PlantingScience: Digging Deeper Together - A Model for Collaborative Teacher/Scientist Professional Development

This project will design, develop, and test a new professional development (PD) model for high school biology teachers that focuses on plant biology, an area of biology that teachers feel less prepared to teach. The new PD model will bring teachers and scientists together, in-person and online, to guide students in conducting authentic science investigations and to reflect on instructional practices and student learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1502892
Funding Period: 
Thursday, October 1, 2015 to Monday, September 30, 2019
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This project will design, develop, and test a new professional development (PD) model for high school biology teachers that focuses on plant biology, an area of biology that teachers feel less prepared to teach. The new PD model will bring teachers and scientists together, in-person and online, to guide students in conducting authentic science investigations and to reflect on instructional practices and student learning. The project will also develop and test the outcomes of a summer institute for teachers and a website that will support the online mentoring of students and the professional development of teachers. Outcomes of the project will include the development of a facilitation guide for the teacher professional development model, a website to support student mentoring and teacher professional development, a series of resources for teachers and scientists to use in working with students, and empirical evidence of the success of the new professional development model.

This full research and development project will employ a pre-test/post-test control group design to test the efficacy of a professional development model for high school biology teachers. The professional development model is grounded in a theory of action based on the premise that when teachers are engaged with scientists and students in a technology-enabled learning community, students will demonstrate higher levels of achievement than those using more traditional instructional materials and methodologies. The means of post-intervention outcome measures will be compared across treatment and comparison groups in a cluster-randomized trial where teachers will be randomly assigned to treatment groups. The study will recruit a nation-wide sample to ensure that participants represent a wide array of geographic and demographic contexts, with preference given to Title 1 schools. The research questions are: a) To what extent does participation in the Digging Deeper community of teachers and scientists affect teacher knowledge and practices? b) To what extent does participation in the Digging Deeper community of teachers and scientists affect scientists? quality of mentorship and teaching? And c) To what extent does student use of the online program and participation in the learning community with scientist mentors affect student learning? Instruments will be developed or adapted to measure relevant student and teacher knowledge, student motivation, and teacher practices. Computer-mediated discourse analysis will be used over the course of the study to track online interactions among students, teachers, and science mentors.