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Exploring Teacher Influences on Student Success in Online Biology


Description: This project focuses on variations in outcomes for students taking Biology online with the Florida Virtual School. Significant attention has been paid to the importance of high-quality instruction and the fact that the specific instructional practices used by teachers vary, which in turn affects student outcomes. But much of the research on teacher impacts has focused on face-to-face instruction. There are reasons to believe that online teachers may have less overall influence on student outcomes than those who teach face-to-face. For example, online courses are often more highly structured than face-to-face courses, with multiple instructors teaching the same course using the same materials, assignments, and assessments. This high level of structure could lead to low variation in teacher effects. This study seeks to measure the amount of teacher variation in student outcomes and examine the extent to which that variation is correlated with observable teacher characteristics such as experience, education, or credentials.

Research Questions: The proposed study will be guided by the following research questions.

  1. To what extent do Florida Virtual School students' exam scores, pace of completion, and rate of completion for Biology vary across teachers?
  2. For outcomes with considerable between-teacher variability, which observable teacher characteristics, such as years of experience and certification, are associated with each student outcome?

Study Design: The study will use a two-level hierarchical linear model with students nested within teachers. Level one, the student level, will use the end of the semester exam scores, completion of the course, and time to completion as outcomes of interest with each student's prior achievement and demographics as covariates. Level two, the teacher level, will include covariates such as years of experience, credential, and education.

Projected Release Date: Fall, 2021

Partnership or Research Alliance: FLVS Partnership on Student Success in Online Learning

Related Products: Making Connections report

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:
Dr. John Hughes
Florida State University