Roger Bruning, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Ron Bonnstetter, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Beth Doll, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (PI)
Christy Horn, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Abstract: This poster describes the professional development model used in the Inspiring Inquiry project. Inspiring Inquiry is a first-year IES funded project that is responding to the particular challenges in rural science education. Rural teachers often lack appropriate backgrounds in science content and teaching methods at the very time when science standards are requiring more rigorous instruction. Inspiring Inquiry is testing a three-phase professional development model designed to improve rural teachers' knowledge and application of inquiry-based science pedagogy. In Phase 1, a Spring Seminar, teachers acquire a common conceptual base in key principles of inquiry-based student learning and using systematic action research strategies to inform teaching and learning. In Phase 2 - a field- and observation-based summer school - teachers receive guided practice in teaching inquiry-based science to 5th-8th grade students and use action research to reflect on their teaching experience. Teachers then transfer their skills and knowledge to their regular teaching assignments in Phase 3 through teacher-designed action research projects in inquiry learning. A special challenge faced by the Inspiring Inquiry project is the delivery of this professional development program in the face of the distances, isolation, and organizational barriers imposed by the rural setting. The project therefore also is testing approaches by which educational technology, local and project-wide learning communities, and agency partnerships can be used to address issues posed by teacher schedules, travel distances, differing administrative regulations, and related factors.