SUMMER RESEARCH IMMERSION: TEACHER TRAINING AND AUTHENTIC RESEARCH EXPERIENCES IMPROVES STEM LEARNING WHILE STRENGTHENING TEACHER IDENTITY AS PRACTICING SCIENTISTS

R. Lopez Swalls , K. Renzaglia

Southern Illinois University Carbondale (UNITED STATES)
The SIUC Robert Noyce River Region Master Teaching Fellowships in Environmental Sustainability program, funded through the National Science Foundation, provides STEM content, leadership training, research experiences, outdoor learning and evidence-based pedagogy to middle and high school teachers in high-need schools. In order to provide teacher training that involves content enrichment and research process skills the program developed the Summer Research Immersion (SRI), a three-week research-based workshop. The SRI aims to enhance teacher STEM knowledge and practice while engaging teachers in authentic scientific research mentored by scientific leaders and SIUC researchers. In 2019, the first year of the program, we utilized the model fern Ceratopteris (C-fern) to teach the plant life cycle and to investigate the effects of silver nanoparticles on germination and growth. The data collection portion of their experimentation was intensive and took place over a three-day period. The teachers took images and made measurements of gametophytes and sporophytes. Four instruments were administered to evaluate the effectiveness of the 2019 SRI. The first two instruments assessed the teacher training and research experience using the C-fern. Teachers were administered a pre- and post-test to assess 1. content knowledge (multiple choice) and 2. attitude toward teaching science using plants (Likert scale). The second instrument assessed teachers’ attitudes toward plants and in particular toward using them to teach biological concepts, and consisted of a 20 question survey that was scored on a Likert scale: 1 (Strongly Disagree), 2 (Disagree), 3 (Neither Disagree nor Agree), 4 (Agree) and 5 (Strongly Agree). To assess the impact of the activities of the SRI and the value of these experiences on teachers, the third instrument was a survey that consisted of 16 questions that was scored on a Likert scale of five points from 1(Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree). Lastly, we elicited written comments from teachers at the conclusion of the SRI. The results are as follows: instrument 1) the pre- and post-test on content knowledge teachers scored an average of 36.5% (with a range from 0.1 to 0.9) compared to the post-test average score of 74.5 % (with a range from 0.3 to 1); instrument 2) the average score was 3.77 on the pre-test which was not significantly lower than the post-test of 4.01, a difference of 0.24 points; instrument 3) the average rating for each individual question ranged from 4.10 to 4.95, meaning they agreed or strongly agreed with all 16 statements; and instrument 4) many comments indicated that the Summer Research Immersion was instrumental in enhancing STEM content knowledge and process skills. These data indicate that engaging teachers in authentic research in a supportive learning community improved STEM learning while strengthening teacher identity as practicing scientists. Many teachers noted that they will integrate the skills and ways of learning that they engaged in during the summer into their teaching which was the goal of the Summer Research Immersion.