- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1758497
- First Name Karen
- Last Name Renzaglia
- Discipline Biological Sciences
Renee Lopez Swalls, Laxmi Sagwan-Barkdoll, William Browning, Ingrid Felsl, David Gibson, & Karen Renzaglia, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Inquiry instruction is an evidence-based approach to successful STEM teaching that leads to gains in knowledge and understanding of science. Few studies have assessed the impact of different approaches to authentic research engagement on teachers. In this study, we engaged 14 Master Teaching Fellows (MTFs) in two original research projects, one during a summer research immersion (open-inquiry) and the second a course-based research experience (structured-inquiry).
We addressed two questions in this work. What differences in learning gains were there in the two approaches? What differences do teachers perceive between the two research experiences in their professional growth as educators?
To better enrich our understanding of the research problem, we used a mixed methods approach (qualitative and quantitative data) to compare the outcomes of the two research experiences. Pre- and post-tests were used to assess STEM content gains. Self-assessments included open-ended surveys and comparative quantitative instruments designed to identify aspects of the two approaches that were of value for teacher professional development.
Master Teaching Fellows made significant gains in content knowledge during both experiences with greater gains for the course-based approach compared with research immersion. Overall, teachers preferred the summer research immersion (open inquiry) because they felt ownership and investment in the research project and their students would benefit due to their enhanced ability to translate process skills into classroom practices. MTFs identified benefits from course-based research (structured inquiry) that include greater confidence in using lab instrumentation and greater understanding of science knowledge. High school teachers perceived more gains from the summer research immersion, while special education teachers perceived more gains from the course-based research.
We conclude that both experiences, summer research immersion (open-inquiry) and course-based research (structured-inquiry) are valuable for STEM teachers with each offering complementary but different benefits. These findings provide insight on what type of research experience best fits the design of teacher professional development initiatives like the NSF Robert Noyce MTF Program.