PSC Educational Research

Download Research forms (pdf): psccombinedparentalconsent

The Pulsar Search Collaboratory is an out-of-school-time program designed to provide authentic scientific research experience to middle and high school students. It is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and as with all NSF projects is expected to be knowledge generating. As such, the PSC contains an educational research component. The goal of the research is to better understand online learning and the effect of the PSC on the decision to pursue a STEM career. For those students in the PSC, this research will require very little additional time and could have dramatic impact on our understanding of the process of becoming a scientist. The research will analyze each student’s use of the PSC website and ask the student to complete a small number of surveys about their career thinking.  For a more detailed description of the research, click here (research-design) . In order to gather data we will need to obtain consent.

This video provides some background on our research:

Informed Consent
The purpose of informed consent to to make sure any human participant in a research project has all the information they need to decide whether they wish to be involved in that project. Because of the nature of the online research that will be performed as part of the PSC, all PSC members are required to participate in the research. There are many different roles in the PSC and each has its own consent process. Questions about the research and the consent process should be directed to Dr. John Stewart – West Virginia University – Department of Physics and Astronomy jcstewart1-AT-mail.wvu.edu

Student Mentors
Student mentors are college students who are helping with the PSC. Student mentors must complete a Student Mentor Consent Form (MentorWrittenConsent) and return it to WVU.

PSC Students
PSC students are students who are part of the PSC and are searching for pulsars. Because PSC students are minors, parental consent is required. The parent of each PSC student must complete a parental consent form(PSCParentWrittenConsent).   Since parents need to be informed about the research, this could be done at an informational meeting or by sending home a Parental Consent Cover Letter (ParentCoverLetter-PSC).  PSC students must also give their permission to participate in the research by completing a Student Assent Form (StudentAssentForm) . Both the parental consent and the student assent forms should be returned to the PSC teacher at the student’s school. When all forms are collected, the set of forms should be mailed to WVU at the address below. The PSC student’s account cannot be fully activated without consent. The parental and student forms require a signature on the line Signature of Person Conducting Consent Discussion. The teacher may sign this if they feel the provided materials provide the information the parents need.

PSC Teachers
PSC teachers must complete the following Teacher Consent Form . This may be returned to WVU with the student forms. It is also important that the principal of the school be informed of the research and give his or her permission. This is done by copying the following School Permission Form (school-permission-template) to school letterhead. The form mentions bonus points for the control group of students; this may be altered as needed to conform with school policy. The school permission form should be scanned and sent to WVU as soon as possible since it must be registered with West Virginia University which is overseeing the research.

Non-PSC Students (Control Group)
Students at the PSC teacher’s school who will take the PSC survey instruments to act as a control group. We cannot really understand the effect of the PSC on students in the PSC if we do not know how students not participating in the PSC are changing. The parent of each Non-PSC student must fill out a parental consent form (ParentWrittenConsent-ControlGroup).  Teachers  will inform parents  about the research by providing the following Parental Consent Cover Letter (ParentCoverLetter-ControlGroup). Non-PSC students must also give their permission to participate in the research by completing the Student Assent Form (StudentAssentLetter-ControlGroup) . Both the parental consent and the student assent forms should be returned to the PSC teacher at the student’s school. When all forms are collected, the set of forms should be mailed to WVU at the address below.

PSC Hub Leaders
PSC hub leaders are college faculty who oversee the PSC student mentors and manage the PSC program at the university level. Hub leaders are not included in the research project and are not required to consent.

Mailing Address:

Dr. John Stewart
West Virginia University
Department of Physics and Astronomy
White Hall
135 Willey St.
Morgantown, WV 26506

Our Research Team
John Stewart
Dr. John Stewart joined the West Virginia University Department of Physics and Astronomy in January 2015 after spending 15 years at the University of Arkansas. His research deals with the methods used to effectively teach physics, including designing educational experiences that foster retention and provide enriched, inquiry-based classroom experiences. He has also been actively involved in making teacher preparation materials and ideas available through the UTeach program and on the web. John is a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers’ Committee on Teacher Preparation and a member of American Physical Society’s Forum on Education Programs Committee.
 
Kathryn Williamson
Dr. Kathryn Williamson joined the West Virginia University Department of Physics in January 2016 after spending 3 years as the Public Education Specialist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia. At NRAO she engaged students and teachers in inquiry-based astronomy investigations using radio telescopes both in-person and online. Her doctorate degree is from Montana State University, and her dissertation was on college students’ understanding of gravity. Her current area of research focuses on how youth in out-of-school-time science clubs, such as the Pulsar Search Collaboratory and Skynet Junior Scholars, learn to see themselves as scientists and choose to pursue careers in science.