Ghanaian student drawn to world-class programs and reputation of Iowa as a research university
Friday, September 1, 2023

Eric Akuoko says the College of Education has provided him with the foundation to be an impactful researcher and scholar in education.

“I’ve had all the support and mentoring that I need to become the researcher and scholar that I have always envisioned,” says Akuoko.

Akuoko is a doctoral candidate in science education and a Master of Arts candidate in educational measurement and statistics from Kumasi, Ghana. He will complete his doctorate in December 2023.

His research explores how epistemic tools – strategies for cognition and knowledge – are utilized in science classrooms and the impact these tools have on learning. His research also investigates the relationship between teacher belief systems and knowledge development in science classrooms.

“My major research area explores how epistemic orientation and the values espoused by a teacher influence the type of classroom environment they create in a science classrooms,” says Akuoko. “So, your theoretical orientation as a teacher, your belief systems, your values, could dictate the kind of classroom environment that a teacher creates for science learning.”

Akuoko was drawn to Iowa because of its reputation as a research university.

Before coming to the College of Education, Akuoko trained as a teacher in Ghana, and he received his undergraduate degree in science education from the University of Cape Coast. He also holds a Master of Philosophy in science education from another Ghanaian university, the University of Education, Winneba.

Akuoko says he brings a unique perspective to the college because of his international teaching experience. He has more than a decade of K-12 teaching experience in biology and integrated science in Ghana and the U.S. He also has experience teaching A-level biology in the United Kingdom.

“My academic and professional backgrounds have been very influential in bringing out innovative ideas and shaping classroom discourse in the College of Education,” Akuoko said. “With a lot of experience as an educator, both from the Ghanaian standpoint and the American perspective, I bring a mix of contemporary and practiced-based skills.”

In his time at Iowa, Akuoko has received several honors for his research. He was one of the recipients of the 2022 Stanley Award for International Research. He was also a 2023 recipient of the Southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education award from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. This past summer, Akuoko presented data for his dissertation in South Africa and received feedback from mentors and colleagues.

Akuoko’s studies have been supported with the Albert Hieronymus and Family Scholarship. The fund supports graduate students with experience and an interest in research or innovation to improve the field of education.

With the funds, Akuoko was able to buy equipment to work on his dissertation, including his MacBook Pro and audio recorder.

“The funding has been really helpful in getting the necessary equipment for easy data collection and analysis,” says Akuoko.

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See more from the the 2022-23 Annual Report.