University Letter

UND's faculty and staff newsletter

UND educational research team awarded almost $3 million from National Science Foundation

A team of UND researchers led by Ryan Summers, assistant professor of secondary science education, has been awarded a National Science Foundation, Discover Research K-12 grant worth $2.9M over four years. The project, titled Investigating How Combining Intensive Professional Development and Modest Support Affects Rural, Elementary Teachers’ Science and Engineering Practice, will examine how modest supports help sustain teachers’ professional learning, while benefiting local teachers in the process.

The project grew out of a need to provide additional science supports to teachers after North Dakota adopted new K-12 standards for science education effective as of the 2019-2020 school year. Since then, surveys of teachers and schools have generated concerns about teacher preparedness to create learning experiences aligned with the new standards.

Starting this fall, 45 elementary teachers will be recruited from North Dakota, California, Montana, and Wyoming, for a total of 180 teachers in the program. These teachers will participate in five days of intensive professional learning. Teachers will also be given additional supports after their initial learning, such as a half-day refresher session after one year, virtual meetings, social media connections, and access to archived webinars on a wide range of topics related to teaching elementary school science. Given the geographic challenges of rural teachers to travel to training events such as distance and weather, all supports will be provided online.

Researchers hope that by reinforcing the initial training through refreshers and modest supports, more teachers will retain and use these instructional approaches in the classroom instead of reverting back to old methods.

“This project will have an immediate impact on grade 3 through 5 teachers and their students across North Dakota”, said Summers, lead researcher on the project. “Our team is committed to advancing science and engineering education and empowering teachers through meaningful professional learning.”