The Partnership for Research and Education in Plants (PREP) was established to foster research collaborations among high school biology students, their teachers, and scientists. Scientists provide seeds from wild-type (with all functional genes) and mutant (with a disabled gene) Arabidopsis thaliana plants, and teachers and students design and conduct investigations to help elucidate the function of the disabled gene. To date, PREP has established multi-year, mutually beneficial research collaborations between more than 65 teachers and 30 scientists, involving more than 12,000 students in making scientific discoveries. PREP has also enhanced student knowledge about genetics, plant biology, and scientific inquiry. Yet, PREP has faced challenges in engaging students in rural schools and general classes (vs. honors or advanced classes), and in ensuring that students develop scientific reasoning skills as they participate in doing science. Here we propose to develop new and creative components of PREP that enable students and teachers in rural areas of the country to collaborate in research with geographically distant scientists, engage students who are enrolled in general biology classes and considered to be "average or low achievers" to experience the excitement of scientific discovery, enhance the complexity of students'reasoning throughout their investigations, develop the capacity of teachers and scientists to mentor students as they collaborate in research, and determine whether and how these activities affect (1) students'knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about science and their scientific reasoning skills, and (2) teachers'and scientists'abilities to mentor students in scientific investigation. We propose to accomplish these aims by building on PREP's current infrastructure: the network of participating teachers and scientists, project web site, and findings from our research and evaluation. Specifically, we will develop and formatively evaluate (Phase I) and disseminate summatively evaluate (Phase II): (1) new Pre-PREP and Reasoning in Research curricula, (2) new professional development experiences for teachers and scientists in the form of an Engaging Students in Scientific Investigation course and a Mentor Teacher Program, and (3) new collaboration strategies in the form of virtual interactions and intensive one teacher - one scientist partnerships. We anticipate involving sufficient numbers of students to conduct quasi-experimental studies to determine the impacts of different project components (i.e., curricula and collaboration strategies) and determine if there is synergy when they are combined.
(provided by applicant): Building an Infrastructure for Research Collaborations will build on the existing infrastructure of the Partnership for Research and Education in Plants (PREP) to engage lower achieving high school students in designing and conducting novel experiments with unknown outcomes that are of interest to the biomedical community, ensure students learn biology concepts and scientific reasoning skills as they make scientific discoveries, and build the capacity of teachers and scientists across the country to mentor students in scientific investigation. Through these activities, students will not only grow in their science knowledge, but also in their awareness of science as way of thinking and as a field where they can make meaningful contributions.
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