Curriculum

Next Generation Preschool Math

This project will develop, test, and refine a curriculum supplement (a hands-on technology) that (1) promotes childrens' understanding of number (counting, comparing, and ordering) and fair sharing (equipartitioning); (2) uses interactive media on an emerging handheld platform (touch screen tablets), integrating new multi-touch activities with existing hands-on activities; (3) enhances opportunities for learning with interactive media through shared use with adult guides and peers; and (4) provides professional and technical support materials for preschool educators.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119118
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/01/2011 to Fri, 07/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
Education Design, Inc.
Full Description: 

In this full research and development project, a team of learning scientists and media researchers at Education Development Center and SRI International will collaborate with educational media producers at WGBH to develop, test, and refine a curriculum supplement (a hands-on technology) that (1) promotes childrens' understanding of number (counting, comparing, and ordering) and fair sharing (equipartitioning); (2) uses interactive media on an emerging handheld platform (touch screen tablets), integrating new multi-touch activities with existing hands-on activities; (3) enhances opportunities for learning with interactive media through shared use with adult guides and peers; and (4) provides professional and technical support materials for preschool educators. The project investigates if and how engagement with activities in a media-rich curriculum supplement improves low-income young childrens' early learning of number and equipartitioning.

The project builds on sound research about learning trajectories to develop materials for fostering young childrens' learning. In addition, this project will generate new research findings about how engagement with activities in a media-rich curriculum supplement can improve low-income childrens' learning. The project uses use mixed methods (ethnographic observations and interviews and HLM analyses) to answer the research questions.

This project addresses a critical need to develop quality early childhood mathematics curriculum, particularly that aimed at low-income students. This project involves two important content areas. Both the content and the mode of delivery make major contributions to curriculum development and research. This project can provide much needed insights about how to effectively use technology for improving student learning.

Designing an Integrated Framework for Genetics Education to Develop Innovative Curricula and Assessments

This project is developing a model for integrating best practices in technology-supported instructional design and formative assessment for genetics instruction in upper elementary, middle and high school. Using the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment platform, the project is developing school curriculum that scaffold and model scientific practices, enable students to interface with real-world problems, provide opportunities for students to make connections between visible phenomena and underlying genetic processes, and promote student monitoring and reflection on learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119055
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Full Description: 

Michigan State University is developing a model for integrating best practices in technology-supported instructional design and formative assessment for genetics instruction in upper elementary, middle and high school. The project partners with an urban school district in Texas and a suburban school district in Michigan. The objectives are: (1) to articulate a detailed standards- and research-base conceptual framework for describing students' conceptions of genetics and how students develop a full understanding of genetics across grade spans (upper elementary, middle and high school); (2) to develop innovative instructional materials and embedded assessments that provide richer information about students' conceptual understanding of genetics and help practitioners make decisions about what to do next in instruction; and (3) to examine the implementation of these instructional materials and assessments to investigate students' understanding of genetics concepts.

Using the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) 4.0 platform (a technology-rich learning environment), the project is developing a 5-week elementary, middle, and secondary school curriculum models that scaffold and model scientific practices, enable students to interface with real-world problems, provide opportunities for students to make connections between visible phenomena and underlying genetic processes, and promote student monitoring and reflection on their learning. Each module will include animation- and stimulation-based contexts in WISE to provide rich occasions to press for building and developing reasoning and explanations. To promote teachers' use of student responses in formative ways, the materials will offer clear guidance about how to make evidence-based instructional decisions as well as provide options for contingent instruction activities that can be used to address persistent or common non-normative ways of reasoning.

The research offers generalizable approaches on the principled design of embedded assessments in WISE 4.0 and on using these assessments formatively. A quasi-experimental study employing a cross-sectional and longitudinal comparison design will investigate the development of students' understanding of genetics-related ideas from upper elementary to the high school years.

Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT) Designing and Studying a Multidisciplinary, Online Course for High School Teachers

This project will iteratively design, develop, field test, refine, and rigorously study a six-unit, facilitated, online professional development (PD) course focusing on energy-related concepts in the context of alternative energy. The primary audience is high school science teachers teaching out of their field of endorsement and serving students underrepresented in the sciences. The project will investigate whether the PD will precipitate changes in teacher knowledge and practice that result in higher student achievement.

