Remembering Michael Piburn, Professor Emeritus


Erik Ketcherside

Michael Piburn’s social media pages are rich with photos of what he loved: cactuses and hollyhocks in bloom, sunsets over the Phoenix dessert, his many friends and children of friends, and glimpses of life at home and evenings out with his wife, Dale.

Michael Dee Piburn passed away on June 22 after a brief illness. He was 80. From 1989 to 2004 he was a professor of science education at Mary Lou Fulton College of Education. Piburn also served as the college’s associate dean for research.

Piburn came to ASU after appointments at Princeton and Rutgers universities, and at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, where he joined the faculty to be near his wife, Dale Baker, who was director of secondary education. They joined the ASU faculty together in 1989, with Baker accepting the post of interim department chair of curriculum and instruction. Together, they edited the Journal in Research in Science Teaching, and Baker’s 2016 book, "Understanding Girls: Quantitative and Qualitative Research," bears the dedication, “... to my husband, Dr. Michael Dee Piburn. His love and support have made my career possible.” Upon retirement and his status as Professor Emeritus, Piburn became a program officer at the National Science Foundation.

Piburn received his PhD in geology from Princeton in 1967, and the research that followed took him to Mexico, Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Costa Rica and Turkey. At ASU, his research included visualization on the Hidden Earth Project, and in geoscience and science teacher education. His most well-known work, the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol for measuring practices in science teaching, has been translated for use in hundreds of countries. Earlier in his career, he explored moral reasoning and propositional logic in the context of science education.

Piburn’s research has been recognized with awards from NARST, a global organization for improving science teaching and learning through research; and the Northern Rocky Mountain Educational Research Association. He also received the Professional Research Award from the Alumni Association of Rutgers University.

Michael PIburn described himself as a Westerner who loved to hunt, fish, camp, hike and ski. He leaves behind his wife of 34 years, MLFTC Professor Emerita Dale Baker; a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.