Peter A. Rubba

Peter A. Rubba

Professor Emeritus of
Science Education,
College of Education

Retired Director of
Academic Programs,
Penn State World Campus


Pete's career as a faculty member and administrator at Penn State spanned 27 years. Over the 11 years prior to retiring in 2011, Pete served as director of academic programs for the World Campus - Penn State's online/distance campus <>. Initially, he oversaw all World Campus programming. Starting in 2009, as a result of World Campus growth, he focused on graduate programs.

As director of academic programs, Pete was responsible for building the curriculum of academic degrees and certificates offered online to an external audience in partnership with Penn State academic units. Working with other Outreach units (e.g., Marketing Research, Marketing, and Instructional Design and Development), academic units across the other 23 campuses, and a team of World Campus program managers, a systematic and project management-based approach was developed and implemented that grew World Campus offerings from eight programs to over 80 during his tenure. Concurrently, World Campus enrollments grew rapidly. In 2011 The Best Colleges ranked World Campus as the #1 online institution, and the Sloan Consortium recognized it for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Education.

Pete's World Campus responsibilities also included leading the Program Planning and Management, and Evaluation units, and coordination with faculty development and student services. He convened the World Campus Strategic Management Group, which deliberated on strategic matters including enrollment and financial goals, and he represented the World Campus on academic affairs-related Outreach and University committees, such as the Graduate School Task Force on Professional Master's Degrees, and the University Task Force on World Campus Faculty Capacity. Pete also was an ex officio member of the University’s Graduate Council.

Pete was a participant and presenter on distance education at Sloan Foundation ALN (Asynchronous Learning Network) Summer Research Conferences, and ALN, CADE and WCET annual meetings, and represented Penn State at ADE, Excelsior President's Forums and Aslanian Group Seminars. He attended a National Science Foundation sponsored summer leadership institute on program evaluation at The Evaluation Center (Western Michigan University) in 2000, and “Assessing and Refining Your Leadership Style: A Program on Leadership for Senior Executives” offered by the Center on Management Research in Cambridge, MA in 2006. Pete was recognized by Penn State for his work in distance education with the World Campus Leadership Award in 2001, the Penn State Outreach Vice President's Award for Leadership in 2010, and in 2016, five years after retiring, with the Penn State Dubin Pioneer Award in Online Education.

Prior to joining World Campus, Pete was a science education faculty member in the College of Education for 16 years (1984-2000). During the last six of those years, he served as head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (C&I), which is home to the University's two major teacher education programs (i.e., elementary teacher education, secondary teacher education) and nationally ranked graduate programs for educators in areas such as language and literacy education, mathematics education, science education, and social studies education. While head of C&I, the Holmes professional development school consortium model of teacher education was adopted in cooperation with the State College Area School District. Pete co-chaired the Central Pennsylvania Holmes Local Partnership Steering Committee with the district’s superintendent. He also served on the College of Education Strategic Planning Committee, the dean’s Executive Committee, and the Professional Certification Coordinating Council for Teacher Education.

Pete came to Penn State in 1984 to serve as the first director of the Center for Education in Science, Technology and Society and associate professor of science education. Between 1988 and 1992 he was Professor-in-Charge of Science Education, and from 1993 to 1995 a Continuing Education Fellow in the College of Education. Pete was tenured at Penn State in 1988 and promoted to professor in 1992.

Prior to that, from 1976 through 1984, Pete was on the Science and Environmental Education faculty in the College of Education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he earned tenure and associate professor rank. Across his faculty career, Pete taught undergraduate science teaching and learning courses for prospective secondary science teachers, and graduate courses in science education and education research design and methodology. He also taught in the Med-Prep Program at SIU-C (a medical school preparation program for students with non-traditional baccalaureate preparation). Across his career Pete mentored over a dozen doctoral students and a significant number of master’s degree students.

Pete holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Ashland College (now Ashland University). Both of his graduate degrees are from Indiana University (Bloomington) - an M.A. in History and Philosophy of Science and an Ed.D. in Science Education. He taught chemistry, general science, and physics in the Hillsdale School District in north-central Ohio during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Pete’s research and scholarship focused on K-12 student and teacher understanding of the nature of science, K-12 implementation of STS (Science-Technology-Society) education, and science teacher development in STS education. He published widely in these and related areas, and developed a number of research instruments on the nature of science and technology that continue to be widely used. Pete was the founding editor of the AETS (Association for the Education of Teachers of Science - now the Association for Science Teacher Education/ASTE) Annual Meeting Proceedings from 1996 through 2002, which were published online. He was a frequent presenter at national and state level professional meetings in science education, as well as at science teacher professional development programs and workshops. While a faculty member, Pete directed over a dozen funded projects that had complementary science teacher development and research components, from agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and Eisenhower Program, as well as grants from the GTE Education Foundation, Apple Computer, and AT&T.

A GTE award provided fellowships for graduate students from under-represented groups, and through an AT&T award a master’s degree was offered to elementary teachers in rural areas of northwest Pennsylvania that included the use of distance education technology. When in the early 1990s the Reading School District requested assistance from Penn State to improve science instruction, Pete was asked to design and deliver a program under PA Department of Education  funding. An early 1990s elementary teacher development and research project funded by the National Science Foundation used teacher development of curriculum materials based on the learning cycle instructional strategy as a learning vehicle. A mid-1990s teacher development and research project funded by the National Science Foundation resulted in the first curriculum unit on Global Atmospheric Change for middle and high school available on the Web. These instructional materials were co-authored and field tested by science teachers. These and other science education resources that continue to be frequently requested are available online at <>.

As President of AETS (1993-94), Pete led the development of the organization’s first strategic plan under a grant from Apple Computer. He also served as a member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Committee on Early Adolescence Science Standards, a member of the AETS Board of Directors, and the National Science Teachers Association Board of Directors. Across his career, he reviewed manuscripts for the International Journal of Instruction, International Journal of Science Education, Journal of Research in Science Education, Journal of Science Teacher Education, School Science and Mathematics, and Science Education. Between 1995 and 1999, Pete served as the project evaluator for the West Virginia K-12 RuralNet Project, a project that wired West Virginia schools for Web access and provided related teacher professional development.

(Updated May 2020)