Activity

Facilitating a Deeper Understanding of Change in the Earth System on Multiple Time Scales

This project is developing a week-long unit of activities focused on the cryosphere, implementing the activities with students, and studying the activities’ effectiveness. The overarching goals of this project are to build a sequence of scaffolded investigations that will help students more fully understand the cryosphere; and investigate the effectiveness of the sequence of and investigations at helping students understand how and why a component of the Earth system varies over time.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0807575
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Karen McNeal
Full Description: 

The Facilitating Student Understanding of Change in the Earth System on Multiple Time Scales proposal is being submitted to the NSF-GeoEd solicitation Track 1 Pilot Projects.

 

There is an increasing need for today’s students to sufficiently understand how the Earth system changes and the processes that cause those changes so they can address the environmental challenges of the future as scientists, decisions makers, and citizens. However, grasping change over time, especially on multiple time scales ranging from daily to ice age variations, is a challenge. The project is pilot project in which we will develop a week-long unit of activities focused on the cryosphere, implement the activities with students, and study their effectiveness.  The results of the study will be used to refine the activities developed in this project and to serve as a foundation for the development of a larger scale high-school Earth science course for which we will seek additional funding.  In addition, we will develop a teacher professional development program to provide training to high-school teachers on the use of these materials.  The overarching goals of this project are:

  • To build, mainly with existing resources, a sequence of scaffolded activities and investigations that will help students more fully understand how the cryosphere changes on multiple time scales and how it impacts and is impacted by the other components of the Earth system.
  • To investigate the effectiveness of the developed sequence of activities and investigations at helping students understand how and why a component of the Earth system varies over time, to apply that knowledge to improve the unit of activities used in this study, and to make that knowledge and materials available to the broader educational community.

 

Intellectual Merit: The Facilitating Student Understanding of Change in the Earth System on Multiple Time Scales project will help us to understand more clearly the difficulties high-school students have in comprehending how the Earth system changes on multiple time scales, and to design activities and materials that can help them and their teachers overcome these challenges. There is currently little work of direct relevance to pre-college age students’ models of Earth change. Therefore, we believe that the proposed effort will add significantly to the research base. In addition, the curriculum materials we create will have clear benefit and application for high-school Earth science classes.

 

Broader Impacts: In this pilot project we will focus on an interesting component of the Earth system—the cryosphere (sea ice, glaciers, and continental ice)—to develop a week-long unit of activities that will help students understand change in the cryosphere on a range of time scales and the causes of those changes. The results of this work will 1) provide a firm foundation on which to develop a full high-school capstone Earth system science course that will include the broader range of complexity and time scales present in the Earth system – a course which is now on the books in Texas; 2) make these materials available to high-school teachers and students across the country through the EarthLabs web site, and 3) move the efforts of the Revolution in Earth and Space Science Education forward by establishing reviewed and tested components of this course in Texas and make it possible to promote the establishment of this course in other states.

Dynamic Geometry in Classrooms

This project is conducting repeated randomized control trials of an approach to high school geometry that utilizes Dynamic Geometry (DG) software and supporting instructional materials to supplement ordinary instructional practices. It compares effects of that intervention with standard instruction that does not make use of computer drawing tools.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918744
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Ed Dickey
Full Description: 

The project is conducting repeated randomized control trials of an approach to high school geometry that utilizes dynamic geometry (DG) software and supporting instructional materials to supplement ordinary instructional practices.  It compares effects of that intervention with standard instruction that does not make use of computer drawing/exploraction tools. The basic hypothesis of the study is that use of DG software to engage students in constructing mathematical ideas through experimentation, observation, data recording, conjecturing, conjecture testing, and proof results in better geometry learning for most students. The study tests that hypothesis by assessing student learning in 76 classrooms randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Student learning is assessed by a geometry standardized test, a conjecturing-proving test, and a measure of student beliefs about the nature of geometry and mathematics in general. Teachers in both treatment and control groups receive relevant professional development, and they are provided with supplementary resource materials for teaching geometry. Fidelity of implementation for the experimental treatment is monitored carefully. Data for answering the several research questions of the study are analyzed by appropriate HLM methods. Results will provide evidence about the effectiveness of DG approach in high school teaching, evidence that can inform school decisions about innovation in that core high school mathematics course. The main research question of the project is: Is the dynamic geometry approach better than the business-as-usual approach in facilitating the geometric learning of our students (and more specifically our economically disadvantaged students) over the course of a full school year?

