Through the provision of an online cluster, and the support of a mentor teacher, the eBiology program (supported by DEECD) has seen some great results in its first year. The project provided a fantastic opportunity for smaller rural schools (both students and teachers) to work collaboratively in enhancing the provision of Biology at a VCE level, and to improve student learning outcomes.
Established in 2011 to provide support for rural schools that had small numbers of students enrolled within their VCE Biology 3/4 program, the program utilised a Blended Learning approach, which incorporated a weekly online lesson; access to a web site full of resources along with a discussion forum; and regular face to face classes provided by their host school. Thirty-Five students, along with their teachers, across seven schools were involved in all aspects of this exciting program. A further three rural schools accessed the resources provided through the web site and the professional development activities. A key element of the program was the support of a mentor teacher who facilitated the weekly online sessions and facilitated regular professional development activities for staff.
Within the web forum, the individual schools were provided with their own “Classroom” allowing schools to upload their own resources, assessment tasks and students could upload their work for assessment. The value of such an approach allowed the mentor teacher, and other teachers to provide direct support and feedback to both teachers and students on their learnings.
Check out a video clip of how students see the program – eBiology Project.
Student results from the program indicate that of the 36 students directly involved in the program, 30 of these students achieved final results above their GAT, or school based, projected results – an average of 3.5 marks above their “projected score”.
In one schools case, where the teacher and students utilised the “classroom” within the web forum, all students achieved a score higher than their projected result with an average of 5.6 marks above the students projected result.
In one outstanding case from another participating school, a student achieved 11.2 marks above the “GAT Projected Result”. As his teacher reflected:
“John did well with the fantastic support he received from the mentor teacher and the eBiology sessions. He sat a set of science exams; Biology, Chemistry and Physics. He received a High Distinction in Biology and was accepted into the summer School for Australian Science/Biology Olympiad team. He has a real passion for science and I believe this was fostered by the mentor teacher and the great resources of eBiology – podcasts and elluminate sessions.”
In addition to the fantastic results achieved by the students, the program was also developed to support the enhancement and development of teachers skills. Through a combination of face to face and online professional development sessions and discussions facilitated by the mentor teacher, teachers gained a greater knowledge of teaching biology and the potential use of communication technology.
“I feel that I have learnt a lot from participating in eBiology. I have picked up a lot from discussing aspects of the Biology course with the mentor and other teachers. My approach to how I teach Biology has changed somewhat – and depth of detail I provide has increased considerably. I have access to a greater range of resources than previously, and have seen how a number of other teachers go about teaching Biology. This project has provided me with a range of techniques and approaches to teaching aspects that I had not previously considered. I have developed skills (nowhere near perfect yet) in the development and provision of learning online. While initially stressful, I found it to be a positive experience.”
As the project progresses all the teachers became confident in the use of communication technology and as a result delivered a number of the online sessions during the second half of the course.
An evaluation of the program has been undertaken and a copy of this report can be gained by clicking on this link : eBiology Project Report 2011