RAPID: How People Learn Rapidly: COVID-19 as a Crisis of Socioscientific Understanding and Educational Equity

Friday, May 1, 2020 to Friday, April 30, 2021
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Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Community Outreach Programs
Families | Administration/Leadership/Policymakers | General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists
Education and learning science | Health and medicine
Access and Inclusion: 
Low Socioeconomic Status
University of Michigan Ann Arbor

The primary objective of this study is to document how people learn the science of the COVID-19 pandemic in real time, how they activate this scientific knowledge towards informed decision making, and how these processes change over time. This study is intended to produce additional insights on how such learning is shaped by equity concerns and contextual factors. For example, researchers will document how the ways in which people learn the science of COVID-19 are mediated by the sources of information they have access to and leverage, as well as what supports them in doing so. The research will further document how people leverage their understandings of COVID-19, alongside other forms of knowledge and concerns in their decision-making. This study may serve a crucial role in aiding the public understanding of where structural points of informational failure might occur. It may also reveal where and how the public engages or resists community action strategies to mitigate spread and suffering through when, how and why they gather, share, and make sense of scientific data. This RAPID was submitted in response to the NSF Dear Colleague letter related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award is made by the AISL and ECR programs in the Division of Research on Learning, using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

This research will draw upon a conceptual framework of consequential learning and a methodological framework of narrative inquiry. Sixty participants in Lansing, Michigan and Seattle, Washington will participate over the course of one year in cyclical interviews, focus group conversations and experience sampling approaches. Documents and resources named and used by the participants in their learning will be collected and analyzed. Attention will be paid to science learning in the following areas as the primary focus: a) the science of SARS-CoV-2 and the relationship between virus and disease, b) viral transmission, and c) origination, replication and spread. A key focus will also be how people use scientific data and evidence-based explanations when developing understandings and making decisions with respect to the pandemic. This research is urgent and timely because the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to occur in multiple waves over approximately 18 months. Insights may produce basic understanding about rapid science learning, policy strategies, school-based practices and resources for use within current and future waves. Socioscientific crises differentially impact people, with effects felt more significantly by vulnerable people. Thus, this study will address the urgent call for investigation into factors and experiences of low-income individuals and families who are trying to educate themselves on continually changing data during an international health crisis.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Team Members

Angela Calabrese BartonPrincipal Investigator
Leslie HerrenkohlCo-Principal Investigator
Elizabeth DavisElizabeth DavisCo-Principal Investigator

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