J. Myron Atkin, former dean at Stanford GSE, dies at 95

J. Myron “Mike” Atkin, a former dean and professor emeritus at Stanford Graduate Faculty of Training (GSE), died on Aug. 18 at Channing Home, his retirement residence in Palo Alto. He was 95.

J. Myron Atkin, former dean at Stanford GSE, dies at 95

J. Myron Atkin, 1927-2022 (Picture credit score: Stanford Information Service)

Atkin, who started his working life as a highschool science instructor, devoted his analysis profession to bettering the standard of science training in Ok-12 colleges. As dean of the GSE, he was recognized for his dedication to bridging training analysis with the day-to-day realities of classroom apply.

With former Stanford President Donald Kennedy, he launched a landmark initiative in 1982 that linked GSE school with native highschool academics and directors for training analysis, a undertaking that drew nationwide consideration for involving faculty practitioners at each stage of the method. He’s additionally remembered for his pivotal funding within the Stanford Instructor Training Program (STEP), a program whose future was in limbo when he took workplace as dean and now serves as a nationwide mannequin within the area of instructor preparation.

Broadly thought to be a heat, welcoming chief who ceaselessly hosted college students and college for meals at his house along with his spouse, Ann, he served as dean from 1979 to 1986, then stayed on the school till he retired in 2004.

“Mike was a really particular human being – so completed, such a great chief, and a mensch,” stated GSE Professor Emeritus Richard Shavelson, who served as dean from 1995 to 2000.

Starting a profession in science

Atkin was born on April 6, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Stuyvesant Excessive Faculty and skilled to be an electronics technician within the U.S. Navy, however the battle got here to an finish shortly after his coaching completed and he was by no means deployed. He went on to the Metropolis School of New York and acquired a bachelor’s diploma in chemistry.

In 1947, he married Ann Spiegel and commenced his profession as a science instructor, working in New York elementary and excessive colleges for seven years whereas incomes his grasp’s and doctorate in science training from New York College.

He and Ann then moved with their first little one to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, the place Atkin grew to become an assistant professor of science training on the College of Illinois. He went on to function dean of the School of Training till 1979, when he was recruited by Stanford to affix the GSE school as dean.

A deal with classroom instructing

Shortly earlier than Atkin got here to Stanford, he was confronted with a call that might result in one in every of his defining actions as dean. A school committee chaired by Edwin Bridges had been assessing the way forward for STEP, a one-year program established in 1959 to organize elementary and secondary faculty academics for the classroom. Two months earlier than Atkin arrived at Stanford, Bridges known as to let him know this system was on the chopping block.

Interviewed at a GSE colloquium in 2011, Atkin recalled that school have been evenly break up over whether or not to drop this system, which was small on the time, or to advocate placing within the crucial sources to bolster it. “I stated, ‘Ed, what’s a college of training and not using a instructor training program?’”

As a substitute of discontinuing this system, because the newly put in dean, Atkin invested in strengthening and increasing it. “I believe it’s probably the most necessary elements of the varsity at the moment,” he stated. “Nevertheless it may’ve gone one other method.”

One other initiative that got here to mark his legacy as dean was the Stanford and the Faculties examine, a partnership that linked GSE researchers with academics and directors at excessive colleges in six close by faculty districts. The undertaking was one other reflection of Atkin’s dedication to reignite the GSE’s involvement in classroom apply: Whereas earlier deans had established a robust school with intensive scholarship within the utilized behavioral and social sciences, Atkin was involved about what he perceived in training analysis as a rising distance from the realities of the classroom. He sought to contain faculty practitioners as companions within the analysis course of, collaborators taking an equal function in defining the problems and designing data-collection procedures.

In 1982 Atkin and Donald Kennedy, then the president of Stanford, collectively launched the examine to discover and determine suggestions for varsity insurance policies and packages, and to make sure that GSE analysis and tutorial packages corresponded intently to the every day challenges of the Ok-12 classroom.

