Fostering Science Education in an Online Environment: Are We

Fostering Science Education
in an Online Environment:
Are We There Yet?
By Kathleen S. Davis and Will Snyder
Today, science teachers continue to seek ways to improve their instruction and become credentialed DV³KLJKO\TXDOL¿HG´LQWKHLU¿HOG
This paper describes how science and science education faculty at the University of Massachusetts and veteran K–12 science teachers, with funding from the National Science Foundation, designed Science Education Online (SEO)—an online, graduate-­
level program for elementary and middle school science teachers that fosters learning of science DQGVFLHQFHWHDFKLQJ7KH6(2
program consists of 2 courses in educational pedagogy and 12 FRQWHQWEDVHGFRXUVHV7KURXJK
data collected in the form of course evaluations, student surveys, and interviews, teachers described how the hands-­on, inquiry-­based activities, interaction with their peers and instructors, and links to classroom practice embedded in each of the online courses enabled them to increase their subject matter knowledge and understandings of HIIHFWLYHWHDFKLQJ'DWDLQGLFDWH
that SEO courses meet the university’s standards for high-­
quality instruction and purposeful learning opportunities, and facilitate teachers’ acquisition of QHHGHGDGYDQFHGFUHGHQWLDOV
40
Journal of College Science Teaching
S
cience teachers continue to seek ways to improve their instruction and become cre-­
dentialed as “highly quali-­
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required for campus-­based programs and transportation costs can be ob-­
stacles for teachers who live a dis-­
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our project team at the University of 0DVVDFKXVHWWV FRQVLVWLQJ RI VFLHQFH
and science education faculty (includ-­
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what a graduate program would look like that fostered teacher learning of science and science teaching in the RQOLQHHQYLURQPHQW
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look like that consists of high-­quality instruction and purposeful learning opportunities and facilitates teach-­
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credentials? Online science learning
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design investigations and determine methods of data collection and analysis (National Research Coun-­
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Forstering Science Education in an Online Environment
Program design
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been developed by science and science education faculty under earlier initia-­
tives and taught online several times as part of an off-­campus master of educa-­
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team comprised of three instructors reviewed each course before it was of-­
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to glean the best instructional strategies IURPWKHLUFROOHDJXHV&RXUVHLQVWUXF-­
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for incorporating inquiry-­based teach-­
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Evaluation
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comments were drawn from inter-­
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TABLE 1
Science Education Online
program courses.
Planet Earth
Discovering the Universe
Investigating the Ocean
Investigations in Meteorology
Nutrition and Health in the Science
Classroom
Genetics in the Science Classroom
Matter in Context
Chemistry by Example
Electricity and Magnetism in the
Science Classroom
Motion, Forces and Energy
Using Insects in the Classroom
Organisms: Diversity and
Interactions
Investigating Science Classrooms
Science Education Online
Culminating Course
Vol. 42, No. 2, 2012
41
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directed to remove any protective oil from a few nails and then follow these instructions:
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you believe that it will become DVUXVW\DVSRVVLEOH8VHDV
many nails as you wish depend-­
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were in that place that you thought were conducive to rust-­
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and reports back periodically with a ¿QDOUHSRUWLQ:HHN
The astronomy course includes inquiry-­based lessons using materi-­
als from the Project STAR Teacher’s Sampler KitKWWSZZZVFLHQFH¿UVW
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placed on the course site aid teachers FIGURE 1
Science Education Online (SEO) Student Response to Instruction (SRTI)
survey items related to online instruction (summer 2005 to spring
2007).
This chart shows SEO student responses about their experiences in individual courses
related specifically to online instruction issues. Extra questions added by SEO to the
SRTI survey asked them to “rate your experience of the listed aspects of this course
[below] using the scale [above].”
19. Computer/internet connection issues
18. Amount of time required
17. Navigating course software
16. Online discussions
15. Getting active, firsthand science inquiry experience
14. Group work with other students
13. Availability of instructor for questions
42
Journal of College Science Teaching
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from different sources using the VSHFWURPHWHUDQGPDNLQJDFHOHVWLDO
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as the following: :KDWFRQVWHOODWLRQLVMXVWDERYH
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these times of year in these two locations?
