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image of a magnifying glass National Research and Development Centers

Center:

NCER

Year:

2009

Principal Investigator:

Sheridan, Susan

Grantee:

University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Program:

National Research and Development Centers [Program Details]

Award Period:

5 years

Award Amount:

$9,997,852

Goal:

R&D Center

The National Center for Research on Rural Education

Topic: Rural Education

Purpose: The National Center for Research on Rural Education (R2Ed) conducted a focused program of research on teacher professional development to improve instruction and support student achievement in reading and science in rural schools. The center also engaged in two related sets of studies: the first explored potential moderating effects of the rural context on early school success and the second investigated statistical and methodological solutions to the unique challenges posed by conducting research in rural settings. The research team at R2Ed also engaged in leadership and outreach activities to support the advancement of scientific knowledge related to rural education.

National Center for Research on Rural Education Website: http://r2ed.unl.edu/

Program Contact:
Emily J. Doolittle, Ph.D.
Education Research Analyst
National Center for Education Research Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education
Phone: 202-245-7833
Emily.Doolittle@ed.gov

The Focused Program of Research included three projects:

  • The Teachers Speak Survey Study investigated (1) variations in existing rural professional development (PD) experiences; (2) differences in PD practices between rural and non-rural settings; and (3) the potential influence of PD characteristics on teacher knowledge, perceptions, and practices in one of four instructional content areas: reading, mathematics, science inquiry, or using data-based decision making to inform reading instruction/intervention.
  • Project READERS evaluated the impact of distance-provided coaching on (1) teachers' use of differentiated reading instruction following a response-to-intervention (RTI) model and (2) their students' acquisition of reading skills in early elementary school.
  • Coaching Science Inquiry (CSI) evaluated the impact of professional development with distance-provided coaching for teaching science using explicit instruction with guided inquiry and scaffolding on teacher instructional practice and science achievement in middle and high school.

The center also engaged in two sets of supplemental studies.

  • The first set explored ecological influences and supports that may augment educational interventions and outcomes in rural schools. The goal of this work is to understand contextual influences of rurality and how they interact to influence parent engagement in education and child cognitive and social-behavioral outcomes.
  • The second set explored methodological and statistical solutions to challenges associated with the conduct of rigorous experimental research in rural schools.

The Leadership and Outreach Activities of the center included:

  • Research partnerships with rural schools throughout the nation (more than 250 partnerships were established)
  • Conferences, meetings and webinars that highlighted frontline research and fostered dialogue about its application, including the following:
  • Presentations from the nation's most prominent rural education scholars
  • Interviews in which rural scholars shared insights on opportunities, challenges, conclusions and implications drawn from decades of rigorous research

Focused Program of Research:

Teachers Speak Survey Study
The Teachers Speak national survey study investigated (1) variations in existing rural professional development (PD) experiences; (2) differences in PD practices between rural and non-rural settings; and (3) the potential influence of PD characteristics on teacher knowledge, perceptions, and practices. Respondents (268 rural and 327 non-rural teachers) answered questions about their best professional development experiences and instructional knowledge, perceptions, and practice corresponding to one of four instructional content areas: reading, mathematics, science inquiry, or using data-based decision making to inform reading instruction/intervention.

Results: Although PD characteristics, teacher perceptions, and reported classroom practices were found to be similar for rural and non-rural teachers, a larger proportion of rural teachers reported that their PD involved peer collaboration and some form of follow-up coaching. Emphasis during PD on specific instructional topics was related to: (1) increased perceptions of knowledge gained pertaining to those topics, (2) increased positive perceptions of the utility of those topics, and (3) an increased focus on those topics during classroom instruction. In addition, perceived utility of instructional topics was found to be a significant predictor of classroom practice.

Key Personnel: Todd Glover, Tanya Ihlo, Gwen Nugent, Edward Shapiro, Guy Trainin

Project READERS
Project READERS (Response to Effective Assessment-Driven Early Reading Support) was a randomized trial examining the impact of professional development with distance coaching for rural K–3 teachers' knowledge, perceptions, and practice and students' reading outcomes. Participants from 61 rural schools in eight states in the Midwest and Northeast included 207 classroom teachers, 182 school-based interventionists, and 5,466 students. Participants were randomly assigned at the school level to either professional development with distance coaching or to a business-as-usual control condition. Classroom teachers and school-based interventionists (e.g., reading specialists, school psychologists, paraprofessionals) assigned to the intervention condition participated in workshop-based training and distance, web-mediated coaching throughout the school year. Training and support for classroom teachers focused on the use of data to identify and regularly monitor individual students' reading needs and response to reading interventions. School-based interventionists received training and coaching in the use of research-based, small-group interventions. Teacher knowledge, perceptions, and practice were evaluated via pre-post surveys, video recordings of intervention implementation, and teacher logs. Student reading performance was evaluated using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS Next) and reading subtests from the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement.