Award Number: 
1118643
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
RMC Research Corporation
Full Description: 

The Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT) project will iteratively design, develop, field test, refine, and rigorously study a seven-unit, facilitated, online professional development (PD) course focusing on energy-related concepts in the context of alternative energy. The primary audience is high school science teachers teaching out of their field of endorsement and serving students underrepresented in the sciences. The project will investigate whether the PD will precipitate changes in teacher knowledge and practice that result in higher student achievement. As a result, EMAT will improve the science achievement of underrepresented students and enhance their future participation in science. Biological Sciences Curriculum Study and partners Oregon Public Broadcasting, the National Teacher Enhancement Network, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, and RMC Research Corporation bring significant resources and are highly qualified to develop and research EMAT.

The EMAT project advances knowledge in the field of teacher professional development by merging two facets of PD that have hitherto been studied separately and testing hypotheses about the degree to which this pairing enhances learning and practice. These facets are structured constructivist experiences and experiences grounded in situated cognition learning theory. Teachers reflect on research-based teaching practices in the lesson analysis process through Science Content Storyline and Student Thinking lenses. EMAT tests longitudinal impacts on teachers' content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and teaching practices and students' content knowledge, contributing much needed data for future PD projects. EMAT also studies which aspects of online environments are most effective for teachers. Data collected will inform full revisions of the course and will help address significant gaps in our understanding of online PD.

EMAT advances the field's understanding of which elements of online PD are effective and the extent to which high-quality online PD translates to improved student learning. Simultaneously, the project develops and tests a scalable, flexible resource to enhance teacher learning and practice. As a result, EMAT will have a broad impact by promoting research-based teaching and learning while advancing discovery and understanding. Furthermore, by targeting the recruitment of teacher participants from large urban districts with high numbers of teachers teaching out of field, EMAT impacts students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. EMAT will not only contribute to the research on PD, but also will be available for use in diverse settings. A facilitation guide allows the course to be freely used by school districts and teacher education and certification programs across the country. In addition, the facilitated course will be offered for graduate credit through the National Teacher Enhancement Network and will be freely available to individuals for independent study. Results of all research and evaluation will be published in science education journals and practitioner journals for teachers, and presented to PD groups at conferences. EMAT will benefit society by impacting teacher and student understanding of energy-related concepts, thereby increasing the capacity of U.S. citizens to creatively address energy challenges from a foundation of scientifically sound knowledge.

Promoting Science Among English Language Learners (P-SELL) Scale-Up

This effectiveness study focuses on the scale-up of a model of curricular and teacher professional development intervention aimed at improving science achievement of all students, especially English language learners (ELLs). The model consists of three basic components: (a) inquiry-oriented science curriculum, (b) teacher professional development for science instruction with these students, and (c) school resources for science instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1209309
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Fri, 07/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
Lauren Scher
Full Description: 

