Teaching Science in a Virtual Environment: The Case of Excellence Academy during the Pandemic
The global pandemic forced many schools to shut their doors and shift their learning to online platforms. The science teachers at Excellence Academy had a special challenge of finding the best way to adapt their hands on, inquiry-based curriculum focused on the scientific and engineering practices of the Next Generation Science Standards to the virtual learning environment. This project evaluated the effectiveness of the teachers’ instructional strategies and the impact of the virtual learning on the student academic outcomes and their interest in science and engineering. Analysis of surveys and student assessment data found that the teachers were quite successful at adapting their curriculum to the online environment. The students found their instructional strategies to be effective, especially teacher feedback on assigmnets. Students continued to learn as expected, with the lower performing students actually doing a little better online relative to other students. Furthermore, student overall interest in science increased even while learning online. This study concludes that using continual feedback loops may be the best way to teach online. Moreoever, there may be ways to create inquiry-based science learning using interactive videos and observations of teachers conducting experiments. Finally, the data analysis suggests that teachers should consider finding ways tto fill in learning gaps created by the shift to online learning, and to build on student interest in science through promoting interest in STEM careers.