2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 186-13
Presentation Time: 11:25 AM


SHUSTER, Robert D.1, GRANDGENETT, Nealy2, CUTUCACHE, Christine3, TAPPRICH, William3 and RODIE, Steve3, (1)Geography/Geology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, 6001 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE 68182-0199, (2)Teacher Education, University of Nebraska-Omaha, 6001 Dodge St., Omaha, NE 68182, (3)Biology, University of Nebraska-Omaha, 6001 Dodge St., Omaha, NE 68182, rshuster@unomaha.edu

The intentional integration of research into the undergraduate curriculum has been shown to improve student interest and retention in STEM fields. In an attempt to mimic this at the Middle and High School levels, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) has partnered with the Omaha Public Schools (OPS) to implement a 5 year, innovative Teacher-Researcher Partnership Program (TRPP). The program creates a community-based STEM ecosystem with opportunities for Omaha area teachers and subsequently Omaha area youth to conduct genuine STEM research projects guided by university level researchers. In its first summer, 12 UNO faculty mentors, drawn from STEM disciplines including Geology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, and STEM education, were matched with 12 OPS Science Coaches to actively participate in genuine research projects in a 4-6 week summer session. These projects were supplemented by graduate level courses at UNO in research methods, journal clubs involving all teachers and faculty mentors, and a capstone research symposium. The program is meant to empower teachers by giving them the tools and resources needed to conduct research projects with youth in OPS.

Assessment of the program included focus groups as well as a rubric-based review of the final teacher poster projects. Focus groups inquired about teacher perceptions of scientific research, TRPP expectations, challenges related to conducting scientific research, potential impacts on their own classrooms, and changes in personal confidence for conducting research with students. The reviews of the final posters looked for evidence of a solid use of the scientific method and a systematic presentation of the context, methodology and results of the research. Year 1 results found evidence of an improved understanding of scientific research, enhanced knowledge of key research concepts (such as error, variance, and study limitations), increased confidence in conducting research, and in general, a positive perception of the TRPP experience with increased expectations for classroom integration of what had been learned.

In years 2 – 5, we will ramp up project participation to at least 15 Teacher-Researcher pairs, increase the range of STEM research offered, expand and refine project assessment and involve more UNO STEM researcher participants.