Results: Treatment teachers and interventionists compared to their counterparts in the control group had a greater increase in knowledge, perceived self-efficacy, and instructional practice related to data-based decision making (teachers) and reading instruction (interventionists). Students in the treatment group showed a greater increase in reading performance as measured by DIBELS Next compared to students in the control group, and improved letter/word identification and word attack as measured by the Woodcock Johnson-III.

Key Personnel: Todd Glover, Tanya Ihlo, Edward Shapiro, Michelle Howell-Smith, Stacy Martin

Coaching Science Inquiry (CSI) in Rural Schools
This randomized controlled trial with 124 rural middle and high school science teachers across 109 schools across two states in the Midwestand examined the impact of professional development with technology-delivered follow-up coaching (compared to a business as usual control) on teacher and student inquiry knowledge, skills, self-efficacy and attitudes. Coaching Science Inquiry (CSI) infuses instruction of scientific inquiry knowledge and skills with science content (e.g., physical, life, and earth science) and is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (2013) practices of questioning, investigating, collecting data, and explaining and communicating results. Teachers in schools randomly assigned to the treatment group participated in a two-week summer institute employing evidence-based professional development practices followed by technology-delivered instructional coaching sessions led by project-based science coaches over 6–8 weeks during the school year. The coaching process focused on teacher-coach planning followed by opportunities for teachers to practice, refine, and analyze new and existing skills. Teacher inquiry knowledge, self-efficacy, beliefs and teaching behaviors were assessed pre-post using project-developed scales and coded from videotaped observations. Student inquiry knowledge and skills, attitudes toward science, and engagement were assessed pre-post using project-developed scales and the Nebraska Science Assessment (NESA) along with select items from the State Collaboratives on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS), the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) scales.

Results: The results indicate that the intervention changed teachers' beliefs, knowledge, self-efficacy and classroom practice, and that their students improved in self-efficacy, engagement, and practice in high school (and in knowledge for middle school).

Key Personnel: Gwen Nugent, Gina Kunz, Jon Pedersen, Jim Houston

Supplemental Studies

Ecological Influences and Supports

  • The Influence of Rurality and Parental Affect on Kindergarten Children's Social and Behavioral Functioning examined the role of community locale (rural versus city, suburban, and town) in the relationship between parenting practices and children's social-behavioral skills in kindergarten using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B; n = 6550).

Results: Rural children experienced parent-reported externalizing behavior problems more often than children in non-rural settings. Further, rural parents displayed less emotional support than parents in other settings. Parents' emotional supportiveness was found to account for the relationship between geographic setting and parent-reported children's social skills, such that rural parents who provided less emotional support had children with lower social skills in kindergarten.

Key Personnel: Susan Sheridan, Natalie Koziol, Brandy Clarke

  • The Impact of Rurality on Parents' Engagement and Children's Early Literacy examined the effects of living in a rural setting on parents' preschool language and literacy engagement and children's kindergarten literacy using the ECLS-B data set (n = 6550).

Results: Parents in rural settings provided less computer access for children than suburban parents during preschool, and accessed library resources less often than city or suburban parents. Rural children's kindergarten literacy scores were negatively impacted as a result, even after controlling for SES and other demographic variables. Living in a rural setting did not influence the number of books in the home nor parent language and literacy behaviors.

Key Personnel: Brandy Clarke, Natalie Koziol, Susan Sheridan

Methodological and Statistical Solutions

  • Defining and Communicating Rural considered the implications of how “rural” is defined for a study's sampling design, analysis plan, and generalizability. This work had three aims: (1) to conduct a theoretical meta-analysis of the wide variety of rural definitions used within policy and research in education and the social sciences; (2) to develop a heuristic to aid researchers in identifying a suitable definition of rural for the design, analysis and dissemination of their research studies; and (3) to conduct a secondary analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998–99 (ECLS-K) to determine the impact of the rural definition on statistical results (e.g., estimates of regression coefficients) and substantive inferences.

Key Personnel: James Bovaird, Greg Welch, Leslie Hawley, Natalie Koziol, Ann Arthur, Carina McCormick

  • Complex Models with Small Samples addressed the common mismatch between the availability of appropriate analytic techniques and the realities of applied research in rural settings. As one example, the power and flexibility of traditional structural equation modelling (SEM) methods require large samples due to SEM's use of maximum likelihood (ML) for estimating parameters. Unfortunately for rural education researchers, large samples are often difficult if not impossible to obtain. In this study the performance of traditional estimators (i.e., ML) and newer or non-traditional approaches (Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC), partial least squares (PLS), and generalized structured component analysis (GSCA)) were evaluated using empirical data from the Teachers Speak Survey Study. In addition, the performance of several estimation methods were evaluated using a Monte Carlo simulation approach to determine the analytic conditions under which each method might be of value to researchers.

