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Strengthening STEM education in rural America

UND science-ed researchers awarded almost $3M from National Science Foundation

The Education Building at UND houses the College of Education & Human Development. UND archival image.

A team of UND researchers led by Ryan Summers, assistant professor of secondary science education at UND’s College of Education & Human Development, 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 support helps sustain teachers’ professional learning, while benefiting local teachers in the process.

Ryan Summers

The project grew out of a need to provide additional science support to teachers after North Dakota adopted new K-12 standards for science education effective as of the 2019-20 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 also will be given additional support 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 support will be provided online.

Researchers hope that by reinforcing the initial training through refreshers and modest support, 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 grades 3 through 5 teachers and their students across North Dakota,” said Summers, the lead researcher on the project. “Our team is committed to advancing science and engineering education and empowering teachers through meaningful professional learning.”