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dents indicated that they found it possible to have a successful inquiry-­
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whether they were thinking of the overall program or of their favorite FRXUVHVHH7DEOH(YHQZKHQFRQ-­
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Forstering Science Education in an Online Environment
students indicated that this was pos-­
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taken “demonstrated inquiry based WHDFKLQJHIIHFWLYHO\´
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directions and guidance when work-­
ing through investigations and using PDWHULDOVVHH7DEOH$VQRWHGE\
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ing topics and from one another with DQG RXWFRPHV´ $ WKLUG VWXGHQW
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was all based on hands-­on activi-­
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to have everyone replicating the VDPHH[SHULPHQWDQGWKHQDFWLYHO\
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real sense of not leaving any stone XQWXUQHG´
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the following: “This course was a YHU\VXFFHVVIXOLQTXLU\OHDUQLQJH[-­
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other classmates delved each week into the topics with a high level of interest as we discussed problems TABLE 2
Elements of Effective Online Instruction (EEOI) survey—Inquiry-based, hands-on learning.
EEOI survey
Program Overall: Based on
your experience with the Online
Program, would you say that it is s
it possible to experience inquirybased, hands-on learning online?
Favorite Course: Did this course
offer a successful inquiry learning
experience? a successful hands-on
learning experience? Why or why
not?
Least Favorite Course: Did this
course offer a successful inquiry
learning experience? A successful
hands-on learning experience? Why
or why not?
Respondents
8
9
10
Y
Y
Y
1
Y
2
Y
3
Y
4
Y
5
Y
6
Y
7
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
11
Y
12
Y
13
Y
14
Y
15
Y
16
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
N
NR
NR
NR
NR
Note: Y = Yes, N = No, NR = No Response, NA = Not Addressed
TABLE 3
Elements of Effective Online Instruction (EEOI) survey—Strengths of the program: Importance of online
discussions.
EEOI survey
Discussion in a group/
otherwise is valuable.
The program builds
a sense of social and
professional community
among students and
faculty across courses is
highly important.
1
Y
2
Y
3
Y
4
Y
5
Y
6
NA
7
Y
Y
NA
Y
Y
Y
NA
NA
Respondents
8
9
10
Y
Y
Y
Y
NA
Y
11
Y
12
Y
13
Y
14
Y
15
Y
16
NR
Y
Y
Y
Y
NA
NA
Note: Y = Yes, N = No, NR = No Response, NA = Not Addressed
Vol. 42, No. 2, 2012
43
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seven spoke of the value of discussion in the online environment (see Table 2QHQRWHGWKHIROORZLQJ
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perspectives from so many dif-­
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medium to gain an understand-­
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because this learning can go on without sidetracking away from WKHOHDUQLQJRIWKHFRQFHSWV,WLV
like meeting for a cup of coffee DIWHUFODVV
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the threads was perhaps the most YDOXDEOHDVSHFWRIWKHSURJUDP
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TABLE 4
Student interviews—Value of group work/discussion.
Interview Question
Was there value in group work and/or
discussion?
1
Y
2
Y
3
N
Informant
4 5 6
Y Y Y
7
Y
8
Y
Note: Y = Yes, N = No, NR = No Response, NA = Not Addressed
FIGURE 2
Science Education Online (SEO) Student Response to Instruction (SRTI)
survey items related to high-quality instruction (summer 2005 to
spring 2007).
This chart shows SEO student responses about their experiences in individual
courses, related to general quality of instruction. Questions added by SEO to the
SRTI survey asked students to “indicate [using the scale above] your agreement or
disagreement [with the statements below] based on your experience in this course.”
24. I was able to get a hig- quality learning experience in an online format.
23. I have gained insights into the teaching and learning of science that will improve
my teaching.
22. I expect to use/adapt a science inquiry activity from this course in my teaching.
21. The content of this course is relevant to the curriculum I teach.
20. I have significantly increased my understanding of an area of scientific knowledge.
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ity to guide discussions and provide a professional environment for dialogue VHH7DEOH:KHQDVNHGDERXWWKH
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noted that the success in building a sense of social and professional com-­
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indicated little or no challenges with GLVFXVVLRQV VHH )LJXUH 3RVWLQJV
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TABLE 5
Elements of Effective Online Instruction (EEOI) survey—Links to classroom practice.
EEOI Survey
Course content increased my
knowledge of teaching.
1
NA
2
Y
3
NA
4
Y
5
NA
Note: Y = Yes, N = No, NR = No Response, NA = Not Addressed
44
Journal of College Science Teaching
6
Y
7
NA
Respondents
8
9
10
Y
Y
Y
11
NA
12
NA
13
NA
14
NA
15
Y
16
Y
Forstering Science Education in an Online Environment
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FIGURE 3
Online program courses compared with all university graduate courses with fewer than 20 students (summer
2005 to spring 2006).
This chart shows Student Response to Instruction (SRTI) survey means (pink boxes) in two fall 2006 online program courses in
relation to one standard deviation from SRTI means in all university graduate courses with fewer than 20 students (for all courses in
2001–2002, 2002–2003, 2003–2004, combined).
