Courses Taught at CSULB
- SCED 301: Science for Early Childhood
- SCED 401: A Process Approach to Science
- SCED 475: Teaching and Learning Science, K-8
In addition to these courses, I serve as Director of the National Center for Science in Early Childhood and, each semester, lead the CNSM Teaching Assistant Professional Development Workshop.
My scholarly interests have evolved across the different stages of my career. My journey across each of these stages is summarized below.
At the beginning of my academic career, I had two areas of emphasis, college science teaching and science integrations with language arts and reading. My interest in college science teaching stemmed from years of teaching (as a lecturer and TA) biology and astronomy courses at the college level and informed much of my doctoral studies. Much of my scholarly work in this field has been accomplished with colleague, Russell Wilke of Angelo State University. My own K-8 teaching, including classroom experience with dyslexic students, and collaboration with colleagues at Appalachian State University and teachers at Sparta High School (along with over $425K in support from NCQuest), fueled my great interest in integrating science and language learning.
Select Publications Related to College Science Teaching
- Straits, W. J. & Wilke, R. R. (2003). Activities-based astronomy: An evaluation of an instructor's first attempt and its impact on student characteristics. Astronomy Educational Research, 2(3).
- Straits, W. J. (2007). “She's teaching me:” Teaching with care in a large lecture course. College Teaching, 55(4), 170-175.
Select Publications Related to Science Integration
- Kucan, L., Trathen, W. R., Straits, W. J., Hash, D., Link, D. Miller, L., & Pasley, L. (2007). Developing approaches to vocabulary instruction in secondary classrooms: What do mathematics, art, science, and English teachers have to tell us? Reading Research and Instruction, 46(2), 175-196.
- Straits, W. J. & Nichols, S. E. (2007). Using historical non-fiction and literature circles to develop elementary teachers' nature of science understandings. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18(6), 901-912. (This paper received the ASTE, Best Paper on Innovation in Teaching Science Teachers award.)
As I moved from Appalachian State to California State University Long Beach, my scholarly work also shifted. I continued to explore science and language arts/reading integrations, and to a lesser extent college science teaching, but expanded my work to investigate the synergy between science instruction and English Language Development. Much of this new Science/ELD focus was completed in collaboration with colleague, Susan Gomez Zwiep. This work was supported by over $2.2M in grants from the California Post-secondary Education Commission and focused on supporting local elementary teachers.
Select Publication Related to College Science Teaching
- Straits, W. J. & Wilke, R. R. (2009). Varied assessment: A brief introduction. In T. Lord (Ed.), Assessment in College Science Teaching. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
Select Publication Related to Science Integration
- Straits, W. J. (2009). The importance of effective reading strategies for science teachers and learners. In, N. H. Salas & D. D. Peyton (Eds.), Reading: Assessment, Comprehension and Teaching. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
Select Publications Related to Science and ELD
- Gomez Zwiep, S., Straits, W. J., Stone, K., Beltran, D., and Furtado, L. (2011). The integration of English language development and science instruction in elementary classrooms. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22(8), 769-785. (This paper also received the ASTE, Best Paper on Innovation in Teaching Science Teachers award. I am one of only three who have earned this honor more than once.)
- Shea, L., Shanahan, T. Gomez Zwiep, S. & Straits, W. (2012). Functional linguistics, language tasks and strategies, and science inquiry using the 5E approach. Electronic Journal of Science Education, 16(2).
- Gomez Zwiep, S. & Straits, W. J. (2013). Inquiry science: The gateway to English language proficiency. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24(8), 1315-1331.
In 2014, I took over as Director of CSULB's National Center for Science in Early Childhood (NCSEC). NCSEC creates and provides science professional development and resources to early childhood teachers with the goal of increasing and improving the science experiences provided to young children locally and across the nation. NCSEC, and its Head Start on Science professional development program, was established by CSULB professor emeritus, William Ritz. Attempting to fill his shoes consumed my mid-career efforts and re-invigorate my scholarship. Although I still pursued earlier interests, most of my efforts during this time focused on early childhood science.
Select Publication Related to Science Integration
- Calmer, J. & Straits, W. (2014). Reading to understand anatomy: A literature circle approach. American Biology Teacher, 76(9): 622-625.
Selected Publication Related to Science and ELD
- Gomez Zwiep, S. & Straits, W. J. (2016). The integration of English Language Development and inquiry science into a blended professional development design. In Alandeom Oliveira & Molly Weinburgh (Eds.), ASTE Monograph - Science Teacher Preparation in Content-Based Second Language Acquisition. (pp. 137-150).
Select Publications Related to Early Childhood Science
- Straits, W. J. (2018). A Head Start on Life Science: Encouraging a Sense of Wonder. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
- Ritz, W. C. & Straits, W. J. (Eds.) (2019). A Head Start on Science: Encouraging a Sense of Wonder, 2nd Edition. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
Throughout my career I have focused on supporting teachers. I am proud of the positive contributions I have made through publications and numerous professional development efforts for teachers working with children of all levels, toddlers to college. Early in my career, focusing on teachers meant writing for K-16 teachers largely through the National Science Teacher Association (I have 18 articles, 7 book chapters, and 2 books published with NSTA). However, in my mid, and now mid-late, career, I focus my writing efforts on early childhood educators and hope to continue to make significant contributions to the preK audience.
Select Publications Related to Early Childhood Education
- Straits, W. & Shea, L. M. (2022). Branching out: Exploring math concepts with trees. Early Childhood Exchange, 44(4): 57-59.
- Straits, W. (2023). Outstanding science trade books for early childhood. Science and Children, 60(4): 10.
- Straits, W. & Walsh, L. (2023). How our bodies move: Learning about bones and joints. Teaching Young Children, 16(3): 12-14.
- Straits, W. (in press). Beyond Itsy Bitsy: Spiders in the early childhood classroom. Teaching Young Children.
- Ph.D., Science Education, University of Texas, Austin, December 2001
- Masters of Education, Curriculum and Instruction, University of Texas, Austin, May 1997
- M.A., Biology, California State University, Fullerton, August 1995
- B.S., Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, June 1991