The main resources/products include geometry teachers’ professional development training materials, suggested dynamic geometry instructional activities to supplement current high school geometry curriculum, instruments such as Conjecturing-Proving Test, Geometry Belief Instrument, Classroom Observation Protocols, DG Implementation Questionnaire and Student Interview Protocols. 

The general plan for the four-year project is as follows:

Year 1: Preparation (All research instruments, professional development training and resource materials, recruitment and training of participants, etc.); 

Year 2: The first implementation of the dynamic geometry treatment, and related data collection and initial data analysis; 

Year 3: The second implementation of the DG treatment, and related data collection and data analysis; 

Year 4: Careful and detailed data analysis and reporting.

We are now in project year 3. Data are collected for the second implementation of the DG treatment. For data collected during project year 2, some initial analysis (the analysis on the geometry pretest and posttest data and the psychometric analysis on the project developed instruments) has been conducted. More thorough analysis of the collected data is still on going. The analysis on the geometry test shows that the experimental group significantly outperformed the control group on geometry performance.

The evaluation will be implemented throughout the project’s four-year duration, with an evolving balance of formative and summative evaluation activities.  In the project’s first three years, the evaluation will emphasize formative functions, designed to inform the project research team of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the research design and execution, and target corrections and improvements of the research components. Summative evaluation activities will also take place in these years with the collection of data on student achievement and teacher change. Evaluation activities for year 4 will focus on the summative evaluation of the project’s accomplishment and especially its impact on participating teachers and students. Evaluation reports will be issued annually with a final summative report presented at the end of year 4.

The research results will be disseminated via the following efforts: 1) Creating and constantly updating the project web site; 2) Publishing the related research articles in research journals such as Journal for Research in Mathematics Education; 3) Presenting at state, regional, national, and international research and professional meetings; 4) Meeting with state and local education agencies, schools, and mathematics teacher educators at other universities for presenting the research findings and using the DG approach in more schools and more mathematics teacher education programs; and 5) Contacting more school districts, with a view to developing relationships and ties that would smooth the way to disseminate the research results.

Visualizing to Integrate Science Understanding for All Learners (VISUAL)

This project is exploring how curricula and assessment using dynamic, interactive scientific visualizations of complex phenomena can ensure that all students learn significant science content. Dynamic visualizations provide an alternative pathway for students to understand science concepts, which can be exploited to increase the accessibility of a range of important science concepts. Computer technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to design curricula and assessments using visual technologies and to explore them in research, teaching, and learning.

Award Number: 
0918743
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Paul Holland

CAREER: Collaborative Learning with Classroom Networks: Integrating Technological and Pedagogical Innovations

This project studies teaching practices in a year-long high school algebra course that integrates hand-held and other electronic devices. Of particular interest is how these technologies can support learners' capacity to efficiently and effectively draw on the distributed intelligences that technical and social networks make available. The investigation focuses on collaborative learning tasks centered on collective mathematical objects, such as functions, expressions, and coordinates that participants in a group must jointly manipulate through networked computers.

Award Number: 
0747536
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/01/2008 to Sun, 06/30/2013

Data Games—Tools and Materials for Learning Data Modeling (Collaborative Research: Konold)

This project is developing software and curriculum materials in which data generated by students playing computer games form the raw material for mathematics classroom activities. Students play a short video game, analyze the game data, conjecture improved strategies, and test their strategies in another round of the game.

Award Number: 
0918653
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Jim Hammerman
Full Description: 

Students playing computer games generate large quantities of rich, interesting, highly variable data that mostly evaporates into the ether when the game ends. What if in a classroom setting, data from games students played remained accessible to them for analysis? In software and curriculum materials being developed by the Data Games project at UMass Amherst and KCP Technologies, data generated by students playing computer games form the raw material for mathematics classroom activities. Students play a short video game, analyze the game data, conjecture improved strategies, and test their strategies in another round of the game.

 

The video games are embedded in TinkerPlots and Fathom, two data analysis learning environments widely used in grades 5–8 and 8–14 respectively. The game data appear in graphs in real time, allowing several cycles of strategy improvement in a short time. The games are designed so that these cycles im- prove understanding of specific data modeling and/or mathematics concepts. Lessons will be embedded in LessonLink from Key Curriculum Press to facilitate their integration into standard curricula. The three- year project expands research in students’ understanding of data modeling and their ability to learn mathematical content embedded in data-rich contexts.

Learning Science as Inquiry with the Urban Advantage: Formal-Informal Collaborations to Increase Science Literacy and Student Learning

This project hypothesizes that learners must have access to the real work of scientists if they are to learn both about the nature of science and to do inquiry themselves. It explores the question "How can informal science education institutions best design resources to support teachers, school administrators, and families in the teaching and learning of students to conduct scientific investigations and better understand the nature of science?"

