Curriculum

Ecology Disrupted: Using Real Scientific Data About Daily Life to Link Environmental Issues to Ecological Processes in Secondary School Science Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Wyner)

We developed and tested two ecology case study units for urban high school students underserved in their connection to nature. The case studies, based on digital media stories about current science produced by the American Museum of Natural History, use current scientific data to link ecological principles to daily life and environmental issues. Preliminary testing results show that treatment students made significantly higher gains than the control students on the project's major learning goals.

Award Number: 
0918629
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Full Description: 

We have refined and tested wo case study units on contemporary issues in ecology for urban middle and high school students underserved in their connection to nature. The case studies are based on two Science Bulletins, digital media stories about current science produced by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), which use current scientific data to link ecological principles to real-world environmental issues, and to link issues to human daily life. One unit asks the question, ‘How might snowy and icy roads affect Baltimore’s water supply?’ The other asks the question, ’How might being able to drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in just four hours put local bighorn sheep at risk?’ The units provide source material and real data for students to investigate these questions, video profiles of scientists that engage students in the science and the research, and the Museum Science Bulletins media for students to analyze and connect the questions to broader ecological principles and issues. We are using these modules to research the question, “Can curricular units that link environmental issues to ecological principles through analysis of real data from published research on the environmental impacts of familiar everyday activities improve student learning of ecological principles, personal and human environmental impacts and the nature of scientific activity?” 

 

Randomized control trials in the classrooms of 40 ninth grade NYC public school teachers are being used to evaluate the efficacy of the modules.  Assessment items from New York State Regents exams were reviewed and new assessment items were developed, field tested, and analyzed for validity and reliability. Students in the experimental and control classrooms were pre- and post-tested using the assessments.  In addition, teachers completed pre-post surveys, and stratified samples of teachers were observed and interviewed. To evaluate the effects of the intervention on student achievement and on instructional practices, descriptive and inferential statistics, including analysis of variance (ANOVA) models are being employed to addressing the core research question about student achievement. ANOVA models are also being used to measure main effects and interactions between the intervention and other variables as they relate to student achievement. Preliminary analysis indicates that treatments students showed signficantly higher gains than control students on learning of three major project learning goals: 1. Understanding of ecological principles in the context of human impact 2. Understanding daily life in the context of human impact 3. Understanding the nature of scientific evidence.

 

Finally, we will apply our evaluation findings from testing the modules to develop a summative module on oyster fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. Also, in order to disseminate the materials online to a national audience, we will develop an online “kit of parts” of module components to enable teachers to create customized modules that target their students' specific instructional needs.

Coherent Implementation of Mathematics Instructional Materials: A Study of the Variations and Effects of District Supports for Implementation

This project is a four-year, longitudinal, mixed-methods study of 12 school districts’ implementation of elementary mathematics instructional materials. It investigates the relationships among the district level of coherence of implementation, the school level of support for implementation, the school level of use of materials, and the effects on student outcomes.

Award Number: 
0918109
Funding Period: 
Thu, 10/01/2009 to Mon, 09/30/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Cynthia Char

Transition to Algebra: A Habits of Mind Approach

This research and development project provides resources for ninth-grade mathematics students and teachers by developing, piloting, and field-testing intervention modules designed as supplementary materials for Algebra 1 classes (e.g., double-period algebra). Rather than developing isolated skills and reviewing particular topics, these materials aim to foster the development of mathematical habits of mind—in particular, the algebraic habit of abstracting from calculations, a key unifying idea in the transition from arithmetic to algebra.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
0917958
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Jim Hammerman, TERC
Full Description: 

Transition to Algebra, A Habits of Mind Approach, is aimed at very quickly giving students the mathematical knowledge, skill, and confidence to succeed in algebra, and showing them that they can be good at things they believed they couldn't do. The students were all smart and intrepid when they were six. Even now, they are better and more persevering than we are about figuring out their smartphones and video games. Transition to Algebra aims to tap that smart, intrepid, persevering spirit of puzzling things out and making sense of them by presenting mathematics based in common sense, not arbitrary rules.

This project is developing a collection of modules introducing key ideas of algebra in ways that complement the core curriculum when a school is offering double period algebra. The key habit of mind being developed is abstracting from calculation. Modules deal with the transition from arithmetic to algebra, rational numbers, expressions/equations/word problems, graphs and equations, geometry of algebra, and proportional reasoning. The target population is students in urban high poverty schools with a significant ELL sector.

Our hypothesis is that instructional materials focused on developing conceptual understanding and mathematical habits of mind can complement traditional skill-focused algebra instruction in ways that are engaging to students. Furthermore, they argue that using materials with such meta-cognitive aims will actually strengthen the learning of core algebraic concepts and skills.

The supplementary algebra modules are being developed by a form of design research. Concurrent with development and field test of the student and teacher materials, the investigators are addressing four research questions. The first two questions are focused on the effects of the intervention in developing student habits of mind and in improving their competence and confidence in algebra. The other two address the feasibility of implementing the new approach to double-period algebra in a variety of school settings. A small-scale quasi-experimental field test is being used to give preliminary estimates of the effectiveness of the instructional materials and the implementation guidelines. The core purpose of these research activities is to inform development and refinement of the student and teacher instructional materials.

