Term of Award

Spring 2005

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

James Burnham

Committee Member 1

Michael D. Richardson

Committee Member 2

Bryan Griffin

Committee Member 3

Martha Schriver

Abstract

This researcher, through this study, sought to establish baseline data concerning Georgia public middle school science teachers' beliefs related to participation in Georgia 4-H Residential Environmental Science Education (RESE) programs. He compared the beliefs of two groups of Georgia public middle school science teachers: teachers who had participated in Georgia 4-H RESE programs and teachers who had not participated in Georgia 4-H RESE programs.

Educators, at the time of the study, recognized that Georgia middle school science students were not performing at near their academic potential. Educational researchers investigated inquiry-based, hands-on instruction and determined it had a redeeming affect on student achievement and deserved further investigation. The Georgia 4-11 Residential Environmental Science Education programs appeared to fit in this category of research supported and potentially effective educational endeavors but appeared to be underused.

A researcher-designed, self-reporting survey instrument was developed to ascertain teacher beliefs. Quantitative and qualitative techniques were stipulated in the study's design. The survey was mailed directly to 200 randomly selected Georgia public middle school science teachers. Participant selection procedures ensured surveys were mailed to 100 teachers in each of two groups, teachers who have participated in RESE and teachers who have not participated in RESE.

The results of the survey allowed the investigator to construct frequency tables. Frequency tables developed for each of the groups facilitated a comparison of the teacher responses. Biographic and demographic information was collected and reported for future, more in-depth studies. Quantitative data allowed the researcher to answer the overarching research question: What beliefs do Georgia middle school teachers have concerning Georgia 4-H Residential Environmental Science Education (RESE) programs?

The following four related subquestions were addressed in this study:

1. How does previous participation, as one factor, in Georgia 4-H RESE programs affect Georgia middle school science teachers' future participation in RESE?

2. Do Georgia middle school science teachers who have participated in Georgia 4-H RESE believe the programs meet the programs' stated objectives?

3. What institutional barriers to participation in Georgia 4-H RESE programs do Georgia middle school science teachers believe exist in their schools?

4. What personal barriers to participation in Georgia 4-H RESE programs do Georgia middle school science teachers believe exist?

The researcher's findings indicated previous participation in Georgia 4-H RESE programs modified teacher beliefs. The vast majority of past participants believed they would repeat the experience. Their intentions to repeat the visits were based on beliefs related to pleasant past RESE experiences and their belief that the Georgia 4-H programs met their stated educational objectives.

The comparisons between the two groups enabled the researcher to identify fundamental differences in beliefs. Past participants believed fewer barriers existed than non-participants. Past participants also believed, if a barrier existed, it offered a lesser degree of effort to overcome when compared to the beliefs of non-participants. Both groups believed some barriers to participation were easier to overcome than others. Budget constraints and time and work required to participate were two barriers universally believed to exist and believed to offer the greatest degree of difficulty. Additionally, the non-participating group believed their lack of knowledge was the major impediment to participation.

Responses to the qualitative portion of the survey allowed the researcher to identify additional possible barriers to participation not addressed in the quantitative section. The analysis of the comments to the open-ended questions allowed the researcher to offer more logical, in-depth answers to the research questions.

The researcher recommended further investigations be conducted that move past the collection of baseline data. Teacher beliefs related to barriers to participation in Georgia 4-H RESE programs were an under-investigated area.

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