STEM Center Co-director, Professor
Westlake Hall 240
Dr. Finson teaches science education courses, including elementary and secondary science methods, science inquiry, and measuring in K-8 science classrooms. He has experience teaching college-level earth science content courses such as geomorphology, meteorology, and introductory paleontology. Dr. Finson also teaches a course in educational foundations on strategies and techniques, as well as a graduate level course in instructional theory and program evaluation. Also in his repertoire of teaching is a course for health science majors on effective teaching strategies, techniques, and assessment.
Dr. Finson has two primary areas of research interest. The first focuses on making science more accessible to students who have special learning needs. In particular, he explores how teachers can make adjustments and modifications to written materials, procedures, and simple equipment so students who have specific learning disabilities can successfully engage in science. The second research area focuses on students’ perceptions of scientists. Dr. Finson has worked on developing a framework to guide science educators in dealing with students’ conceptions of what scientists are like – what they look like and what they do. One of his earlier contributions to the field was the development and validation of a checklist for the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST-C), which has been used by science education researchers around the world. Through using the DAST-C, Dr. Finson hopes to learn more about how students form their conceptions of scientists, when those conceptions form, and what variables impact and influence those conceptions. Along these lines, he has co-edited a book on the use of visual data that was published in 2009 by Sense Publications in The Netherlands.
Dr. Finson has maintained a consistent record of publication in national refereed journals, including articles in School Science and Mathematics, the Journal of Science Teacher Education, Teaching Exceptional Children, and Science Scope on topics ranging from the development of instruments for assessing perceptions of scientists to strategies for modifying science activities and assessments for students with special learning needs.
Since beginning his career in higher education, Dr. Finson has received funding awards for extramural grants in excess of $1 million, serving as the project PI or co-PI on most of those projects. Included as responsibilities on these projects was evaluation of the grant objectives and improvement in teacher performance. He has consulted as an external evaluator for a National Science Foundation, a teacher enhancement grant at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, as well as for the Chicago-based Teachers’ Academy. Dr. Finson led the development of the evaluation plan for the Outreach to Space federally funded project that included Peoria’s Lakeview Museum (one of a dozen museum partners). He served as co-director for two years in the development, administration, and analysis of the Illinois Scientific Literacy Target School Survey project funded by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Dr. Finson serves at multiple levels in the science education community. He has edited the international Journal of Elementary Science Education since the late 1990s and has served on the editorial boards of several significant science education journals (e.g. Journal of Science Teacher Education, School Science and Mathematics), as well as having served on the publications committees of two national professional organizations. He has served as a member of the board of directors for the international Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE), chaired its Professional Development Committee and Inclusive Science Education Forum, has been on several international conference planning committees, and served as a regional director of the North Central-ASTE. His contributions also include work on standards for the Early Adolescent Science Committee of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. At the state level, he has served as editor of the journal of the Illinois Science Teachers Association (The Spectrum), and has helped coordinate state science conference programs. At the local level, Dr. Finson has been active in multi-county science educator groups, such as the Central Illinois Science Exchange, in which he held the office of president. He has been president of a local chapter of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, as well as its faculty membership committee and student Academic Hall of Fame selection committee. He has experience serving as a member of a public school board of education, and was its president for two years. Within Bradley University, Dr. Finson has served three years as department chair and currently chairs the department’s Graduate Curriculum Committee. Some of his departmental committee service includes that on various search committees, as well as the Dispositions Revision Committee, Academic Review Committee, Tenure and Promotion Criteria Revision Committee, Elementary Education Curriculum Committee, and Secondary Education Curriculum Committee. At the college level, he has served on the Strategic Planning Committee, Sabbatical Leave Committee, Tenure and Promotion Committee, and Committee on Research and Service. He currently is a member of the university’s Graduate Executive Committee.