Key Personnel: James Bovaird, Frances Chumney, Chaorong Wu

Key Personnel: James Bovaird

  • Modeling Context with Finite Rural Populations investigated a broader application of the "finite population correction" (fpc) and its potential to maximize the information provided by small rural samples. In rural contexts, it is possible to obtain proportionally large samples or near-census sampling when the size of the population, while small, is finite. Therefore, the fpc appears to be particularly beneficial for rural education research because it reduces the number of contexts that need to be sampled or studied. This line of inquiry used data from the Kansas Vision for School Readiness project to investigate how finite family, school, and community contextual factors can be incorporated into an evaluation of rural (versus urban) children's preparation for entering school.

Key Personnel: James Bovaird, Chaorong Wu

Publications:

Glover, T. A., Nugent, G. C., Chumney, F. L., Ihlo, T., Shapiro, E. S., Guard, K., Koziol, N., & Bovaird, J. (2016). Investigating rural teachers' professional development, instructional knowledge, and classroom practice. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 31(3), 1–16.

Hawley, L. R., Koziol, N. A., Bovaird, J. A., McCormick, C. M., Welch, G. W., Arthur, A. M., & Bash, K. (2016). Defining and describing rural: Implications for rural special education research and policy. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 35, 3–11.

Koziol, N. A., Arthur, A. M., Hawley, L. R., Bovaird, J. A., Bash, K. L., McCormick, C., & Welch, G. W. (2015). Identifying, analyzing, and communicating rural: A quantitative perspective. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 30 (4), 1–14.

Nugent, G. C., Kunz, G., Houston, J., Kalutskaya, I., Wu, C., Pederson, J., Lee, S. C., DeChenne, S. E., Luo, L., & Berry, B. (under revision). The effectiveness of science instructional coaching in rural middle and high school. Journal of Educational Psychology.

Semke, C. A., & Sheridan, S. M. (2012). Family–school connections in rural educational settings: A systematic review of the empirical literature. School Community Journal, 22(1), 21–48.

Sheridan, S. M., Koziol, N. A., Clarke, B. L., Rispoli, K. M., & Coutts, M. J. (2014). The influence of rurality and parental affect on kindergarten children's social and behavioral functioning. Early Education and Development, 25, 1057–1082. doi:10.1080/10409289.2014.896682

White, A. S., Howell Smith, M., Kunz, G. M., & Nugent, G. C. (in submission). Active ingredients of instructional coaching: Developing a conceptual framework. Teaching and Teacher Education.

Books

Nugent, G. C., Kunz, G. M., Sheridan, S. M., Glover, T. A., & Knoche, L. L. (Eds.), Rural education research in the United States: State of the science and emerging directions. New York, NY: Springer.

Book Chapters

Beesley, A., & Sheridan, S. M. (2017). Future directions for rural education research: A commentary and call to action. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research: State of the science and emerging directions (pp. 291–298). New York, NY: Springer.

Bovaird, J. A., & Bash, K. L. (2017). Methodology challenges and cutting edge designs for rural education research. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research in the United States: State of the science and emerging directions (pp. 95–122). New York, NY: Springer.

Clarke, B. L., Koziol, N. A., & Sheridan, S. M. (2017). The effects of rurality on parents' engagement in children's early literacy. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research: State of the science and emerging directions (pp. 231–250). New York, NY: Springer.

Glover, T. A. (2017). Investigating teacher professional development with distance coaching to promote students' response to reading interventions in rural schools. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research in the United States: State of the science and emerging directions (pp. 167–180). New York, NY: Springer.

Hawley, L. R., Koziol, N. A., & Bovaird, J. A. (2017). Defining and communicating rural. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research in the United States: State of the science and emerging directions (pp. 31–54). New York, NY: Springer.

Knoche, L. L., & Davis, D. L. (2017). Rural language and literacy connections: An integrated approach to supporting low-income preschool children's language and literacy development. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research in the United States: State of the science and emerging directions (pp. 181–202). New York, NY: Springer.

Kunz, G. M., Buffington, P., Schroeder, C. P., Green, R., Mahaffey, R., Widner, J., Howell Smith, M., & Hellwege, M. (2017). Partnership-based approaches in rural education research. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research in the United States: State of the science and emerging directions (pp. 55–76). New York, NY: Springer.

Nugent, G. C., Kunz, G. M., Houston, J., Kalutskaya, I., & Pedersen, J. (2017). The effectiveness of e-coaching in rural science classrooms. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research in the United States: State of the science and emerging directions (pp. 123–144). New York, NY: Springer.

