Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: INSPIRE: Urban Teaching Fellows Program
Center: NCER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Johnson, Carla Awardee: University of Cincinnati
Program: Effective Instruction      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,500,000
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A090145

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop and implement a whole school, sustained, collaborative, and technology-enhanced science professional development program for elementary school teachers (grades 4–6). The program is adapted from a previously successful professional development program with middle school teachers. A national elementary science needs assessment survey of a representative sample of 7,000 elementary teachers nationwide found that 79% of them reported a lack of content knowledge and strategies to teach science as the main reason they choose not to teach it. Most (84%) felt that they were not prepared adequately by their pre-service education experience to teach science. This project is premised on the notion that building science programs at earlier stages in the educational system will improve the successful outcomes of professional development that the researchers have demonstrated at the middle school level, and will have a more lasting effect on students' preparation for science study in high school and beyond.

Project Activities: The research project will both modify the current middle school program to make it appropriate for elementary school teachers using an iterative development approach, and gather preliminary information on the effects of teacher participation in the professional development program on student outcomes. The team will modify the previously developed middle school program by incorporating the following into the elementary school program: (1) school-level leadership-building activities and the establishment of professional learning communities, (2) a specific focus on elementary school science teachers, (3) the use of technology to bring more resources into the classroom and to streamline the intervention, and (4) required teacher participation in two graduate level science courses in physics and biodiversity. After modifying the program, 72 elementary school teachers and their students will participate in a study of the effects of the professional development program on teacher and student outcomes.

Products: The products of this intervention will be a fully developed science professional development program for elementary school teachers (grades 4–6), and published reports.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Elementary schools in a large urban district in Utah will receive the program intervention.

Population: The Utah district has a very large Latino, ELL population with close to 100% poverty levels. Six schools, 72 teachers, and approximately 1,800 students in grades 4 through 6 will be recruited to participate in the study.

Intervention: A whole-school, sustained, collaborative, professional development model developed and tested for middle school science teachers will be modified to be delivered to elementary school science teachers. The model uses technology for a combination of face-to-face and distance learning experiences. Two summer institutes for teachers will be conducted. In the summer of 2009, half of the teachers will receive a course called Biodiversity and the other half will receive Physics by Inquiry. During the following summer, teachers will receive the course that they didn't get during the first summer. The summer institutes will also include coursework on culturally relevant teaching, conversational Spanish, scientific inquiry, cooperative learning, and the use of iDiscovery (a web-based system that can be used for follow-up professional development activities and peer support). Each of the summer institutes will be followed by three released-day activities and two monthly online follow-up sessions using iDiscovery. Each school in the study will receive a Polycom PVX video camera and software to enable videoconferencing with NASA and other scientists, classroom observations, and bi-monthly professional development sessions.

Research Design and Method: The modification of the middle school professional development program will rely on an iterative development process. The new elementary professional development program will undergo a process of continual refinement, including constant feedback from teacher communications and observations of teaching, and interviews and focus groups with teachers, principals, parents, and students. Teachers in six elementary schools from a large urban district in Utah will participate in the professional development program. Teachers will be followed longitudinally on several measures over multiple years. The study will measure teacher changes in attitudes and beliefs toward teaching science, teacher learning, and use of effective instructional practices. It will also measure changes in student motivation and interest in science, and knowledge of the subject. A multiple cohort, pre/post test design will be used to determine teacher and student science content knowledge gains from the INSPIRE program. Additionally, the pre/post annual assessments of students in the teachers' classes will inform the next year's iteration of the treatment.

Control Condition: None

Key Measures: Participants' perceptions will be measured using the Local Systemic Change Through Teacher Enhancement Teacher Questionnaire, used extensively with the National Science Foundation's (NSF) State Systemic Initiatives and Urban Systemic Initiatives. Teacher learning will be measured by instructor-developed pre/post assessments of content knowledge (one assessment for each course). Teacher instructional practices will be measured with another instrument used in the above NSF initiative, the Local Systemic Change Classroom Observation Protocol (LSCCOP). The interest and attitudes of students will be measured by the Discovery Model School Student Science Questionnaire (MSSQ), used with the Ohio State Systemic Initiative. Student learning outcomes will be measured through a grade level specific 25 item pre/post assessment. Organizational support and change information will be collected annually through researcher developed interviews of principals, district administrators, and parents.

Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative data collected through interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations will be analyzed to further enrich the quantitative findings and to inform iterative development and refinement process. Appropriate statistical modeling approaches will be used that best match the nature of the collected data and to measure teacher and student changes. For most hypotheses, a linear mixed-effects model (LMM), sometimes referred to a as a random-coefficients, multilevel, or hierarchical linear model, will be used.


Book chapter

Johnson, C.C. (2011). Preface: Defining Turbulence in STEM Educational Reform. In C.C. Johnson (Ed.), Secondary STEM Educational Reform (pp. vx–vxiii). New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Johnson, C.C. (2011). Targeting Turbulence: Lessons Learned—Potential Solutions to Challenges. In C.C. Johnson (Ed.), Secondary STEM Educational Reform (pp. 193–195). New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Bolshakova, V.L., Johnson, C.C., and Czerniak, C.M. (2011). “It Depends on What Science Teacher You Got': Urban Science Self–Efficacy From Teacher and Student Voices. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 6(4), 961.

Johnson, C. C. (2013). Educational Turbulence: The Influence of Macro and Micro–Policy on Science Education Reform. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24(4), 693–715.

Johnson, C.C., and Marx, S. (2009). Transformative Professional Development: A Model for Urban Science Education Reform. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20(2), 113–134.

Johnson, C.C. (2011). The Road to Culturally Relevant Science: Exploring How Teachers Navigate Change in Pedagogy. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(2): 170–198.

Johnson, C.C., Bolshakova, V.L., and Waldron, T. (2016). When Good Intentions and Reality Meet: Large–Scale Reform of Science Teaching in Urban Schools With Predominantly Latino ELL Students. Urban Education, 51(5), 476–513.

Johnson, C.C., and Fargo, J.D. (2010). Urban School Reform Enabled by Transformative Professional Development: Impact on Teacher Change and Student Learning of Science. Urban Education, 45(1): 4–29.

Johnson, C.C., and Fargo, J.D. (2014). A Study of the Impact of Transformative Professional Development on Hispanic Student Performance on State Mandated Assessments of Science in Elementary School. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 25(7), 845–859.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Teacher Quality: Mathematics and Science Education in FY 2009.