Presenters: Jazmin Cruz, Carolyne Villaescusa, Jennifer H. Nguyen, Poster Presentation
Research Title: Factors Influencing Science Instructional Decisions of Rural Elementary School Teachers
Faculty Advisor: Judith Sandholtz
Mentor: Doron Zinger
The opportunity gap between wealthier suburban students and lower socioeconomic status students, primarily from urban and rural settings, is an ongoing educational challenge. The type of instructional practices teachers engage in are critical for closing this gap (i.e. relying on rote memorization vs. engaging in activities where students make sense of the world around them). One area where this has been understudied is in rural settings, specifically in science instruction. Thus, we focus on investigating the nature and challenges of rural science instruction. Our goal is to gain an understanding of which instructional practices rural elementary science teachers use and what factors influence those practices. We analyzed 32 interviews of rural elementary science teachers from which we identified a number of instructional practices teachers reported they did or did not engage in along with factors that influenced their choice of strategies. Teachers reported using three primary approaches: hands-on inquiry, direct instruction, and notebooking. Interestingly, hands-on and direct instruction were also the two largest practices teachers reported not using. There were a number of reasons why teachers did or did not engage in hands-on or direct instruction. The need to adhere to instructional standards was associated with hands-on and direct instruction. Hands-on activities appear to be supported by access to professional development and the availability of time whereas more direct instruction was associated with lack of time or professional development. Our findings suggest that greater attention should be paid to providing teachers with resources that promote valuable instructional practices.