping educators advance through our MEd program, he’s busy researching professional learning communities (PLCs), teacher collaboration models, job-embedded professional learning models, instructional/pedagogical improvement, and change systems and school improvement models. We connected with him to find out more about his passion for science and education, and what he enjoys about teaching at Concordia University-Portland.

Who or what inspired you to work in education?

When I was in high school, I had some great teachers and coaches. I remember speaking with a coach and asking him what it was like being a teacher and coach. I thought at that moment that being a teacher would be the right thing for me. After high school, I joined the Army and got into medicine as a paramedic. My training and leadership skills provided opportunities for teaching. After the Army, I decided to pursue a career in medicine. During my junior year working on my degree in Biology, I was approached by some professors and asked to teach labs in Biology 101 and Zoology 112 (freshmen-level classes). Once I started teaching the classes, I was hooked, I KNEW teaching was my thing. I tried to ignore the calling into teaching, applied to medical school, completed my degree in Biology, but was ultimately led into teaching and pursued my degree in science education.

What makes you interested in the field of STEAM?

When I started pursuing my degree in Biology, I realized that math was a natural integration to the science classes I was taking. When I started teaching in the 1990s, I realized that how I was teaching the science was just as important as what I was teaching. I found natural ways to integrate math, technology, and engineering design principles into everything I did through inquiry and constructivist approaches. It really wasn’t until I received the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) teacher of the year award and went to speak about STEM integration on a national scale that I realized I was missing ways that promoted creativity and innovation. When I started pursuing my Master’s degree in curriculum, instruction and assessment systems, I realized how little we did in terms of promoting the arts in STEM integration. Years later, I decided to pursue my doctoral degree and started working with a job-embedded professional development model called Professional Learning Communities. It was the PLC model that provided the opportunity to work with art teachers that really shaped what I do today in terms of STEAM integration. We learned that through project-based learning, we could help each other promote integrated STEAM, thereby horizontally and vertically aligning the full curriculum in our school. Our school became known for doing real PBL and integrating STEAM disciplines.

Do you have a favorite STEAM book or resource that you’d recommend to other educators?

There are so many resources available to teachers. None more important than resourcing and leveraging one another’s expertise in a collaborative team called a professional learning community. PLCs are the richest opportunity for job-embedded growth and professional development. The model promotes collaboration and teacher-improved practice. When I speak with teachers about where to go to get resources together for STEAM, there are usually a couple of places I send them. I am a member of several organizations, including the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). I have been a member for a couple of decades. Their resources are quite literally the best in the world for integrated STEAM ideas. I am also a member of ASCD, which has some of the best resources for teachers, written by teachers, for all subject disciplines. I am also a member of the International Technology, Engineering Education Association, and their connections and resources are second to none. Finally, besides doing research and providing professional development in PLCs, I also provide professional development on project-based learning (PBL). The leading producer of content in that area is arguably the Buck Institute for Education (BIE). They have a database of PBL lessons that integrate STEAM disciplines, written by teachers, for teachers, aligned to the standards and ready to unpack and use.

What course(s) do you teach at Concordia, and what kind of student thrives in your course(s)?

I teach STEAM methods for elementary, middle, and secondary pre-service teachers. I also have extensive training in assessment systems and program evaluation, and so I will teach assessment for sure. I have developed and taught courses in project-based teaching and learning, inquiry-based teaching and learning, and progressive pedagogical design and implementation. I have designed and taught classes in STEM education policy. I have taught classes in qualitative and mixed methods research. When it comes to what I teach, I am a team guy and so whatever my team needs help with, as a good teacher, I step up and find a way to contribute.

I am a radical constructivist and inquiry-based teaching and learning teacher. I firmly believe in social cognitive learning theory, efficacy building, and self-determination theory. I believe in transformation and adult learning theories, and that we as professors must know and be able to apply the most progressive applications of learning theory for our students, help them understand it, and find ways to get our students to interact in those systems so they can figure out how to teach in ways that speak to the needs of the students we serve. So, I don’t think there is one type of student that thrives in my courses. I truly believe that we need to connect as adult learners, get to know one another, construct knowledge, and solve problems together. Students interact in this uncomfortable space that is inquiry and constructivism to not just know what to teach, but how to teach it in ways that really resonate with the needs of our students.

How does your past experience as a teacher, administrator, and coach at a public school high school influence the instruction you provide?

I was the men’s head soccer coach for about 20 years. I taught high school science for about 17 years and was an administrator in school improvement for about a decade. As a coach of high school students and a coach of teachers as an administrator, I truly believe I have a balanced set of skills that serve what I teach and how I teach it. In each of those capacities, I learned that relationships and caring are by far more important than my ego standing and talking to my students. Working with teachers as an administrator taught me that conversation was more important that lecture. I learned in each context that authentic problems that needed to be solved were way more meaningful than my presenting information or than students just doing a prescribed laboratory experience that did not connect to their real life. Authenticity, communication, and relationship-building are critical to the type of instruction I provide.

You’ve had a wide range of positions in your career, including public school teacher, higher education professor, curriculum developer, and consultant to several government agencies. What do you enjoy or appreciate most so far about your role at Concordia, compared to your prior professional experience?

I truly believe that my presence at Concordia is a calling. I believe that all of my experiences have prepared me to serve the university and the Concordia neighborhood in ways that make me unique. I hope that I can parlay my experiences and the resources I have acquired into a rich set of opportunities for Concordia. I have made friends and colleagues all over the country. Those close to me know that I have been fighting my entire career for the opportunity to serve a university like Concordia and now that the opportunity has finally arrived, I have their full support. I love the university and the Concordia neighborhood. The people I work with are the best at what they do. We are passionate about the same things and care deeply about the Faubion School, the College of Education and our university. I love that Concordia sees the collaborative relationships we have built and leverages those for the education of the children we serve at Faubion. I am excited to continue with partnerships on and off campus in ways that serve the Concordia community and only hope to be part of the great team of professional educators that serve this community.


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