This project is developing, piloting, and implementing online professional development in support of inquiry, focusing on facilitation of student research. The goal is to determine what types of Web-based experiences and resources most effectively support middle school teachers in overcoming the substantial hurdles inherent in enabling students to design and conduct their own scientific experiments. The project creates and tests a series of Web-based professional development experiences for 7th and 8th grade teachers.
This project is exploring what types of web-based resources and experiences can most effectively support middle school science teachers in overcoming the substantial hurdles inherent in facilitating student research. The investigation focuses on 7th and 8th grade teachers using BirdSleuth inquiry-based science units developed with NSF funding by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The BirdSleuth curriculum is designed to engage students in authentic scientific research – making observations, collecting data, asking their own questions, drawing conclusions through research and observation, and publishing their results. We have seen that implementing genuine, open-ended inquiry projects presents formidable challenges to teachers who are not accustomed to conducting scientific research. However, BirdSleuth piloting also indicates that inquiry experiences provide motivation and excitement to science students of all ability levels, even drawing in those who are not excelling in more traditional forms of learning. Through collaboration with teachers, we are evaluating the efficacy of a new online course and a variety of web-based tools and experiences in support of teachers’ implementation of BirdSleuth investigations. Evaluation of the effectiveness of these tools and experiences will enable us to assemble permanent web-based resources in support of optimal student learning through BirdSleuth. The findings, although specific to BirdSleuth, will provide valuable insights applicable to student inquiry in other fields.