Stopping an Epidemic of Misinformation: Leveraging the K-12 Science Education System to Respond to Ebola

This project will develop resources for teachers and administrators that will provide instructional guidance for teaching about the Ebola virus and other epidemics of infectious diseases that may arise. The resources developed will include guidelines for administrators and teachers, as well as policy briefs related to teaching and learning about Ebola.

Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program supports projects that enhance learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by preK-12 students, teachers, administrators, and parents. This project will contribute to that mission by developing resources for teachers and administrators that will provide instructional guidance for teaching about the Ebola virus and other epidemics of infectious diseases that may arise. The resources to be developed will include guidelines for administrators and teachers, and these resources will be distributed both in print form and through the Web portals of project partners, including the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA), and the Council of State Science Supervisors (CSSS). Policy briefs related to teaching and learning about Ebola and will be tailored for specific organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Education Association. The informational needs of teachers and administrators will be determined through large-scale surveys of teachers and science supervisors of school districts and states. The resources developed by the project are expected to have broad impacts nationwide in helping schoolteachers and administrators respond constructively to the spread of misinformation that often accompanies outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as Ebola.

To determine the informational needs of teachers and administrators, the project will develop and administer three surveys: a teacher survey, a survey for school district science supervisors, and a survey for state science supervisors. The surveys will probe knowledge about Ebola and infectious diseases, where respondents get their information, how such information is incorporated into instruction, and what factors affect their responses. Survey items will be validated through expert review and follow-up cognitive interviews with a subset of responders. The project intends to survey 3,000 teachers and all members of NSELA and CSSS. Findings from the surveys and related interviews will be used to develop informational materials and policy briefs that can be used by teachers and districts to guide instructional practices and policies related to teaching about Ebola and related epidemics. Science teachers are uniquely positioned to counteract the spread of misinformation that often accompanies quickly emerging, science-related issues, and this project has the potential to provide much-needed guidance in providing reasoned, constructive responses.