Monday, September 19, 2022

After educating Hawkeye teachers and other professionals for almost 40 years, Donald B. Yarbrough, professor emeritus of educational measurement and statistics in the department of psychological and quantitative foundations, has retired from the College of Education.

In addition to the many years of teaching in psychological and quantitative foundations, Yarbrough is also the former director of the UI Center for Evaluation and Assessment, which he founded in 1992. A noted scholar on evaluation methods, he has completed more than 200 externally funded evaluations of major health, educational, social, curriculum development, and technology infusion projects. He has also collaborated on hundreds of evaluation grant and contract proposals, including countless multi-disciplinary collaborations with colleagues across the University of Iowa. 

Living on a small family farm in Southwest Arkansas, Yarbrough’s family emphasized the importance of education. He enjoyed learning from a very early age and spent a great deal of his leisure time reading.

“By the time I was in high school, I had developed a love for math, science, and engineering. I was reading everything I could get my hands on from the school or the public library,” says Yarbrough. “I loved the opportunity to learn and the process of learning, and as it turned out, I became better and better at it.”

In college, Yarbrough started out as a biology major but quickly discovered a love for learning foreign languages. His first graduate studies focused on Germanic languages and literature, and his teaching career formally began in the public schools of West Germany in 1972. Ten years later, after defending his thesis on Educational Psychology and Research, he entered the job market and accepted a position at the University of Iowa.

In his first decade at Iowa, Yarbrough taught both undergraduate and graduate courses. He is convinced that when he taught courses like “Advanced Psychology of Reading” and “Psychology of Writing,” he was integrating scholarship that improved his teaching.

“I still love teaching and mentoring students more than anything else in my professional life and view it as my highest calling,” he says. “I view teaching as entirely in the service of the students’ growth and development.”

And it’s the many years of being able to teach at Iowa for which Yarbrough is most grateful.

“Teaching is how we help our learners create new knowledge and understanding for themselves, in ways that are useful to communities and societies. It leads to future expansion of knowledge and understanding through the students as new teachers and scholars,” he says. “Teaching is building the infrastructure for the future here in the present.” 

Some of the most memorable and impactful moments of Yarbrough’s 40-year career include collaborations with colleagues across campus as well as with school districts, agencies, and organizations at the local, state, and national levels; working with students to achieve successful milestones, including passing comprehensive examinations, defending dissertations, and publishing research papers; and watching his former students flourish in their careers.

“Don has made countless contributions to the College of Education and our department during his 40-year career at Iowa. His leadership, innovative ideas, and expertise will be greatly missed,” says Megan Foley Nicpon, former department chair of psychological and quantitative foundations.

Although Yarbrough is no longer teaching, he’s still actively involved in supervising graduate students and providing guidance for their research endeavors. He’s also still collaborating with colleagues and will be involved in a new National Resource Center that just received funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

In retirement, Yarbrough and his wife, Nükhet, plan to travel. In addition to visiting friends and family, domestically and abroad, they hope to hike, kayak, snorkel, sail, and read whenever they get the chance.