This four-year effectiveness study focuses on the scale-up of a model of curricular and teacher professional development intervention aimed at improving science achievement of all students, especially English language learners (ELLs). The model consists of three basic components: (a) inquiry-oriented science curriculum, (b) teacher professional development for science instruction with these students, and (c) school resources for science instruction. The project's main goals are: (1) to evaluate the effect of the intervention on student achievement, (2) to determine the effect of the intervention on teacher knowledge, practices, and school resources, and (3) to assess how teacher knowledge, practices, and resources mediate student achievement. The project is conducted in the context of the Florida current science education policies and accountability system (e.g., adoption of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in Science, assessment of science at the fifth grade, a Race to the Top award state). The study draws on findings from research on a previous NSF-funded efficacy study (035331) in which the model to be scaled-up was tested in a single school district. The effectiveness study includes three (of 67) school districts as key partners, representative of racially, ethnically, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse student populations; 64 elementary schools, 320 science teachers, and 24,000 fifth-grade students over a three-year period. Science learning is the primary subject matter, inclusive of life, physical, and earth/space sciences. Six research questions corresponding to three research areas guide the proposed scope of work. For the research area of Student Science Achievement, questions are: (1) What is the effect of the intervention on fifth-grade students' science achievement, compared to "business as usual"?, and (2) To what extent are the effects of the intervention moderated by students' English as a Second Language (ESOL) level, SES status, and racial/ethnic backgrounds? For Teacher Knowledge and Practices as a research area, questions are: (3) What is the effect of the intervention on teachers' science knowledge and teaching practices?, and (4) To what extent is students' science achievement predicted by school resources for science instruction? For School Resources for Science, questions are: (5) What is the effect of the intervention on school resources for science instruction?, and (6) To what extent is student achievement predicted by school resources for science instruction? To assess the effect of the intervention on students' and teachers' outcomes, a cluster-randomized-control trial is used, resulting in a total of 64 randomly selected schools (after stratifying them by school-level percent of ESOL and Free Reduced Lunch students). All science teachers and students from the 64 schools participate in the project: 32 in the treatment group (project curriculum for fifth grade, teacher professional development, and instructional resources), and 32 in the control group (district-adopted fifth-grade curriculum, no teacher professional development, and no instructional resources). To address the research area of Student Science Achievement, formative assessment items are used at the end of each curriculum unit, along with two equated forms of a project-developed science test (to be used as pre-and posttests) with both treatment and control groups, in addition to the Florida's Comprehensive Assessment Tests-Science. Data interpretation for this research area employs a set of three-level HLMs (students, nested in classrooms, nested in schools). To address the research area of Teacher Knowledge and Practices and School Resources for Science, the project uses three measures: (a) two equated forms of a 35-items test of teacher science knowledge, (b) a classroom observation instrument measuring third-party ratings of teacher knowledge and teaching practices, and (c) a questionnaire measuring teachers' self-reports of science knowledge and teaching practices. All measures are administered to both treatment and control groups. Data interpretation strategies include a series of HLMs with emphasis on the relevant teacher outcomes as a function of time, and of school-level mediating variables. External project evaluation is conducted by Concentric Research and Evaluation using quantitative and qualitative methods and addressing both formative and summative components. Project research findings contribute to the refinement of a model reflective of the new science standards in the State and the emerging national science standards. The value added of this effort consists of its potential to inform effective implementation of science curricula and teacher professional development in other learning settings, including ELLs and traditionally marginalized student populations at the elementary school level. It constitutes practically the only research study focused on the issue of scale-up and sustainability of effective science education practices with this student subpopulation, which has become prominent due to the dramatic growth of a racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse school-aged population, low levels of U.S. student science achievement, and the role of science and mathematics in current accountability systems nationwide.

EcoMobile: Blended Real and Virtual Immersive Experiences for Learning Complex Causality and Ecosystems Science

Researchers are studying whether middle school instruction about ecosystem science can be made more engaging and effective by combining immersion experiences in virtual ecosystems with immersion experiences in real ecosystems infused with virtual resources. Project personnel are developing a set of learning resources for deployment by mobile broadband devices that provide students with virtual access to information and simulations while working in the field.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1118530
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

Researchers at Harvard University are studying whether middle school instruction about ecosystem science can be made more engaging and effective by combining immersion experiences in virtual ecosystems with immersion experiences in real ecosystems infused with virtual resources. Project personnel are developing a set of learning resources for deployment by mobile broadband devices that provide students with virtual access to information and simulations while working in the field. The EcoMobile project is testing the hypothesis that student engagement, self-efficacy, and understanding of life science standards will be enhanced if students using a four-week inquiry-based curriculum that provides immersion experiences in simulated ecosystems employ smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices to collect and share data, access on-site information, and visit geo-referenced locations while investigating real ecosystems. Target audiences are middle school students and teachers, curriculum developers, and education researchers.

The project is using quasi-experimental methods to collect data on the usability of the blended environment approach, student gains, and relationships between the two modes of learning. Pilot-test middle school teachers are implementing the EcoMobile curriculum and a comparison curriculum that does not employ mobile devices in the field. Using a variety of assessment instruments and methods, researchers are measuring changes in students' knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy.

Blending virtual and mobile device-enhanced real world learning experiences can potentially enhance student-directed inquiry, enhance learning, and students' ability to understand and solve complex environmental problems. EcoMobile encompasses the types of learning strengths and preferences many students today bring to school, based on their use of social media, mobile devices, and games. Employing virtual and augmented reality learning environments in science classes may broaden the pool of science in science careers by enhancing their engagement in science learning, self-efficacy, and knowledge of science and technology.

