CSI: Coaching Science Inquiry in Rural Schools

Co-PIs: G. Nugent, G. Kunz & J. Pedersen (2011-2014)

The CSI project is examining how professional development and follow-up coaching efforts influence teachers' knowledge and implementation of guided scientific inquiry, a classroom approach designed to help students learn the methods that scientists use to study the natural world. "Recent research has suggested that this approach leads to greater student achievement in science than the more traditional approaches using standard textbooks and materials," said Dr. Gwen Nugent, a principal investigator for the project.

CSI has recruited more than 160 middle and high schools science teachers from communities in rural Nebraska and Iowa. The research team randomly assigned roughly half of the teachers to receive training in scientific inquiry, while the remaining participants continued teaching science as they previously have. R2Ed faculty and staff trained the designated teachers over the course of an eight-day summer institute. Those same teachers later received coaching via distance technology to support their implementation of inquiry strategies in the classroom.

In addition to gauging the impact on teachers' inquiry knowledge, skills and practice, CSI researchers are also assessing how the resulting classroom lessons influence students' knowledge of scientific concepts and inquiry principles. Accordingly, the team is documenting students' willingness and ability to engage scientific questions; utilize the evidence at their disposal; and formulate, evaluate and communicate proposed explanations.


Jim Houston

Jim Houston Project Manager

Jim Houston is a professional educator with specialties in mathematics, science education and educational administration. Originally from Minden, Neb., he has earned multiple degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, including a bachelor's in mathematics and physics education, a master's in educational administration (secondary principal), and an Ed.S. in educational administration (PK-12 superintendent). He has more than 14 years of experience in the Nebraska public school systems, teaching at Ralston High School and Valley Jr. / Sr. High School. He also served in an administrative role as dean of students for Valley Jr. / Sr. High School. As project director of CSI, he manages various research activities and oversees the involvement of personnel that include research assistants and instructional coaches.