Get to Know...Cory Forbes

Get to Know...Cory Forbes

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Reflections from an Eagle Scout-turned-researcher on science education, gardening
cory forbes portraitPhoto by Tom Jorgensen.

So what do you do here?

I am an assistant professor of science education in the UI College of Education's Department of Teaching and Learning. My work focuses on fostering effective science instruction and student learning in elementary and middle-school classrooms.

I’m involved in a variety of activities that focus on this goal. I coordinate and teach courses that help prepare prospective elementary teachers to teach science. Through my three grant-funded projects, I have also worked with over 75 in service elementary teachers over the past four years to help bring national and state-level science education reform to area classrooms. My research is embedded in these efforts and focuses on how elementary teachers use widely available science instructional materials to engage students in scientific inquiry and scientific practices in the classroom.

In current projects, for example, we’re investigating how teachers implement the Reflective Assessment formative assessment strategy and support students’ model-based reasoning about the water cycle, as well as impacts on students’ learning. All of this work is made possible through collaboration between the College of Education, College of Engineering, Grant Wood Area Education Agency and Van Allen Science Teaching (VAST) Center, Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER), and partner school districts, including Cedar Rapids, Clear Creek Amana, Davenport, Iowa City, and Washington, as well as project funders, including the National Science Foundation, Carver Charitable Trust, and Iowa Board of Regents.

What's an average day like for you?

Through both research activities and teaching, I also mentor and support science education graduate students to become effective science teacher educators and educational researchers themselves. On any given day, you’re likely to find me teaching classes, working with project partners and graduate students, writing, and/or addressing the day-to-day demands of managing multiple research and development projects.

What do you enjoy most about working in a higher education setting?

To me, higher education’s primary purpose is to serve as society’s core knowledge-building enterprise, of which faculty, students, administrators, and staff all play important roles. My favorite part of coming to work every day is the potential to learn something new and being surrounded by others committed to ideals of scholarship, teaching, and service.

Take us through your most memorable day at the university.

The day the Modeling Hydrologic Systems in Elementary Science (MoHSES) exploratory Discovery Research K-12 project was officially funded by the National Science Foundation. After writing many, many grant proposals in my first three years at the university, both large and small, it was very rewarding and validating. It was great to be able to celebrate this accomplishment on a warm, sunny summer afternoon with my fantastic graduate students, Mandy Biggers and Laura Zangori.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken—and did it pay off?

As a general rule, I’m pretty risk-averse. That said, making the decision to leave the classroom, move halfway across the country with my wife Susanne for grad school, and start a family definitely pushed the limits of our collective comfort zones. Originally being from the Midwest, joining the faculty at Iowa was, in many ways, like coming back home. So yes, it paid off.

If you could have a song written about you, who would perform it, and what would it be called?

I haven’t done anything worthy of being immortalized in song. But if I ever do, I’d want Jay Farrar to title, pen, and perform it.

Tell me about any unique hobbies and interests you have.

I’m an avid gardener. One of the first things we did after moving to Iowa City was build a large vegetable garden, including deer-proof fence. Gardening is something of a family tradition and I really enjoy working outside with my 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. There are few better things in life than homegrown tomatoes in July.

Share a few of your proudest achievements from your life.

Getting hitched to my amazing wife, becoming a dad to two great kids, earning the rank of Eagle Scout through many years of scouting, and obtaining my Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.

Name five of your favorite things:

  • Short’s hamburgers
  • Running (helps with #1 above)
  • Beach vacations to Mexico's Riviera Maya
  • Purposefulness
  • Gantt charts


Cory Forbes, College of Education's Department of Teaching and Learning
Lois J. Gray, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0077


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