Mason Kuhn

Mason Kuhn
Major/Job Title:
Associate Professor
Charles City, Iowa

Mason Kuhn

How many years have you been working at UNI?

Briefly describe your educational background.
BA - Elementary Education - Coe College
MA - Science Education - Walden University
MA - Special Education - University of North Dakota
EdD - Curriculum and Instruction - University of Northern Iowa

Briefly describe your career background.
I spent 15 years as an elementary classroom teacher. I started my career as a 5th-grade science teacher in Houston, Texas. I taught at a school that had a high percentage of students who had experienced an unnatural amount of trauma in their lives. However, I absolutely loved teaching there. Those kids and teachers taught me much more than I taught them. In fact, I published an autoethnography in a qualitative research journal called "Shut up and Listen!" where I reflected on my experience at that school. I met my partner Lori there, and we both wanted to try someplace new, so we moved to San Diego for a year. I taught 4th-grade math and science at a school with similar demographics as the school taught in Houston. Then we decided to move to Iowa, where I taught 3rd grade in Charles City for two years, and then I taught 4th grade in the Waverly-Shell Rock School District for seven years.

Why did you choose this career path?
I love to teach! Helping students realize that science isn't that scary or that they just need to believe in themselves drives me. I think I have this drive because I wasn't the best student, but I was lucky enough to have a few fantastic teachers in upper-elementary and middle school who impacted me and changed the way I looked at school.

What brought you to UNI?
UNI is one of the top universities in the country for producing quality teachers. Our college of education is significant, and I wanted to be at a place where I could have the opportunity to influence as many future teachers as I could. Also, the College of Education values quality teaching from their staff, which is important to me.

What's your favorite part about UNI?
The students and the staff. The students want to be good teachers, and they want to learn from us. Plus, the staff that I work with are incredible. No egos, and we all are focused on providing the best opportunity we can for our students.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Winning the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and meeting President Obama in the White House.

If involved in research, what is your area(s) of interest, and what drove your interest in this area?
My research focuses on how teachers use dialogic feedback (a way of promoting student-to-student discussion to solve problems) in elementary science classrooms. I am focused on this area of research because when I was a classroom teacher, I observed how powerful peer argumentation could be. In addition, my colleagues and I recently published an article about the correlation between teachers' understanding of how knowledge is created in science and their ability to use dialogic feedback in their science lessons.

What does being student-focused mean to you?
I seldom lecture for an entire lesson. Instead, I try to pose a problem, provide multiple ideas, and ask students to evaluate the strength of the evidence behind those ideas. I keep a mental timer while I teach, and I try to keep my talk and the student talk close to equal.

We talk about helping students realize or even exceed their expectations and potential. What does it mean to you to be part of that process and see the outcome?
Some of my favorite moments at UNI have been when former students reach out to me and share how they have taken ideas from my class and applied them in their teaching.

What do you hope students learn from you?
To understand how important it is to be a good teacher and how they can impact people's lives.

What advice do you have for prospective/current students to make the most of their time at UNI?
Take advantage of every opportunity you can. Join clubs, try sports, travel, talk to new people, and don't be afraid of a new experience.