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STEM Education & Training TIG Week: Make it Phenomenal! Connecting Classrooms with Digital Place-Based Science Phenomena by Tiffany Morgan and Cori Hyde

Authors Tiffany Morgan and Cori Hyde

Hello! We are Cori Hyde, Research and Evaluation Scientist with the Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) at Iowa State University and Tiffany Morgan, Instructional Media Coordinator for Iowa PBS’s Iowa Science Phenomena. 

Iowa Science Phenomena is a website and service dedicated to the creation, curation, collection and sharing of Iowa focused user-generated, media-based science phenomena resources. The Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) at Iowa State University partnered with Iowa PBS to evaluate the use of Iowa Science Phenomena web-based science content in science classrooms within two Iowa school districts. 

We identified two school districts to conduct the pilot testing – one rural and one urban, based on the National Center for Education Statistics definitions. These districts were selected as they most closely represented the overall rural and urban demographics of the state, using Free-Reduced lunch and race as the key demographics, as aggregated by the Iowa Department of Education. 

We designed surveys to collect feedback from teachers on how familiar they were with the website. We found using the administrators to distribute the surveys yielded a higher response rate than coming directly from us. Classroom observations were done in several science classes across all grade bands to see how teachers were using the content in their lessons. The classroom observations were a ton of fun, and we were able to collect more in-depth data on how the students engaged with the lessons as well. In two elementary science classes, in both the urban and rural district, the lesson focused on erosion. However, both lessons reflected how erosion affects the city, built on top of river bluffs, and the rural area, surrounded by farmland, differently. 

We found that, while teachers have limited experience using the website, they find place-based science content important and relevant. Some noted the need for more content that matched state science standards and more training on how to use the website. Additionally, teachers would like to have opportunities to contribute to the website. Overall, the program evaluation showed a positive impact on teacher engagement with place-based phenomena science content!

Lessons Learned

Turning data into action!: Close coordination between Iowa PBS and RISE allowed Iowa PBS to quickly implement strategies to expand the Iowa Science Phenomena to teachers by seeking new partnerships with Iowa colleges and universities as well as strengthening relationships with existing partners.

Teachers want more science!: Teachers expressed excitement to learn about the content, and eagerness to use and implement the content into their lessons.

Hot Tips

Better participation rates when survey invitations are sent by school staff vs research staff. There is no “perfect” time to connect with teachers. They are always busy so the perfect time is now and early.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting STEM Education and Training TIG Week with our colleagues in the STEM Education and Training Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our STEM TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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