Curriculum

Cyber-enabled Earth Exploration: Development of Materials for Middle School Earth Science Instruction

This project is developing new instructional materials for middle school earth science classes that incorporate emerging cyber-enabled technologies such as Google Earth as a transformative data analysis tool. The materials emphasize the use of claims, evidence, and reasoning in the exploration of volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics, leading students through a process of discovery to help them build a deeper understanding of the driving forces and resulting manifestations of plate tectonics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918683
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2009 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Randy Knuth
Full Description: 

Cyber-Enabled Earth Exploration (CE3) is a research and development project aimed at motivating and challenging students in science, which has been identified as one of the reasons the U.S. lags behind other nations on an array of economic and educational indicators (National Center on Education and the Economy 2006). The project will develop new instructional materials for middle school science teachers that help create a compelling classroom culture of scientific discovery, engage students in the creative opportunities that abound in science, and inspire them to pursue the high school science coursework needed for future careers in science.

The materials will incorporate emerging and widely available technologies such as Google Earth to engage middle school students in exploring an essential science question, “Does the Earth’s structure affect you?”  The use of computer technologies has been shown to successfully motivate middle school students (Pelligrino 2000), and the use of an integrated Earth system science approach provides the knowledge base, methodologies, and global context to make science accessible, relevant and meaningful for middle school students.

A complete learning unit and teacher’s guide will be developed by a team of experts in K-12 curriculum design, geology, and geography, using a Learning-for-Use curriculum design framework.  The materials will be tested for ease-of-use and effectiveness in approximately ten classrooms across Montana, which include both large and small class sizes, urban and rural communities, and white and Native American students. Participating teachers will provide feedback to help guide revision of the materials, which will subsequently be disseminated to the national K-12 community.

The intellectual merits of CE3 include: (1) creation of an innovative, technology-rich curriculum that engages students and teachers in authentic scientific questions about essential Earth systems science concepts; (2) introduction of the use of Google Earth as a new and potentially transformative data analysis tool for teachers and students; and (3) strengthening of curriculum models that help students acquire skills in problem solving, information management, communication, the integration of quantitative and qualitative data, and critical and creative thinking skills.

The broader impacts include: (1) partnering among researchers and educators to develop, test, adapt, and disseminate new research-based approaches to science teaching, (2) participation of underserved rural and tribal schools in state-of-the-art educational practices, (3) development of next-generation instructional materials that will be made available to K-12 educators across the country, (4) dissemination of project results through several multidisciplinary conferences, and (5) geosciences learning materials that incorporate the societal implications of earth processes, which better prepare students to become engaged global citizens.

Science Literacy through Science Journalism (SciJourn)

This project aims to develop, pilot, and evaluate a model of instruction that advances the scientific literacy of high school students by involving them in science journalism, and to develop research tools for assessing scientific literacy and engagement. We view scientific literacy as public understanding of and engagement with science and technology, better enabling people to make informed science-related decisions in their personal lives, and participate in science-related democratic debates in public life.

 

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822354
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Brian Hand, University of Iowa
Full Description: 

For a more in-depth look at Scijourn, visit the project spotlight.

Developing an Integrated Assessment and Support System for Elementary Teacher Education

The project team is developing, implementing and evaluating a prototype for an integrated assessment system in elementary teacher education in mathematics. The project is documenting both the development of the student teachers in the practice of teaching mathematics to students from diverse backgrounds and of cooperating teachers and field instructors as they learn to analyze the practice of the student teachers and provide feedback.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0554416
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/15/2006 to Wed, 06/30/2010

Change Thinking for Global Science: Fostering and Evaluating Inquiry Thinking About the Ecological Impacts of Climate Change

This project draws from the expertise of a fully collaborative educator-scientist team to create learning progressions, curricular units and assessment instruments towards large scale research on the teaching and learning of climate change and impacts by 7-12th graders in primarily under-resourced schools. Products include eight week curricular units, IPCC-compliant simplified future scenarios, an online interface with guided predictive distribution modeling, and research results.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918590
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2009 to Wed, 07/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Dr. Amelia Gotwals
Full Description: 

