Chemistry and Biochemistry

Rural Education Gets Revamped

Posted: May 26, 2022

Dr. Rebecca Sansom recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation as part of their Discovery Research K-12 program. The grant totals $3 million over the next four years which will aid the program in its dual focus of research and practical impacts on teaching and learning in K-12 settings. 

The state of Utah has recently adopted new science standards that are significantly different from those prior, so teachers in more rural parts of the state need access to professional learning opportunities to be able to teach in this new way. Sansom explained that the project includes “researching the social networks of Utah’s rural science teachers, and working to understand how their participation in our professional development program impacts both their professional networks and their classroom practice.”

Sansom also shared that they have three main goals to accomplish throughout the course of this project, the first being: “to build capacity for great science teaching among our rural science teachers.” The hope is that these teachers will be able to impact the next generation of scientists in the more rural areas of the state. This will also help the scientific field to progress as it allows for a wider variety of perspectives to influence the work. 

The second goal for this project is to: “to create a library of science lesson plans that are aligned to the new state standards, and that are responsive to the lives and experiences of rural and indigenous Utah students,” Sansom said. They plan to have the teachers who are participating in the program create the lesson plans that will be available to teachers all over the state. 

The third major goal that they hope to achieve is: “ to understand the principles or key factors that influence the efficacy of professional development for rural teachers.” Throughout this process they will be studying the impacts on the teachers from their participation in the professional development. The impacts will be measured in two main categories: both how their practice changes and how their professional networks change as well.

To Sansom this grant brings great validation and “represents the beginning of what [she] hopes will be a long tradition of chemistry education research and STEM education research within the department.” She hopes to greatly improve the science education provided to schools throughout the state to inspire the next generation of scientists. 

Written by Xani Eckel.