Assessing How Distance Learning for Teachers Can Enable Inquiry Science in Rural Classrooms

Grants and Contracts Details


The significant and growing gap in student achievement in math and science education remains a challenge for rural educators in general and particularly in the poor, rural regions of Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia. To overcome the geographic barriers within Appalachia, resources at the University of Kentucky have been used to develop a unique program of teacher training using distance learning. This program entitled Hands-On/Virtual (HOV) Physics has been piloted in targeted Appalachian Middle Schools of Southeastern Ohio, West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Virginia and Eastern Tennessee. The design combines a model of distance or electronic learning with a hands-on, inquiry approach to the instruction of middle school level physical science. The innovative nature of the courses is that they provide hands-on, inquiry based physics to rural, middle school teacher.s middle school teachers combined with ongoing instructional dialogue with university based scientists and educators. The major objective of this contextual research proposal is to assess whether students learning science in classrooms of teachers that have completed a UK Hands-On/Virtual (HOV) Physics course, perform better in meeting state and national science goals and standards than do those students who studied under the same teacher before the teacher completed this course. To date, there have been few welldesigned assessments of distance learning in regard to their efficacy, sustainability and the overall level of student achievement in the classroom. There has been virtually no research conducted on the efficacy of implementing hands-on, inquiry based science instruction using a distance learning or electronic method of delivery. The specific objectives of this research proposal are: 1) assess whether rural Appalachian teachers completing the HOV physics course will increase their understanding of physical science principles by 30%. 2) assess whether teachers will increase their use of inquiry-based instruction by 20% with ongoing distance learning instruction in the physical sciences. 3) assess whether students attending distance learning based teacher classrooms will improve their state standardized test scores by 20%. 4) assess whether annual use of technology in the science curriculum and classroom will increase by 30%. 5) determine whether enrollment will increase by 15% in higher-level, advanced science courses for rural grade 9 and 10 students that come from distance learning based middle schools. It is essential now more than ever to determine which methods are most effective for developing continuous connections among K-16 teachers, students and higher education resources and therefore provide rural students with the means of achieving excitement and interest in the learning of mathematics and science. The intellectual merit of this research project is to provide a well designed assessment of how teacher education with distance learning can increase rural student achievement in the learning of science. The broader impact of this research will provide the basis for expanding these methods so that rural K-12 teachers, university scientists and professional educators work effectively in ongoing partnerships to promote student achievement in math, science and technology and therefore achieve exciting and relevant science standards based instruction with electronic learning in rural regions such as Appalachia. The long-term outcome of this research will be to provide all students with an equal opportunity for learning math and science such that no rural child is left behind in their quest to be successful in the increasingly technological 21st century.
Effective start/end date1/1/059/30/10


  • National Science Foundation: $1,998,833.00


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