Overview

It is increasingly important for all American students to become sophisticated thinkers of science. The Center for Essential Science at the University of Michigan is conducting educational research to engage and support complex thinkers of science and to improve science learning in high-poverty, urban, elementary and middle school classrooms, with particular focus on the Detroit Public Schools. Our previous work focused on fourth through sixth grades, a period when the performance of American science students falls significantly behind that of students in other countries. In this grant, we extend our learning progressions and associated curricular materials, visualization technologies and educational research from fourth to the tenth grade. In particular, this grant is focused in two areas:

  • the development and empirical evaluation of eight to twelve-week curricular units and associated technologies to promote students' deep understandings of the impact of climate change on ecosystems dynamics and animal interactions, and
  • the exploration of new ideas in educational assessment leading to tests that evaluate students' complex reasoning with science.

A Sense of Urgency on Learning Ecological Impacts of Global Climate Change

The modern world is experiencing substantial and rapid changes that are reshaping not only human societies but natural ecosystems worldwide. During the lifetimes of our current middle and high school students, it is likely that our planet will undergo more anthropogenic change than it has during all of human history to date.  While scientists from many disciplines are modeling, monitoring, predicting, and analyzing climate change, understanding the impacts and consequences of climate change cannot be left to scientists alone.

While scientists are aware of the sense of urgency to develop scientific understanding of the impacts of global climate changes, science education resources and sound research on students’ development of complex reasoning about ecological impacts of global climate change are scarce, despite recognition from scientists and policy makers of the importance of this topic. Several factors contribute to this absence. First, global climate change is an extremely multi-disciplinary domain that does not easily fit into existing K-12 disciplinary boundaries of earth science, life science, and physical science. The American Institute for Global Change Research defines global change as “the interactions of biological, chemical and physical processes that regulate changes in the function on the Earth system, including the particular ways in which these changes are influenced by human activities” (American Institute for Global Change Research, 2008). Second, scientific information associated with global climate change is relatively new and emergent, disallowing strong representation in science standards, high stakes tests, textbooks or curricular units utilized in classrooms. Our previous research suggests that the complexity of content coupled with almost no representation on high stakes tests leads to a low priority for many classroom teachers and consequently little to no classroom time. (S. Blum, personal communication 11.6.08). Third, global climate change is a dynamic topic that might be best addressed with resources that couple curricular activities which guide the development of complex inquiry reasoning and modeling/simulation resources to represent the dynamic nature of the science. While modeling and simulation resources exist for professional scientists (e.g., Lifemapper designed by proposal co-PI), neither the guided curricular activities nor the modeling and simulation resources are widely available for middle and high school audiences.

Together, a sense of urgency exists to build a solid, research-based foundation about a new and essential focus area within pre-college science education: students’ complex inquiry reasoning about the impact of global changes on ecosystem dynamics. This sense of urgency can be addressed through the combination of three research-based activities addressed in this proposal: (1) the extension of existing 4-6th grade curricular units towards the development and empirical evaluation of a 4-10th grade curricular progression focused on complex reasoning about biodiversity and the impact of global changes on populations of animals and ecosystem dynamics; (2) the development and evaluation of ecological simulation and modeling resources to accompany the middle and high school units; and (3) sound educational research to provide strong empirical evidence of both growth spurts and plateaus, as well as documentation of how and when complex inquiry reasoning occurs among middle and early high school students in these focus areas.

The program outlined will serve as the major research vehicle for research questions in several interrelated areas. We propose a research design with a series of quasi-experimental studies that will complement each other and provide multiple lenses for understanding complex questions such as these. Our research questions are:

1. Which scientific content and reasoning skills are essential for 7-10th graders’ complex reasoning and modeling of the ecological impacts of climate change? How are these manifested in content and inquiry reasoning progressions?

2. What dynamic visualization and modeling resources support the development of deep thinking about the ecological impacts of climate change?

3. What scaffolding and instructional activities support the development of deep thinking about the ecological impacts of climate change, including both content (ecological impacts) and complex reasoning components (science practices) of this knowledge, within cohorts of 7-10th graders in two new curricular units?

