A team of educational researchers and professors in the College of Education and Human Development was recently awarded an $8 million U.S. Department of Education grant for serving English learners and economically challenged students in Texas rural schools.
“Rural schools frequently face challenges due to their geographic location and small size,” said Dr. Rafael Lara-Alecio, Regents Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology. “For example, rural teachers may not have as many opportunities to receive targeted professional development or support from content specialists in the STEM fields. Our project will address some of these issues.”
Researchers with Project VICTORY – Virtually-Infused Collaborations for Teaching and Learning Opportunities for Rural Youth – will explore the impact of virtual and face-to-face teaching and learning with a literacy-infused science curriculum.
“When students engage in problem-based activities, such as those we have planned in VICTORY, they increase their intrinsic motivation. Students’ successes can be more meaningful and connected to what they are learning when they engage in these hands-on activities,” said Dr. Robert Capraro, professor and co-director of AggieSTEM. “Our intervention is necessary and can be effective in increasing awareness of the challenges of English learners and economically-challenged rural school students as they engage in STEM activities.”
One of the first controlled studies of its kind, the project will take place over three years. One grade level will be studied each year, starting in third grade and ending in fifth grade.
The project will also include take-home science activities for students to complete with family members. Teachers will receive virtual professional development and virtual instructional coaching and mentoring, and Texas A&M preservice teachers will serve as science mentors.
The support of 77 rural Texas school districts was essential in securing the grant.
“Working through the Center for Research and Development in Dual Language and Literacy Acquisition and AggieSTEM, we plan to involve 4,500 rural students and their families, plus 180 teachers over the life of the project,” said Dr. Beverly Irby, Regents Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
This project is built upon evidence generated from years of working in high-need schools through the CRDLLA and will expand the evidence-based research related to COVID-19. Project VICTORY also fills an important gap in our understanding of rural science education and online versus face-to-face education.
PI: Rafael Lara-Alecio
Co-PIs: Beverly Irby, Fuhui Tong, Robert Capraro, Mary Margaret Capraro
Lead Project Coordinator: Cindy Guerrero
Postdoc: Kara Sutton-Jones