While it often feels like everything is on hold during the COVID-19 crisis, our Education Research Lab is busy conducting research and moving our understanding of science education forward.

Through the use of online surveys, they are monitoring undergraduate students’ unique COVID-19 experiences - with the hope that it will improve science education during future crises. 

“This is not going to be the last time that a crisis interrupts education,” explains Kris Callis-Duehl, PhD, the Sally and Derick Driemeyer director of education, research, and outreach. “It happens around the world, whether it is due to disease, geo-political conflict, climate change, or something else entirely. A natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina disrupts schooling for months. How can we best continue and support education during these disruptive times?”

To begin answering that question, Kris and her lab created a survey to track the impact of COVID-19 on undergraduate education. The survey is intended to track anxiety, motivation, sense of belonging, and attitude in regards to their online education as a whole, as well as their feelings towards science-specific courses. The information they gather during our current crisis could ultimately allow universities and teachers to prepare for future disruptions in learning.

“We want to gain a deep understanding of the negative and positive outcomes of online learning during a crisis, so in the future we can harness the positives and try to mitigate the negative,” says Kris.

So far, they have gotten nearly 500 student responses from over thirty colleges and universities across the nation. With schools ranging from community colleges to Ivy League universities, the participants represent a diverse range of students. 

“Many of the participating schools have told us that they are excited to have an institution monitoring this situation in real-time. Our ability to do this research is a testament to the nimbleness and adaptability that comes with being a scientist at the Danforth Center,” explains Kris. 

The research is also creating opportunities for our scientists that are unable to do parts of their job outside of the lab due to the pandemic. On April 2, Kris led a qualitative data collection and analysis workshop, enabling nine scientists to participate in her research. The scientists in the training were from labs across the Center, enabling more of our labs to begin laying the foundation for incorporating education research into their work. 

Kris’s lab is currently focusing on student experiences, but they are also planning to survey teachers over the summer when they are less overwhelmed. For now, they are monitoring public forums like Facebook groups to learn more about the concerns of teachers. When Kris and her lab are able to survey teachers, they will follow up with them to learn how their concerns were addressed, how other concerns arose, and anything else the teachers learned from the experience. 

Thank you to all of the schools and individuals participating in this research. Your participation and support allow the Danforth Center and our Education Research Lab to continue moving science education forward.