4. Utilizing quantitative (growth curve models, cross sectional studies) and qualitative (think aloud interviews) analyses, what learning outcomes and growth trajectories are realized by 7-10th intervention and control students as measured by both traditional standardized items and assessments focusing on complex thinking about ecological impacts of climate change?

We believe the greatest contribution of our work will be clear empirical information (growth spurts, growth plateaus and achievement information) associated with middle and high school students’ learning of complex and dynamic science associated with the ecological impacts of global climate change. We see the empirically driven development of learning progressions, curricular units, assessment instruments and professional development resources as important secondary contributions. The hypotheses we wish to test are the following:  Do Detroit, rural and small city students who work with coordinated scaffold-rich inquiry programs and visualization resources focusing on impacts of global climate change develop deep conceptual understandings as compared to matched cohorts students?  As determined by growth curve analyses, what do their learning trajectories look like? What new insights about the design of scaffold-rich curricular units and visualization technologies can be gleaned from an analysis of students’ growth trajectories and summative achievement results?  What kinds of assessment instruments are needed to provide reliable and valid measurement of learning progressions in these focus areas? What can we learn about the design of a series of multi-year, coordinated learning resources from the empirically driven development of learning progressions associated with an important emerging science, the ecological impacts of climate change? 

 

Developing Algebra-ready Students for Middle School: Exploring the Impact of Early Algebra

This project is developing and testing a curricular learning progression of early algebra objectives and activities for students in grades 3 - 5. The goal of the work is to provide teachers with curricular guidance and instructional resources that are useful in preparing students for success in study of algebra at the middle grade level. The project is also developing and validating assessment tools for evaluating student progress toward essential pre-algebra mathematical understandings.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1207945
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Full Description: 

 

Active Physics Teacher Community

This project augmenting the traditional professional development model with an online professional development platform—the Active Physics Teacher Community—that provides just-in-time support for teachers as they are enacting targeted units of the Active Physics curriculum. Teachers are helped in preparing lessons by providing them with formal instruction related to the lessons they are teaching in the classroom. In addition, teachers can participate in a moderated forum where they can share experiences.

Award Number: 
0733268
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2007 to Tue, 08/31/2010

International Polar Year (IPY) STEM Polar Connections

This curriculum development and professional development program includes residential summer institutes with academic-year online communication for in-service teachers involved in professional development of their colleagues. During each summer institute, teachers will be introduced to sets of STEM Polar Connections Modules that will emphasize the process of scientific inquiry and will explore a variety of proven techniques for effective teaching, including inquiry-based teaching, cooperative learning, and methods for formative assessment of student learning.

Award Number: 
0732945
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2007 to Tue, 08/31/2010

The INSPIRES Curriculum for Engineering and Technology Education

This project is designing, developing, and testing a model that delivers effective teacher PD to in-service and preservice teachers to enable the successful implementation of engineering curricula. Research is performed to evaluate the impacts of the curricular materials and the teacher PD framework on classroom instructional practices and student learning, interests, and attitudes and to evaluate which curriculum components are most effective in promoting student learning and interest as a function of gender and ethnicity.

Award Number: 
0822286
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/15/2008 to Wed, 08/31/2011

Engineering Inquiry-based Learning Modules for Technology Education

Project staff are developing modular instructional materials for students. The materials are designed to increase the awareness of and interest in career opportunities in engineering and technology. The modules use authentic, real-world engineering applications and hands-on experiences to build problem-solving skills and contribute to the technological literacy of secondary students. The modules specifically target the ITEA Content Standards for Technological Literacy and related benchmarks.

Award Number: 
0352504
Funding Period: 
Thu, 04/01/2004 to Wed, 03/31/2010

Conference 2008 -- Integrating Science and Mathematics Education Research into Teaching IV: Resources and Tool for Improved Learning

The purposes of this conference include bringing together 150 participants from all aspects of STEM education to exchange ideas about research, curriculum, and assessment; to help teachers integrate research-based instructional strategies in their teaching; and to build sustainable collaborations between participants. It includes three days of parallel presentations and discussion followed by a two-day summer academy. A focus on research-based strategies that advance the successful participation of underrepresented groups is embedded in all activities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0736967
Funding Period: 
Thu, 05/01/2008 to Fri, 04/30/2010

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