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Dr. David M. Sparks

Visiting Assistant Professor of Science Education
UTeach and Curriculum and Instruction
College of Education

UT Arlington Faculty

I joined UTeach Arlington and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction as Visiting Assistant Professor of Science Education in 2013. I currently serve as a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education, which includes both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and UTeach Arlington. I am a 21-year veteran science and instructional technology teacher.  After teaching middle school science from 1992-1999, I began teaching at the high school level.  From 1999-2013, I taught Physical Science, Integrated Physics and Chemistry, Biology, Pre-AP Biology, Physics, Anatomy and Physiology, Environmental Science, and AP Environmental Science.  During that time, I also taught Business Computer Information Systems (BCIS) and Dual Credit BCIS for four years.  As a college instructor, I taught an Educational Technology course in the spring of 2009 at Texas A&M University-Texarkana and A+ Computer Maintenance at Texarkana College.  I have worked with Ashford University as an Associate Instructor since July of 2012, teaching courses in the Educational Technology and Design department. I completed my B.S. from Texas A&M University in 1990, my M.S. from Texas A&M University-Texarkana in 2005, and my Ed. D. in Supervision, Curriculum and Instruction-Higher Education from Texas A&M University-Commerce in 2013. 

For the 2012-2013 school year, I taught in Hope, Arkansas at the Hope Academy of Science and Technology, which allows students to have laptop computers and is centered around Project-Based Learning. The experience of working in a PBL school was great, and it has helped solidify my commitment to inquiry-based learning and constructivist teaching styles in Science Education.  As far as research goes, I am exploring the factors that help make female and minority students successful in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) college majors and careers. 

Service Learning Class

EDUC 4333 MULTIPLE TEACHING PRACTICES IN MATH AND SCIENCE:  Multiple research-based teaching practices including foundations of project-based, case-based, and problem-based learning environments; principles of project-based curriculum development in mathematics and science education; classroom management and organization of inquiry-based, problem-based/project-based learning classrooms. Three lecture hours a week for one semester with additional fieldwork hours to be arranged.

Academic Outcomes

1. To support the UTeach student’s development by building a deep understanding of Project Based Learning (PBL), including differentiating between strong and weak theoretical approaches to PBL, and

between PBL and other inquiry--‐based approaches.

2. To enhance UTeach students’ ability to design or adapt activities, lesson plans and a complete project

based upon theoretical frameworks of inquiry-based learning PBL

3. To build UTeach students’ capacity to analyze their own and others’ instructional planning and enactment.

4. To increase UTeach students’ ability to measure student learning through the appropriate use of formative and summative measurements of student learning, and to respond instructionally to the assessment information.

5. To assist preservice math and science teachers in incorporating community resources into their lesson plans

Service Learning Project

Reaching Outside: A Service Learning Collaboration Between a University and an Urban Nature Center

Description:  Students within the capstone course for their last course in UTeach (before student teaching) will (1) learn about Project-based Learning by participating in a mock Project Based Learning (PBL) unit at a local nature center, (2) spend four class meetings at the local nature center as they design their PBL unit, (3) donate additional hours to the center through volunteering and unit design outside the normal classroom requirements, and (4) donate the PBL units and outreach ideas to the center for them to bring in more middle school students, high school students, and secondary math and science teachers from the surrounding school systems. 

Teams and responsibilities:  The service learning component of the course will be worth 20% of their class grade.  They will be required to turn in a list of brainstorming ideas for outreach for the nature center, a pre and post-test, four reflections about their experience, and their final PBL unit, which must include classroom activities related to the nature center.  The service learning hour requirement will be 10 hours, which will include 6 hours in the classroom at the nature center, 2 volunteer hours at the center, and 2 hours of PBL unit development.

Partner:  River Legacy Living Science Center (RLLSC)   Arlington, Texas           

Product/Result:

The students will receive 10 hours of service learning credit within the course, which includes building a Project-Based Learning unit for middle school and high school science and math teachers and volunteering two hours for events at the center. The students will give the units to the RLLSC to be used for teachers and students who visit the Center.  The units will be placed on their website. The college students will also brainstorm ideas for how the nature center can reach out to middle school students, high school students, and middle and high school science and math teachers.