Further Development and Testing of the Target Inquiry Model for Middle and High School Science Teacher Professional Development (Collaborative Research: Yezierski)

This project scales and further tests the Target Inquiry professional development model. The model involves teachers in three core experiences: 1) a research experience for teachers, 2) materials adaptation, and 3) an action research project. The original program was implemented with high school chemistry teachers, and was shown to result in significant increases, with large effect sizes, in teachers' understanding of science inquiry and quality of instruction, and in science achievement of those teachers' students.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118749
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Wed, 07/31/2013
Full Description: 

This project scales and further tests the Target Inquiry (TI) professional development model. The TI model involves teachers in three core experiences: 1) a research experience for teachers, 2) materials adaptation, and 3) an action research project. The original program was implemented with high school chemistry teachers at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), and was shown to result in significant increases, with large effect sizes, in teachers' understanding of science inquiry and quality of instruction, and in science achievement of those teachers' students. The scale-up and further testing would involve adding physics, biology and geology at Grand Valley State University, and implementing the program at Miami University (MU) with chemistry teachers. Three research questions will be studied:

1) How do the three TI core experiences influence in-service high school science teachers' (i) understanding of the nature of science; (ii) attitudes and beliefs about inquiry instruction; and (iii) classroom instructional methods in the derivatives of the TI model?

2) How does teacher participation in TI affect students' process skills (scientific reasoning and metacognition) and conceptual understanding of science in the derivatives of the TI model?

3) What are the challenges and solutions related to implementing TI in science disciplines beyond chemistry and in other regions?

The research design is quasi-experimental and longitudinal, incorporating implementation with research, and using quantitative and qualitative methods blended in a design research framework. A total of 54 middle and high school science teachers are being recruited for the study. The TI group is completing the TI program (N = 27; 15 at GVSU; 12 at MU) while the comparison group (same sizes and locations) is not. The comparison group is matched according to individual characteristics and school demographics. All teachers are being studied, along with their students, for 4 years (pre-program, post-RET, post-MA, post-AR/post-program). TI teachers are taking 15 credits of graduate level science courses over three years, including summers. Courses include a graduate seminar focused on preparing for the research experience, the research experience in a faculty member's science lab during the summer, application of research to teaching, action research project development, adaptation and evaluation of inquiry-focused curricula, and interpretation and analysis of classroom data from action research. Consistent feedback from professional development, teachers, and evaluation, including the previous implementation, contributes to a design-based approach. Teacher factors being studied include nature of science, inquiry teaching knowledge and beliefs, and quality of inquiry instruction. Student factors being studied include scientific reasoning; metacognition, self-efficacy, and learning processes in science; and content knowledge and conceptual understanding. Only established quantitative and qualitative instruments are being used. Quantitative analysis includes between-group comparisons by year on post-tests, with pre-tests as covariates, and multi-level models with students nested with teachers, and teachers within sites, with the teacher level as the primary unit of change. Trends over time between the treatment and comparison groups are being examined. The evaluation is using a combination of pre/post causal comparative quantitative measures and relevant qualitative data from project leaders and participants, as well as from the comparison group, to provide formative and summative evaluation input.

Outcomes of the project include documentation and understanding of the impacts on science teachers' instruction and student outcomes of research experiences for teachers when they are supported by materials adaptation and action research, and an understanding of what it takes to scale the model to different science disciplines and a different site. The project is also producing a website of instructional materials for middle and secondary science.

Continuous Learning and Automated Scoring in Science (CLASS)

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program.

Award Number: 
1119670
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items (i.e., short essays, science narratives, concept mapping, graphing problems, and virtual experiments) into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program. WISE is an online science-inquiry curricula that supports deep understanding through visualization of processes not directly observable, virtual experiments, graphing results, collaboration, and response to prompts for explanations. In partnership with Educational Testing Services (ETS), project goals are: (1) to develop five automated inquiry assessment activities that capture students' abilities to integrate their ideas and form coherent scientific arguments; (2) to customize WISE by incorporating automated scores; (3) to investigate how students' systematic feedback based on these scores improve their learning outcomes; and (4) to design professional development resources to help teachers use scores to improve classroom instruction, and administrators to make better informed decisions about teacher professional development and inquiry instruction. The project targets general science (life, physical, and earth) in three northern California school districts, five middle schools serving over 4,000 6th-8th grade students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and 29 science teachers. It contributes to increase opportunities for students to improve their science achievement, and for teachers and administrators to make efficient, evidence-based decisions about high-quality teaching and learning.

