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IES Grant

Title: Evolving Inquiry: An Experimental Test of a Science Instruction Model for Teachers in Rural, Culturally Diverse Schools
Center: NCER Year: 2005
Principal Investigator: Doll, Elizabeth Awardee: University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Program: Teaching, Teachers, and the Education Workforce      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,261,684
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305M050309

Co-Principal Investigator(s): Bonnstetter, Ron; Bruning, Roger; Horn, Christy

Purpose: Through this research project, the researchers aimed to test the potential efficacy of a technology-supported professional development program for rural fifth- through eighth-grade science teachers from two rural Nebraska educational service units (ESUs). The program is adapted for rural school populations from a program with promising results in an urban setting.

Structured Abstract


Setting: The 2 ESUs (6 and 7) serve more than 90 school districts in 12 counties and span 7,000 square miles. These districts incorporate communities in small rural towns with large numbers of poor families and recent Spanish-speaking immigrants who work in rural farm industries (e.g., meat packing and food processing plants).

Population: Student demographic data for these districts show a wide variety of ethnic concentration in particular schools, ranging between approximately one-third to approximately three-fourths minority status, primarily Hispanic, and often Spanish-speaking. In some schools, the majority of students receive free or reduced-fee lunches.

Intervention: Teachers will participate in a 3-phase, 12-month professional development sequence designed to improve their knowledge and application of biological sciences content and inquiry-based science pedagogy. In phase 1 (an ESU-based graduate seminar), teachers will acquire a common conceptual base in three areas: (1) content and instruction in the biological sciences, (2) principles of inquiry-based student learning, and (3) using systematic action research strategies (e.g., analysis of assessment data) to inform teaching and learning. In phase 2 (a field- and observation-based summer school), teachers will operationalize seminar concepts and principles to teach a summer school class and use action research to reflect on their teaching experience. Lessons learned during the summer school will be implemented fully in phase 3 through teacher-designed action research projects in inquiry learning. To bridge the distances imposed by rural communities, the professional development will be delivered through a combination of educational technology, local and project-wide learning communities, and traditional face-to-face instruction.

Research Design and Methods: There will be 72 science teachers recruited at the project's inception and randomly assigned to one of 3 conditions: treatment group 1, a delayed treatment group, and a control group. Treatment group 1 will receive professional development (PD) on evolving inquiry in phases 1 and 2. The delayed treatment group will receive PD on evolving inquiry in phases 2 and 3. Phase 1 will test the effect of PD on evolving inquiry by comparing treatment group 1 with treatment group 2.

Phase 2 will test the effect of a second year of PD on evolving inquiry (treatment group 1) by comparing its effects with a first year of PD on evolving inquiry (delayed treatment group) and will replicate the evaluation of one year of PD on evolving inquiry (delayed treatment group) by comparing it to the control group.

Pre- and post-test measures will be taken. Classrooms will be observed. Fidelity measures will be collected. Treatment group 1 teachers will be observed in their classrooms in the fall of phase 3 to examine teacher practices one year after training has been completed.

Control Condition: During the first phase of the study, teachers in the delayed treatment and control groups will receive whatever professional development their districts normally provide. In phase 2, only the control group remains without special treatment. In phase 3, an abbreviated version of PD on evolving inquiry will be provided to the teachers in the control group.

Key Measures: Primary dependent variables will include measures of knowledge (science, inquiry methods), attitudes (efficacy, expectations, acceptability), work products, and performance measures for teachers and students. Most measures will be developed for this study or adapted from other studies.

Data Analytic Strategy: Teacher and student outcome data will be analyzed using multiple regression analyses and hierarchical linear modeling. A multi-method approach (interaction logs, self-reports, interviews, focus groups, etc.) will be used to examine the impact of contextual variables on the quality of the professional development experiences and their outcomes.


ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Select Publications

Journal articles

Doll, B., Spies, R.A., Champion, A., Guerrero, C., Dooley, K., and Turner, A. (2010). The ClassMaps Survey: A Measure of Middle School Science Students' Perceptions of Classroom Characteristics. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 28(4), 338–348.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Teacher Quality: Mathematics and Science Education in FY 2005.