Products of this development effort will be a valuable resource to schools as they devise strategies for helping all students master the essentials of elementary algebra.

Linear Algebra and Geometry: Advanced Mathematics for More Students

EDC is developing a high school capstone course in linear algebra. Student resources contain a core semester that develops two- and three-dimensional geometry using vectors and that treats matrix algebra and its applications to geometry; a semester of material that completes a typical undergraduate course (exploring bases, determinants and eigentheory); and 5 stand-alone modules that develop applications of this core to mathematics, engineering, science, and other STEM fields.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
0733015
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2007 to Mon, 09/30/2013
Project Evaluator: 
University of New Hampshire

Supporting Staff Developers in the Implementation of Professional Development Programs to Improve Mathematics Education for Students with Disabilities

This project is (1) conducting a qualitative study on the way facilitators use Math for All (MFA), an NSF-supported set of professional development materials for teachers who teach elementary school students with disabilities; (2) developing resources based on that study for teacher leaders and other facilitators of professional development; and (3) conducting fieldtests of the resources to examine their usefulness and impact.

Award Number: 
0822313
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Teresa Duncan
Full Description: 

 

The Coaching Cycle: An Interactive Online Course for Mathematics Coaches

The Coaching Cycle project is creating an online course for K–8 mathematics instructional coaches. The project targets coaches in rural areas and small schools who do not have access to regular district-wide professional development. It provides training in the skills needed for effective instructional coaching in mathematics by using artifacts collected by practicing coaches to engage course participants in the practice of coaching skills.

Award Number: 
0732495
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2007 to Fri, 09/30/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Eduation Alliance at Brown University

Science Learning: Integrating Design, Engineering and Robotics (SLIDER)

This project is developing and implementing a rigorous eighth grade physical science program that utilizes engineering design, LEGO™ robotics and mechanics, and a problem-based learning approach to teach mechanics, waves, and energy.

Award Number: 
0918618
Funding Period: 
Thu, 10/01/2009 to Tue, 09/30/2014
Project Evaluator: 
Dr. Gordon Kingsley
Full Description: 

SLIDER is a 5 year $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Discovery Research K-12 (DR-K12) program. During the grant period (10/1/09 -9/30/14), the SLIDER program will seek to answer the question: "What effects do robotics, engineering design, and problem-based inquiry science have on student learning and academic engagement in 8th grade physical science classes?"

The Team:

Georgia Tech faculty and staff from a number of academic units (CEISMC, CETL, Math, Psychology, Biomedical Engineering & Computing) and a national-level advisory board.  

Teachers, principals and school system administrators representing Fulton County Schools, Cobb County Schools  and Emanuel County Schools and the Georgia Department of Education.

Richard Millman  PI
Marion Usselman  Co - PI
Donna Llewellyn Co-PI for Research

Program Goals:

  1. Design and implement a problem-based robotics curriculum as a context for 8th graders to learn physics and reasoning skills, and as a way to increase student engagement, motivation, aptitude, creativity and STEM interest.
  2. Conduct research to determine the effectiveness of the program across all curriculum development parameters.
  3. Determine how students engage the material across ethnic, socio- cultural, gender and geographic (rural, urban, and suburban) lines.
  4. Measure the “staying power” of the experience as students move from middle to high school.

The Method:

Using “backwards design” strategies, the SLIDER curriculum development team at CEISMC will create inquiry-based engineering design instructional materials for 8th grade Physical Science that use robotics as the learning tool and that are aligned with the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS). The materials will employ problem-based challenges that require students to design, program, investigate, and reflect, and then revise their product or solution. They will consist of three 4-6 week modules that cover the physics concepts of Mechanics (force, motion, simple machines), Waves (light, sound, magnetism, electricity, heat), and Energy.   CEISMC will also design the teacher professional development necessary for effective implementation of the curriculum.

Helping Teachers to Use and Students To Learn From Contrasting Examples: A Scale-up Study in Algebra I

Several small-scale experimental classroom studies Star and Rittle-Johnson demonstrate the value of comparison in mathematics learning: Students who learned by comparing and contrasting alternative solution methods made greater gains in conceptual knowledge, procedural knowledge, and flexibility than those who studied the same solution methods one at a time. This study will extend that prior work by developing, piloting, and then evaluating the impact of comparison on students' learning of mathematics in a full-year algebra course.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0814571
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/15/2008 to Tue, 08/31/2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE)

This project develops and researches the academic potential of a hybrid instructional model that infuses computer simulations, modeling, and educational gaming into middle school technology education programs. These prototypical materials use 3-D simulations and educational gaming to support students’ learning of STEM content and skills through developing solutions to design challenges.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0821965
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2008 to Sun, 07/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Dr. Deborah Hecht

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