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.