Q1 = The instructor was well prepared for class.
Q2 = The instructor explained course material clearly.
Q3 = The instructor cleared up points of confusion.
Q4 = The instructor used class time well.
Q5 = The instructor inspired interest in the subject matter of this course.
Q6 = The instructor showed a personal interest in helping students learn.
Q7 = I received useful feedback on my performance on tests, papers, etc.
Q8 = The methods of evaluating my work were fair.
Q9 = The instructor stimulated student participation in the class.
Q10 = Overall, how much do you feel you have learned in this course?
Q11 = What is your overall rating of this instructor’s teaching?
Q12 = What is your overall rating of this course?
Vol. 42, No. 2, 2012
45
WR EHWWHU XQGHUVWDQG VWXGHQWV¶ FRQ-­
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were set up well and allowed me the time to learn much of the material SUHVHQWHG,GRIHHOWKHOHDUQLQJ
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classes have been more useful to my profession as a teacher than any other ,KDYHWDNHQ´$QRWKHUVWDWHG³7KH
professor and peers helped broaden the scope of my learning through the introduction of their thoughts and FIGURE 4
Online program courses compared with all university graduate courses with fewer than 20 students (summer
2006 to spring 2007).
This chart shows Student Response to Instruction (SRTI) survey means (pink boxes) in two fall 2006 online program courses in
relation to one standard deviation from SRTI means in all university graduate courses with fewer than 20 students (for all courses in
2001–2002, 2002–2003, 2003–2004, combined).
Q1 = The instructor was well prepared for class.
Q2 = The instructor explained course material clearly.
Q3 = The instructor cleared up points of confusion
Q4 = The instructor used class time well.
Q5 = The instructor inspired interest in the subject matter of this course.
Q6 = The instructor showed a personal interest in helping students learn.
Q7 = I received useful feedback on my performance on tests, papers, etc.
Q8 = The methods of evaluatiing my work were fair.
Q9 = The instructor stimulated student participation in the class
Q10 = Overall, how much do you feel you have learned in this course?
Q11 = What is your overall rating of this instructor’s teaching?
Q12 = What is your overall rating of this course?
46
Journal of College Science Teaching
Forstering Science Education in an Online Environment
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courses meet the needs of the learners targeted for this program—
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faculty discussions that students believe enable them to improve WKHLU WHDFKLQJ 2XU ¿QGLQJV VSHDN
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Acknowledgment
This project was funded by a grant IURP WKH 1DWLRQDO 6FLHQFH )RXQGD-­
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National science education standards
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London Review of Education, 8
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6DOPRQ*E-­moderating: The key to teaching and learning online
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References
$OOHQ,(6HDPDQ-Learn-­
ing on demand: Online learning in WKH8QLWHG6WDWHV%DEVRQ3DUN
0$%DEVRQ6XUYH\5HVHDUFK*URXS
%HFN%7KHP\VWHULRXVWHUULWRU\
RIGLVWDQFHOHDUQLQJThought and Ac-­
tion, 18, ±
%RUNR+3XWQDP57
/HDUQLQJWRWHDFK,Q5&&DOIHH
'%HUOLQHU(GVHandbook on edu-­
cational psychologySS±
1HZ<RUN1<0DFPLOODQ
&URZ/3RZHU3RLQWTXHHQVDQG
RQOLQHNLQJVJournal of College Sci-­
ence Teaching, 34±
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,7KHLPSOHPHQWDWLRQDQG
growth of an international online forensic science graduate program DWWKH8QLYHUVLW\RI)ORULGDJournal of College Science Teaching, 40
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TABLE 6
Student interviews—Learning online.
Interview Question
Did the fact that the program was online
positively influence your learning?
1
ND
Informant
3 4 5
6
N Y ND Y
2
Y
7
Y
Kathleen S. Davis ([email protected]
edu) is an associate professor in the Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies Department and Will Snyder is an extension
educator at UMass Extension, both at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
8
Note: Y = Yes, N = No, ND = No Difference
TABLE 7
Elements of Effective Online Instruction (EEOI) survey: Most significant differences between online and f2f.
EEOI Survey
Flexibility with time and self-pacing
with online courses
Online discussions are beneficial
Online is more challenging witout f2f
contact of instructors.
Students need to take more
responsibility for learning
1
2
X
3
4
X
5
X
X
X
6
7
Respondents
8
9
10
X
12
X
13
14
X
15
16
X
X
X
11
X
X
X
X
X
Note: f2f = face-to-face
Vol. 42, No. 2, 2012
47