This project will develop, evaluate, and compare the effectiveness of newly-designed online learning platform with traditional face-to-face PD in supporting rural high school science teachers' implementation of an existing biology curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Rural school districts in the US face unique challenges: isolation in small farm communities, significant distances between communities, minimal funding, and low teacher salaries. They also serve high numbers of diverse and low-income students, who deserve equitable access to high quality science learning opportunities. Effective online professional development (PD) is needed for teachers working in isolated rural communities where high quality face-to-face PD may be economically impractical for districts to offer. This project will develop, evaluate, and compare the effectiveness of newly-designed online learning platform with traditional face-to-face PD in supporting rural high school science teachers' implementation of an existing biology curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The online learning platform will be modeled after successful face-to-face PD features: (1) job-embedded - learning occurs within the context of teachers' classroom instruction, (2) collaborative - teachers share experiences in implementing new practices, and (3) content-specific - teachers develop disciplinary content and instructional practices that support students' understanding of science. Once developed and refined, the online PD platform can be used broadly across other contexts and content areas.
Over a three year period, this project will develop, evaluate, and then compare an online PD platform for supporting rural science teachers in implementing the Towards High School Biology (THSB) curriculum with a traditional face-to-face PD. In year one, the research team will iteratively develop the online platform and adapt the already developed face-to-face PD for implementing THSB to an online format. Utilizing Curator, a social learning platform developed by HT2Labs, project researchers will embed teacher learning that is situated with their own classroom contexts, is asynchronously and synchronously collaborative, and is focused on the THSB curriculum content. In years two and three, forty eight rural middle-school science educators will be recruited from southwest Kansas and randomly assigned to online PD (treatment) or face-to-face PD (comparison). Using mixed methodology, the project will examine if differences exist between the conditions in regards to teacher content knowledge, teacher self-efficacy in using new practices, teacher classroom practices, and student learning outcomes. It is hypothesized that there should be no differences between conditions in fostering successful implementation of evidence-based science practices and student outcomes, demonstrating the success of an online modality to support deep conceptual change in teachers' instructional practices. Furthermore, lessons learned in developing and investigating a science comprehensive online learning platform can inform application to other disciplinary content (e.g., physics, chemistry, Earth and space sciences) and across other grade level and school contexts.