Research Summary

Powerful Geography
Research Synopsis

Powerful Geography is a research initiative to improve the curriculum guidance and professional development available for geography and earth science teachers in grades 6-12. The research will advance knowledge of how professional development can enable teachers' use of data to select and convey subject matter for a more inclusive geography education. Powerful Geography adds conceptual rigor to professional development by elevating the role of professional geographers, large-scale assessment data, and knowledge of student aspirations. Prior research in STEM education suggests the importance of understanding student aspirations and attitudes to foster interest in STEM and STEM careers. The results of this research will develop geography teachers as curriculum leaders who make instructional decisions informed by the diverse needs, interests, and job prospects of students.

Over four years, a network of researchers, teachers, professional geographers, and employers in Texas will participate in collaborative research and development activities to produce online video-enhanced professional development programs based on the new conceptual approach of Powerful Geography. The Powerful Geography approach was conceptualized in prior NSF-funded work involving teachers, social studies curriculum experts, and education researchers. The approach aims to assist teachers in their use of data to make more inclusive instructional decisions.

YEAR 1: The first year of the project will be dedicated to foundational data collection and analysis. Participating teachers be trained to administer an online student survey in their classes during the 2020-2021 school year. The survey will acquire data on student career aspirations and attitudes about social and environmental issues. A second research component will involve interviews with geographers and their employers in Texas whose professional backgrounds relate to the major categories of student aspirations. Interview analysis will focus on identifying subject matter that is important for work and civic participation. The third research component in the first year will be a multilevel statistical analysis of restricted datasets from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Geography Assessment. The objective is to identify pedagogical and curricular factors that associate with varying levels of student achievement in geography.

YEARS 2-3: In summer 2021, we will initiate production of the Powerful Geography professional development programs. Programs will be developed through a design-based research process involving the teachers leading discussions of how to create an inclusive and accessible Powerful Geography lesson using data and findings from the student, workforce, and NAEP studies. As teachers implement their lesson plans during the 2021-2022 school year, they will administer the student survey as a pretest/posttest to determine the extent the Powerful Geography approach supports more inclusive and accessible instruction. Evidence of the approach's effectiveness will include statistically significant gains in student affect that are superior to the results of the analysis of the 2020-2021 student dataset. The findings will inform revisions and refinements to the professional development programs through the third year of the project.

YEAR 4: The final year of the project will feature dissemination of the Powerful Geography programs through the Learning Cluster Method (LCM). Teachers will receive training with LCM protocols to implement the Powerful Geography programs with teachers in underserved locations across Texas. Additional dissemination will consist of reporting, conference presentations, and preparations for future work in other states.


Powerful Geography Research Process

Powerful Geography DRK12 research process_NOVEMBER 2019

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