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Main | Activity 1-1 | Activity 1-2 | Activity 1-3

Activity 1-2: Identify Target Population and Partner School District

The NASA review criteria are used to evaluate an educational product's ability to serve targeted groups. Products that meet the criteria are customer focused and reach diverse audiences. You want to address this requirement within your primary targeted learner population. Notice that diversity characteristics such as race, gender, and ethnicity are social characteristics. When people share cultural histories and experiences, they tend to hold similar world views and expectations. To meet the needs of your learners, you must design your investigation with the learners in mind.

Instructional designers call their primary audience the targeted learner population. When deciding on a target population, think about 1) identifying a minority population that is typically underserved; 2) looking at gender-related areas of weakness; 3) considering special needs learners, such as visually impaired learners; and 4) bringing average learners into the level of outstanding academic performance. Education literature is rich with empirically derived models of the relationships between academic achievement and gender, race, and/or ethnicity. The following resources provide data to help you identify a target audience.

Resources for Researching Target Audiences

  1. U.S. Department of Education

    The U.S. Department of Education web site provides numerous reports and publications about statistics on potential target audiences. A multitude of detailed reports can be ordered at no cost and are available under the four headings—Students, Parents, Teachers, and Administrators—that appear on the main page.

    For an introductory overview, go to No Child Left Behind Fact Sheets.

    The annual Condition of Education report provides a comprehensive overview of student achievement by various subgroupings.

  2. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

    The NCES web site includes the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores, which are assessments based on the national standards. They provide valuable information regarding the knowledge and abilities of the nation’s K-12 audience. These assessments have revealed gaps in STEM abilities between genders and among races.

    The NCES web site also posts the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which provides data on U.S. test results compared to more than 60 countries.

  3. REL Network

    The REL Network is a consortium of 10 regional educational laboratories. They conduct and disseminate educational research and practice to assist the educational reform process. Each laboratory is defined by a particular geographical area and has distinctive attributes suited to meet the needs of the geographic area it serves. You can access a variety of valuable resources at the main web site. A map of the United States on the main page of the web site enables you to access the 10 laboratories by the geographic region each serves.

  4. U.S. Census Bureau

    The U.S. Census Bureau is a source for the most current information about distributions of populations in the United States. Its web site has a wealth of information for investigating target audiences, including minorities, low-income populations, and people with disabilities. You can build distribution maps for your audience of interest. For example, by choosing “American FactFinder” and then “People,” you can access a database search that will enable you to view statewide distributions of a target audience. 

Partner School Districts
Once you identify a target audience of interest, you need to find a partner school district with a sizeable population of the targeted learners. Schunn et al. (unpublished concept paper) suggest that an ideal design team includes instructional designers, scientists, educational researchers, and school district curricula coordinators, lead teachers, and other representatives. Identifying a partner school district strengthens your development process on many fronts. The partner school district:

  • Can provide needs assessment data on the learner population.

  • Can provide information about areas of interest for developing an engaging scenario.

  • Can provide testbeds of learners for evaluating your investigation question, alpha testing, and beta testing.

  • Will contribute input and valuable feedback as you develop your project.

  • Will enable you to satisfy NASA product review criterion B.4 (see Virtual Design Center Connect Step 1).

  • Can positively impact the level at which your product is implemented.

  • Will enable you to satisfy NASA product review criterion B.5 (see Virtual Design Center Connect Step 1).

The school district has much to gain from the partnership too. The majority of school districts lack quality science immersion curricular experiences, such as inquiry-based material (Schunn et al., unpublished concept paper). Authentic investigations are consistently shown to improve students’ interest and performance, including standardized testing. With accompanying support for the teachers, an inquiry-based unit can act as a professional development mechanism for training on developing and implementing inquiry-based curriculum.

Note that steps 3 and 4 require you to gather responses from learners in your project's targeted grade level. You should contact a teacher now from the targeted grade level for permission to use no more than two class periods.

Proceed to Activity 1-3.

Main | Activity 1-1 | Activity 1-2 | Activity 1-3


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