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) is conducting 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 is also engaged in two related sets of studies: the first explores potential moderating effects of the rural context on early school success and the second investigates statistical and methodological solutions to the unique challenges posed by conducting research in rural settings. The research team at R2Ed is 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: 202-219-1201
Emily.Doolittle@ed.gov

The Focused Program of Research includes three projects:

  • The Teachers Speak Survey Study investigates (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 evaluates 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) evaluates 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 is also engaged in two sets of supplemental studies.

  • The first set explores 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 explores 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 include:

  • Research partnerships with rural schools throughout the nation (currently, more than 250 partnerships have been established)
  • Conferences, meetings and webinars that highlight frontline research and foster dialogue about its application, including the following:
  • Presentations from the nation's most prominent rural education scholars
  • Interviews in which rural scholars share 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 investigates (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) is 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: Data analyses are still in progress.

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 119 rural middle and high school science teachers across 109 schools in Nebraska examines 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: Data analyses are still in progress.

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 examines 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 examines 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 considers the implications of how “rural” is defined for a study's sampling design, analysis plan, and generalizability. This work has 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 addresses 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)) are evaluated using empirical data from the Teachers Speak Survey Study. In addition, the performance of several estimation methods are 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 investigates 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 uses data from the Kansas Vision for School Readiness project (Bovaird, Stuber, and Martinez, 2005) 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:

Sheridan, S. M., Koziol, N. A., Clarke, B. L., Rispoli, K. M., & Coutts, M. J. (2014). The influence of rurality and the role of parental affect on kindergarten children's social and behavioral functioning. Early Education and Development. Advance online publication. doi:10. 1080/10409289.2014.896682

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.

Working Papers:

Clarke, B. L. (2014). Rurality and reading readiness: The mediating role of parent engagement (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2014–1). Retrieved from the National Center for Research on Rural Education.

DeChenne, S., Nugent, G. C., Kunz, G. M., 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 the National Center for Research on Rural Education.

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 the National Center for Research on Rural Education

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 the National Center for Research on Rural Education.  

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 the National Center for Research on Rural Education.

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 the National Center for Research on Rural Education.

Semke C. A., & Sheridan, S. M. (2011). Family-school connections in rural educational settings: A systematic review of the empirical literature (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2011–1).

Smith, T. E., Myers, Z. R., Moen, A. L., Kim, E. M., & Sheridan, S. M. (2013). A quantitative synthesis of family engagement interventions: A preliminary examination in rural context (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2013–7). Retrieved from the National Center for Research on Rural Education.

Witte, A. L., Coutts, M. J., Holmes, S. R., & Sheridan, S. M. (2013). The impact of teacher motivation for intervention on rural student behavioral outcomes (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2013–4). Retrieved from the National Center for Research on Rural Education.

Witte A. L., & Sheridan, S. M. (2011). Family engagement in rural schools (R2Ed Working Paper No. 2011–2). Retrieved from the National Center for Research on Rural Education.


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