Award Number: 
0918560
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Learning Innovations at WestEd
Full Description: 

The American Museum of Natural History and Michigan State University propose a research and development project focused on DR-K12 challenge #2 and the hypothesis that learners must have access to the real work of scientists if they are to learn both about the nature of science and to do inquiry themselves. The overarching questions that drive this project are: How can informal science education institutions best design resources to support teachers, school administrators, and families in the teaching and learning of students to conduct scientific investigations and better understand the nature of science? How are these resources then used, and to what extent and in what ways do they contribute to participants’ learning? How are those resources then used for student learning? Answering these questions will involve the use of existing and new resources, enhancement of existing relationships, and a commitment to systematically collect evidence. Urban Advantage (UA) is a middle school science initiative involving informal science education institutions that provides professional development for teachers and hands-on learning for students to learn how to conduct scientific investigations. This project will (1) refine the UA model by including opportunities to engage in field studies and the use of authentic data sets to investigate the zebra mussel invasion of the Hudson River ecosystem; (2) extend the resources available to help parents, administrators, and teachers understand the nature of scientific work; and (3) integrate a research agenda into UA. Teaching cases will serve as resources to help teachers, students, administrators, and families understand scientific inquiry through research on freshwater ecosystems, and—with that increased understanding—support student learning. Surveys, observations, and assessments will be used to document and understand the effects of professional development on teachers, students, administrators, and parents. The study will analyze longitudinal, multivariate data in order to identify associations between professional development opportunities for teachers, administrators, and parents, their use of resources to support their own learning and that of students, middle school teachers’ instructional practices, and measures of student learning.

Science and Mathematics Integration for Literacy Enhancement (Project SMILE)

The goals of STEM instruction are to educate a populace that is scientifically and mathematically literate and who can solve real-world problems by applying science and mathematics. This exploratory project is designed to study the effectiveness of professional development focused on the integration of mathematics and science instruction, mediated by technology tools, to improve middle school teachers' ability to teach scientific inquiry and mathematical problem solving.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918505
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Dr. Eleanor Hasse

Ecosystems and Evidence Project (Collaborative Research: Berkowitz)

This exploratory research and development project addresses the question, "Can students develop an understanding of the ecological nature of science (ENOS) in high school biology and environmental science classes that is useful and productive in environmental citizenship?" To address this question, the project will identify the essential elements of ENOS, investigate how these can be taught and learned, and explore how ENOS skills and understandings are used to enhance environmental citizenship.

Award Number: 
0918610
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Jackie DeLisi, Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)

Geniverse: A Student Collaboratory for Biology Cyberlearning

This project addresses biology teachers and students at the high school level, responding to the exponential increases occurring in biology knowledge today and the need for students to understand the experimental basis behind biology concepts. The project studies the feasibility of engaging students in an environment where they can learn firsthand how science knowledge develops in the fields of bioinformatics and DNA science by performing collaborative, simulated experiments to solve open-ended problems.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918642
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Full Description: 

Enhancing Engineering Education with Computational Thinking

This project investigates the educational value of computer technologies for learning engineering. The project engages high school students to design, build, and evaluate an energy-efficient model house with the aid of computer simulation and design tools. 

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918449
Funding Period: 
Thu, 10/01/2009 to Sun, 09/30/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Sun Associates
Full Description: 

This project investigates the educational value of computer technologies for learning engineering. The project engages high school students to design, build, and evaluate an energy-efficient model house with the aid of computer simulation and design tools. The project will test the assertion that simulations and hands-on projects are mutually beneficial. The project has developed a computational fluid dynamics simulation tool called Energy2D that teaches heat transfer concepts, as well as a computer-aided design and fabrication tool called Energy3D that supports the full cycle of engineering practices. A comprehensive curriculum book "Engineering Energy Efficiency" has been developed to challenge students to use the tools to improve the energy performances of their model houses step by step, allowing students to learn and apply science to solving engineering problems.

Two rounds of pilot tests have been conducted to test our materials and research instruments. A large-scale research study involving about 250 students is currently underway to investigate the effects of Energy2D and Energy3D in fostering learning. Our study focuses primarily on two areas: a) Do the computer tools increase learning of science concepts and engineering design? b) How well can students apply science to engineering? The data we are collecting includes a wide range of sources such as pre/post tests, embedded assessments, student artifacts, reports, presentations, and teacher opinions. We are in the process of synthesizing and analyzing these data to provide a high-definition lens for viewing into student learning processes.

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