This study will investigate factors influencing teacher change after professional learning (PL) experiences and will examine the extent to which modest supports for science and engineering teaching in grades 3-5 sustain PL outcomes over the long term, such as increases in instructional time devoted to science, teacher self-efficacy in science, and teacher use of reform-oriented instructional strategies aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.
Investigating How Combining Intensive Professional Development and Modest Support Affects Rural Elementary Teachers’ Science and Engineering Practice
This study will investigate factors influencing teacher change after professional learning (PL) experiences and will examine the extent to which modest supports for science and engineering teaching in grades 3-5 sustain PL outcomes over the long term. One hundred eighty elementary teachers situated in small, rural school districts will be recruited for the study, bringing together 45 teachers from four states: North Dakota, California, Montana, and Wyoming. The teachers will participate in intensive online PL over the span of 5 days. After completing the initial PL, teachers will engage in modest electronic supports including a half-day refresher session the year after the initial PL, virtual meetings, social media connections among participating teachers, and access to archived Webinars on a range of topics related to teaching elementary school science. Modest support for replacement of consumable supplies needed for hands-on classroom engineering tasks will also be provided. The project will examine the extent to which these modest supports individually and collectively foster the sustainability of PL outcomes in terms of increases in instructional time devoted to science, teacher self-efficacy in science, and teacher use of reform-oriented instructional strategies aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. The effects of contextual factors on sustainability of PL outcomes will also be investigated.
This longitudinal study will address four research objectives: (1) assessing the extent to which an intense 5-day science and engineering PL event impacts teachers’ knowledge and self-efficacy in science; (2) observing the effectiveness of modest supports on teachers’ self-efficacy in science and engineering, on teachers’ use of inquiry-based instructional strategies, and on the sustainability of PL outcomes, including instructional time in science and engineering; (3) documenting the effectiveness of intense PL, followed by modest supports, on teachers’ capacities to deliver engineering instruction, and specifically their integration of engineering practices; and (4) capturing the outcomes of science and engineering instruction delivered by teachers after intense PL and modest supports, as shown by student achievement. The three-year mixed-methods research design will collect quantitative and qualitative data from multiple sources, including teacher surveys, teacher interviews, and classroom observations, plus measures of student learning. Quantitative data will be analyzed using hierarchical modeling to examine growth rates after the initial PL and the change in growth after the provision of modest supports. Qualitative data including instructional logs will be analyzed independently and together with the quantitative survey data for triangulation purposes. These data will be analyzed by individual teacher, by grade level, by school, by district, and by state. Together, these data will enable the project team to address the project's research objectives, which focus on the persistence of PL outcomes in science and engineering, the extent to which teachers make use of various supports and which supports are critical for attaining meaningful outcomes.