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Press Release

For Immediate Release

NSF funds new research on gender equity and online learning

Boston--The National Science Foundation awarded a grant to the Gender and Diversities Institute at Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) to conduct some of the first national research on the impact of online professional development on participants' attitudes and practices related to gender equity in mathematics and science. The project, called GEMS (Gender Equity in Math and Science) Learning Online, will also help develop a better understanding the role of gender in online communication and what role the technology itself plays in shaping learning online.

The three-year research project brings together five organizations, nationally recognized for innovation in mathematics, science and technology and in equitable education-EDC, WestEd, TERC, Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), and the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science.

According to principal investigator Katherine Hanson and co-principal investigator Joyce Kaser, very little research has been done on the outcomes of online learning in general and we think this may be some of the first that looks at the relationship of gender, learning style, and platform design. Second, this may be the first course that deals with personal beliefs and unconscious assumptions about gender, race, ethnicity, and disability so we'll learn a lot about the capacity of a virtual environment to address these critical education issues.

The research will focus on the delivery of a series of online courses for middle school teachers and a web-based professional development network developed to support the teachers in a learning community. The project will involve approximately 125 middle school teachers, representing a wide range of schools, geographic locations, and with diverse student populations who will work together online.

Some of the questions GEMS: Learning Online will examine are: How does gender equity training as a process translate into the online environment? In an online environment, how do teachers learn and incorporate gender equity paradigms and practices? What role does gender play in online interactions and communications? How is the online environment and design of online learning gendered? How does the design of software and the construction of courses impact on the communications, creativity, and problem-solving of participants? What role does learning style have in designing and participating in such courses? What impact does online learning in gender equity have on increasing gender equitable teaching?

The Gender and Diversities Institute, located at EDC in Newton, Massachusetts, is a global institute that brings together scholars, practitioners, parents, students, businesses, and community representatives committed to understanding the relationship between education and gender, and of gender and race, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, ableness, and sexual orientation.