A key research question guides this effort: How automated scoring of inquiry assessments can increase success for diverse students, improve teachers' instructional practices, and inform administrators' decisions about professional development, inquiry instruction, and assessment? To develop science inquiry assessment activities, scoring written responses include semantic, syntax, and structure of meaning analyses, as well as calibration of human-scored items with a computer-scoring system through the c-rater--an ETS-developed cyber learning technology. Validity studies are conducted to compare automated scores with human-scored items, teacher, district, and state scores, including sensitivity to the diverse student population. To customize the WISE curriculum, the project modifies 12 existing units and develops nine new modules. To design adaptive feedback to students, comparative studies explore options for adaptive guidance and test alternatives based on automated scores employing linear models to compare student performance across randomly assigned guidance conditions; controlling for covariates, such as prior science scores, gender, and language; and grouping comparison studies. To design teacher professional development, synthesis reports on auto-scored data are created to enable them to use evidence to guide curricular decisions, and comments' analysis to improve feedback quality. Workshops, classroom observations, and interviews are conducted to measure longitudinal teachers' change over time. To empower administrators' decision making, special data reports, using-evidence activities, individual interviews, and observation of administrators' meetings are conducted. An advisory board charged with project evaluation addresses both formative and summative aspects.

A research-informed model to improve science teaching and learning at the middle school level through cyber-enabled assessment is the main outcome of this effort. A total of 21 new, one- to three-week duration standards-based science units, each with four or more automatically scored items, serve as prototypes to improve students' performance, teachers' instructional approaches, and administrators' school policies and practices.

CAREER: Engaging Elementary Students in Data Analysis Through Study of Physical Activities

This project is investigating the learning that can take place when elementary school students are directly involved in the collection, sense-making, and analysis of real, personally-meaningful data sets. The hypotheses of this work are that by organizing elementary statistics instruction around the study of physical activities, students will have greater personal engagement in data analysis processes and that students will also develop more robust understandings of statistical ideas.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1054280
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2011 to Thu, 06/30/2016
Full Description: 

This CAREER awardee at Utah State University is investigating the learning that can take place when elementary school students are directly involved in the collection, sense-making, and analysis of real, personally-meaningful data sets. The project responds to increasing attention to data collection and analysis in elementary grades and aims to make important contributions to the knowledge base on effective approaches to these topics. The hypotheses of this work are that by organizing elementary statistics instruction around the study of physical activities, students will have greater personal engagement in data analysis processes and that students will also develop more robust understandings of statistical ideas. Students and teachers from fifth grade classrooms from several elementary schools from northern Utah, are participating in the project. This work is co-funded by the EPSCoR program.

Statistics topics include measures of center and variation. Students use pedometers, heart rate monitors, other probeware, and the TinkerPlots software. The research team investigates the influence of personal ownership and relationships to data on students' understanding of learning of elementary statistics concepts and their ability to analyze data. The research involves multi-year clinical interviews and video-recorded classroom design experiments.

Research results are expected to be published in appropriate journals and are expected to be presented at professional meetings. Lesson plans and student instructional materials related to physical activity, measures of center, and data distributions are made available for use in partner elementary schools.

Implementing the Mathematical Practice Standards: Enhancing Teachers' Ability to Support the Common Core State Standards

This is a four-year project that is producing materials designed to help teachers see how the mathematical practices described in the Common Core State Standards for mathematics can be implemented in mathematics instruction. The goal of the improved instruction is to help students adopt and value these critical mathematical practices.

Award Number: 
1119163
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/01/2011 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Full Description: 

The Implementing Mathematical Practices Standards (IMPS) is a four-year project that is producing materials designed to help teachers see how the mathematical practices described in the Common Core State Standards for mathematics can be implemented in mathematics instruction. The goal of the improved instruction is to help students adopt and value these critical mathematical practices. Researchers at the Education Development Center are developing videos and print materials that exemplify the mathematical practices and are working with teachers in grades 5-10 to help them use the materials effectively. The research questions of the project are focused on what features of the materials are most helpful to teachers and what professional development characteristics facilitate implementation of the mathematics practices in classroom instruction. The external evaluation of the project is being conducted by evaluators at TERC who are looking the process of developing materials and how the materials are used.

