The Allergies and Scientific Inquiry: An Innovative, Online Module for Middle School (ASI) project will develop innovative materials for teachers and students to improve their understanding of important concepts about the immune system and scientific inquiry. The focus on allergies helps put these concepts in a relevant and engaging context. Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the U.S., costing our healthcare system an estimated $18 billion annually. Allergic diseases are estimated to affect 40 to 50 million Americans. Survey research indicates that students (and the general public) have misconceptions about food allergies. The ASI project will develop a program accessible at no cost through a website that includes: An online, interactive module for middle school students with approximately five inquiry-based lessons based on authentic scientific investigations, including exemplary multimedia. They will also learn about career possibilities in the biomedical sciences and develop science literacy skills. The module will feature the research-based 5E instructional model and be tied explicitly to national science education standards. An online, implementation guide for middle school teachers and videos of master teachers implementing the materials using exemplary practices will help teachers improve their knowledge about allergies and scientific inquiry. They will also improve teachers' ability to use research-based pedagogy to increase the achievement and motivation of all students, especially those who are underrepresented in the sciences. The ASI materials will be designed using open-source learning management system software. In addition to being appealing to students, the online approach enables students to work through embedded interactives in which they make predictions, test hypotheses, record data using an online notebook, communicate with other students and their teachers, access information, and collaborate on projects. Development of the ASI materials will involve collaboration between scientists, science educators, classroom teachers, and education technology experts. This interaction helps ensure that the materials are accurate, reflect best pedagogical practices, and are engaging for middle school students and teachers. Rigorous evaluation and research will be an integral part of this project. During development, the ASI materials will be pilot tested and field tested with students and teachers across the country. A well-powered, quasi- experimental efficacy study of the materials will examine the program's impact on student understanding of the science concepts, their motivation and interest in science and biomedical careers, and their understanding of how scientists use scientific inquiry to prevent, diagnose, and treat allergies. The results of the efficacy study will provide valuable evidence about best practices for science education generally and will guide the development of a second (and final) version of the ASI materials.
Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States, costing our healthcare system an estimated $18 billion annually, and their prevalence appears to be increasing. The Allergies and Scientific Inquiry: An Innovative, Online Module for Middle School (ASI) project provides students and teachers an engaging environment in which to learn about the science of allergies (especially food allergies), how medical studies aid in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of allergies, and help students develop empathy for others with allergies. An experimental study will help education researchers and teachers understand effective methods for teaching students important public health and scientific inquiry concepts.