Nugent, G. C., Kunz, G. M., Sheridan, S. M., Hellwege, M., & O'Connor, M. (2017). Multidisciplinary perspectives to advance rural education research. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research in the United States: State of the science and emerging directions (p. 15–27). New York, NY: Springer.

Sheridan, S. M., Kunz, G. M., Holmes, S., & Witte, A. (2017). Family–school partnerships in rural communities: Benefits, exemplars, and future research. In G. C. Nugent, G. M. Kunz, S. M. Sheridan, T. A. Glover, & L. L. Knoche (Eds.), Rural education research: State of the science and emerging directions (pp. 269–291). New York, NY: Springer.

Witte, A. L., & Sheridan, S. M. (2011). Family engagement in rural schools. In S. Redding, M. Murphy, & P. Sheley (Eds.), Handbook on family and community engagement (pp. 153–156). Lincoln, IL: Academic Development Institute/Center on Innovation and Improvement.

Working Papers:

Clarke, B. L. (2014). Rurality and reading readiness: The mediating role of parent engagement (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-1). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Coutts, M. J., Holmes, S. R., Smith, T. E., & Sheridan, S. M. (2013). Rural education and specialized services: An introduction to conjoint behavioral consultation via distance delivery (CBC-D) (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2013-3). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

DeChenne, S., Nugent, G., Kunz, G., Luo, L., Berry, B., Craven, K., & Riggs, A. (2014). Coaching in a science, technology, engineering, and math professional development experience: A case study (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-7). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Glover, T. A., & Ihlo, T. (2014). Project READERS: An evaluation of rural professional development with distance coaching in response to intervention and early reading supports (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-3). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Glover, T. A., Ihlo, T., Nugent, G. C., Trainin, G., & Shapiro, E. S. (2014). The influence of rural professional development characteristics on teacher perceived knowledge and practice (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-2). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Hellwege, M. A., O'Connor, M. A., Nugent, G. C., Kunz, G. M., & Sheridan, S. M. (2013). Advancing rural education research: Importance of interdisciplinary research partnerships (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2013-2). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Holmes, S. R., Witte, A. L., Coutts, M. J., Smith, T. E., Sheridan, S. M., & Kunz, G. M. (2013). Supporting family–school partnerships in rural communities: Preliminary results of a randomized trial (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2013-5). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Kunz, G. M., Nugent, G. C., Glover, T. A., Knoche, L. L., Hayden, B., Olson, M., Smith, P., Wistrand, P., & Knapp, B. (2014). Coaching as a form of professional development to support rural teachers (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-10). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Kunz, G. M., Nugent, G. C., Pedersen, J. E., DeChenne, S. E., & Houston, J. (2013). Meeting rural science teachers' needs: Professional development with ongoing technology-delivered instructional coaching (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2013-8). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Kunz, G. M., White, A., Howell Smith, M., & Nugent, G. C. (2014). Coaching science inquiry: Validating a strengths-based approach to coaching (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-9). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Lee, S. C., DeChenne, S. E., Nugent, G. C., Kunz, G. M., & Houston, J. (2014). Case study: Impact of instructional coaching on science teachers' inquiry-based instruction in rural schools (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-13). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Lee, S. C., Nugent, G. C., & Kunz, G. M. (2014). Coaching for sustainability: Distance-based peer coaching science inquiry in rural schools (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-11). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Moen, A. L., Holmes, S. R., Bhatia, S. A., & Sheridan, S. M. (2013). Mental health challenges and parenting attributes in a rural Early Head Start sample (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2013-6). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Nugent, G. C., Kunz, G., Houston, J., Kalutskaya, I., Wu, C., Pedersen, J., Lee, S. C. DeChenne, S. E., Luo, L., & Berry, B. (2016). The effectiveness of technology-delivered science instructional coaching in middle and high school (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2016-1). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Nugent, G., Kunz, G., Pedersen, J., Houston, J., Lee, S., Hall, M., Hayden, B., & Kendall, S. (2014). CSI: Coaching science inquiry in rural schools update (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-12). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Nugent, G., Pedersen, J., Welch, G., & Bovaird, J. (2014). Development and validation of an instrument to measure teacher knowledge of inquiry (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014-14). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

White, A. S., Howell Smith, M., Kunz, G. M., & Nugent, G. C. (2015). Active ingredients of instructional coaching: Developing a conceptual framework (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2015-3). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

White, A. S., Kunz, G. M., Whitham, R., Houston, J., & Nugent, G. C. (2015). Guided science inquiry with students with special education needs (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2015-1). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu

Witte, A. L., & Sheridan, S. M. (2011). Family engagement in rural schools (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2011-2). Retrieved from r2ed.unl.edu


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