The materials will include professionally-produced videos exemplifying a particular mathematical practice being implemented in a classroom as well as printed dialogues that are designed to help teachers understand the practice and why it is critical for students to acquire that mathematical practice. The exemplars of mathematical practices are being developed based on pilot work and systematic advice from mathematicians, mathematics educators and mathematics teachers in grades 5-10. The design process is iterative and materials are refined based on feedback that is received. Facilitators are being prepared to conduct professional development and materials are being tested by more than 150 teachers in a variety of school districts.

Professional groups such as NCTM and NCSM have called for materials that exemplify the CCSS mathematical practices. They have argued that teachers need to understand how these standards can be achieved in classrooms. IMPS systematic effort to design materials that exemplify the standards and to test not only the materials but also the professional development associated with the materials is responding to the national need. The videos and dialogues will be available through broad dissemination.

Developing and Testing a Model to Support Student Understanding of the Sub-microscopic Interactions That Govern Biological and Chemical Processes

This project designs, develops, and tests coherent interdisciplinary instructional materials to support high school students' integrated understanding of the forces and energetics involved in interactions that occur between atoms and molecules, and explores how students' learning progresses across time. The project will be implemented in three Michigan school districts with students who traditionally do not succeed in science. 

Award Number: 
1232388
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Project Evaluator: 
Steven McGee, The Learning Partnership
Full Description: 

This project designs, develops, and tests coherent interdisciplinary instructional materials to support high school students' integrated understanding of the forces and energetics involved in interactions that occur between atoms and molecules, and explores how students' learning progresses across time. Instructional materials focus on physical science core ideas identified in "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" (NRC, 2011), and "College Board Standards for College Success" (College Board, 2009). The two research questions are: (1) How does learning progress over time when students experience a set of interdisciplinary instructional materials designed to help them advance toward important learning goals related to interactions at very small scales?; and (2) How do the various learning activities support the development of integrated understanding? The project is implemented in three Michigan school districts with students who traditionally do not succeed in science. Two of the school districts serve urban communities with ethnically diverse student populations; the third serves a rural, primarily Caucasian community. 

To develop and test instructional materials and associated assessments, the project joins efforts with the Concord Consortium and employs the Construct-Centered Design process (a principled process based on evidence-centered assessment and learning goal-driven designs); uses physical and computer-based models and simulations; and draws on previous and ongoing work on a learning progression of the hypothetical students' path in their understanding of the structure, properties, interactions, and transformations of matter. Four instructional units are produced: (1) Introduction to Electrical Forces, (2) Water, (3) Larger Molecules, and (4) Bio-Molecules, with a duration of two to six weeks each. After testing for usability, the units go through two additional phases. Phase I comprises pilot testing with at least one teacher at two sites, two classrooms each, yielding information from 100-120 students per unit. Phase II consists of field testing the units with a larger sample. Using a power analysis to determine sample size, the project tests two different sequences of the units: (a) four teachers, eight classrooms, and 200 students use the units as a single semester course before taking biology or chemistry; and (b) four teachers, eight classrooms, and 200 students use the units in appropriate points within a chemistry or biology course. Eight teachers from the same school districts, 16 classrooms, and 400 students who do not use the units, serve as the comparison group. A mixed-methods approach is used to collect and analyze data. Data collection strategies include: (a) pre- and post- tests, (b) unit-embedded assessments, (c) students' interest and attitudes, (d) assessments to place students in the learning progression, (e) classroom observations, (f) analysis of student classroom work, and (g) interviews with students and teachers. Data interpretation strategies include: (a) coding of students' and teachers' responses from interviews, (b) identification of patterns, and (c) using item-response theory (IRT) procedures to place students' responses in the learning progression. A range of methods are used to assess validity and reliability of instruments used, including: (a) construct validity, (b) content validity, and (c) IRT procedures. Project external evaluation addresses both formative and summative aspects.

Key project outcomes include: (a) a research-informed and field-tested semester-long course comprising four integrated units with specific objectives, learning tasks, phenomena to illustrate and support understanding at key points, reading materials, and embedded assessments; (b) computer simulations aligned with the units; (c) educative materials for teachers; (d) valid and reliable instruments to measure students' understanding and attitudes; and (e) a set of research manuscripts focused on how the new materials work and promote student learning of key challenging ideas.

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