“It was a giant deal, the fitting factor for an expert faculty of training to do,” stated Shavelson. The three-year examine, revealed in 1987, led the best way for different main research-practice partnerships now ongoing on the GSE.

Scientist and humanist

As a scholar, Atkin was dedicated to bettering science training, significantly by the use of curriculum and evaluation reform. He additionally studied gender fairness in science training, and science training for elementary college students studying English.

“He was one of many first who noticed the significance and significance of analysis in science instructing and studying, buying his doctorate in 1955 when analysis in science training was nonetheless in its infancy,” stated Jonathan Osborne, a professor emeritus of science training on the GSE. “He labored tirelessly on a variety of nationwide and native committees to argue how the science that was generally taught is likely to be improved.”

Atkin chaired, amongst quite a few boards and committees, the training part of the American Affiliation for the Development of Science, in addition to the Nationwide Academies’ Nationwide Analysis Council Committee on Science Training Ok-12 and Nationwide Committee on Science Training Requirements and Evaluation, which produced the primary set of U.S. requirements in 1996. He additionally labored with the Group for Financial Cooperation and Growth to supply case research about improvements in science, math, and expertise training in 13 nations all over the world, a undertaking he significantly loved.

“He was a scientist by coaching,” stated Shavelson. “However when it got here to making use of science to the human situation, he was a humanist and a qualitative researcher.”

Atkin tapped three school to affix forces and develop a brand new course on the GSE to organize college students in qualitative analysis, a brand new step for the varsity that become a year-long sequence with a full yr of statistical work as a prerequisite. “It very quickly grew to become nearly the preferred class within the faculty. We needed to set enrollment limits,” stated Professor Emeritus Lee Shulman, a part of the group who created and taught the course. “And that was Mike’s child.”

A ‘excellent mentor’

Throughout his tenure as dean, Atkin labored with college directors to approve assured funding for GSE doctoral college students – a significant change that resulted in stricter limits on the variety of college students provided admission, making this system considerably extra selective and aggressive, stated Professor Emeritus Hans Weiler, who served as affiliate dean for tutorial affairs underneath Atkin. “That was an necessary threshold within the historical past of the varsity, and it occurred on Mike’s watch.”

As a doctoral advisor, Atkin was recognized for his heat and supportive steering, and for sustaining relationships along with his college students lengthy after they graduated. “To be his scholar was to be his good friend,” stated Shulman.

“He was an ideal mentor,” stated Allan Feldman, PhD ’92, a former scholar of Atkin’s who’s now a professor of science training on the College of South Florida. One instance: Atkin’s generosity in serving to to have interaction college students in main analysis initiatives – together with, for Feldman, one with the Nationwide Science Basis. “It was an unbelievable alternative for me as a doctoral scholar,” he stated. “I be sure that as a lot as potential that my college students have the type of alternatives that he offered for me.”

Julia Bianchini, PhD ’95, one other former scholar of Atkin’s who’s now a professor of science training on the College of California, Santa Barbara, features a paper he revealed in 1962 in one in every of her programs.

“The article stresses the significance of utilizing college students’ personal concepts and experiences, partaking college students in investigations earlier than introducing science ideas and phrases, encouraging college students’ reasoning and sensemaking, and tying constructs realized to bigger crosscutting ideas in science, like vitality and programs,” she stated. “It’s putting to me how the suggestions on this piece from greater than 50 years in the past nonetheless stay related.”

Atkin is survived by his spouse, Ann; his kids, Jon, Ruth, and David; his grandchildren, Alexander “Alex”, Elizabeth “Liz”, and Michael; his niece, Nina Lindhoff; and his nephew, Marc Atkin.

A celebration of Atkin’s life will probably be held at Channing Home (850 Webster St., Palo Alto, on the eleventh ground) on Sunday, November 20, from 2 to 4 p.m.

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