Teacher Content Knowledge

Reaching Across the Hallway: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching Computer Science in Rural Schools

This project will develop, test, and refine a "train-the-trainer" professional development model for rural teacher-leaders. The project goal is to design and develop a professional development model that supports teachers integrating culturally relevant computer science skills and practices into their middle school social studies classrooms, thereby broadening rural students' participation in computer science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010256
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

Strengthening computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) education is a national priority with particular attention to increasing the number of teachers prepared to deliver computer science courses. For rural schools, that collectively serve more than 10 million students, it is especially challenging. Rural schools find it difficult to recruit and retain STEM teachers that are prepared to teach computer science and computational thinking. This project will develop, test, and refine a "train-the-trainer" professional development model for rural teacher-leaders. The project will build teachers' self-efficacy to deliver computer science concepts and practices into middle school social studies classrooms. The project is led by CodeVA (a statewide non-profit in Virginia), in partnership with TERC (a STEM-focused national research institution) and the University of South Florida College of Education, and in collaboration with six rural school districts in Virginia. The project goal is to design and develop a professional development model that supports teachers integrating culturally relevant computer science skills and practices into their middle school social studies classrooms, thereby broadening rural students' participation in computer science. The professional development model will be designed and developed around meeting rural teachers, where they are, geographically, economically, and culturally. The model will also be sustainable and will work within the resource constraints of the rural school district. The model will also be built on strategies that will broadly spread CS education while building rural capacity.

The project will use a mixed-methods research approach to understand the model's potential to build capacity for teaching CS in rural schools. The research design is broken down into four distinct phases; planning/development prototyping, piloting and initial dissemination, an efficacy study, and analysis, and dissemination. The project will recruit 45 teacher-leaders and one district-level instructional coach, 6th and 7th-grade teachers, and serve over 1900 6th and 7th-grade students. Participants will be recruited from the rural Virginia school districts of Buchanan, Russell, Charlotte, Halifax, and Northampton. The research question for phase 1 is what is each district's existing practice around computer science education (if any) and social studies education? Phases 2, 3 and 4 research will examine the effectiveness of professional development on teacher leadership and the CS curricular integration. Phase 4 research will examine teacher efficacy to implement the professional development independently, enabling district teachers to integrate CS into their social studies classes. Teacher data sources for each phase include interviews with administrators and teachers, teacher readiness surveys, observations, an examination of artifacts, and CS/CT content interviews. Student data will consist of classroom observation and student attitude surveys. Quantitative and qualitative data will be triangulated to address each set of research questions and provide a reliability check on findings. Qualitative data, such as observations/video, and interview data will be analyzed through codes that represent expected themes and patterns related to teachers' and coaches' experiences. Project results will be communicated through presentations at conferences such as Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), and the American Educational Research Association. Lesson plans will be made available on the project website, and links will be provided through publications and newsletters such as the NCSS Middle-Level Learner, NCSS Social Education, CSTA the Voice, the NSF-funded CADREK12 website and the NSF-funded STEM Video Showcase.

Developing Teachers' Epistemic Cognition and Teaching Practices for Supporting Students' Epistemic Practices with Scientific Systems

This project uses a new theoretical framework that specifies criteria for developing scientific thinking skills that include the value that people place on scientific aims, the cognitive engagement needed to evaluate scientific claims, and the scientific skills that will enable one to arrive at the best supported explanation of a scientific phenomenon.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009803
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

This project aims to investigate needs and challenges in developing an informed public able to evaluate empirical evidence generated from scientific activities. At the core of this research are two intertwined issues: (1) epistemic practices--how people acquire knowledge of science and how they evaluate knowledge sources; and (2) how people improve their abilities to evaluate these knowledge sources so as to improve their abilities to develop and use scientific knowledge. While much science education research has focused on helping students develop these abilities such as through scientific argumentation and modeling (hereafter referred to as scientific thinking), much less research has focused on how teachers acquire this understanding and how their understanding informs their instruction. Until recently, the science education field has lacked a comprehensive framework to support the acquisition, evaluation, and use of scientific knowledge sources. This project uses a new theoretical framework that specifies criteria for developing these scientific thinking skills that include, among others, the value that people place on scientific aims, the cognitive engagement needed to evaluate scientific claims, and the scientific skills that will enable one to arrive at the best supported explanation of a scientific phenomenon. The project will work with high school biology teachers to investigate their own understanding of scientific thinking, how it can be improved through professional development, and how this improvement can translate into practice to support student learning.

The project will work with 20 teachers and classrooms that will impact approximately 1500 to 3000 students. Teachers will act as design collaborators in three iterations of design and development activities with a goal to produce effective professional development supports with proven student outcomes that can be broadly disseminated. Data collection each year will entail: (1) 40 to 60 video-recordings of teacher instruction and student interactions; (2) Content and pedagogical content knowledge surveys from teachers and students; (3) Teacher pre- and post-interviews; and (4) Teacher and student artifacts that demonstrate the extent to which scientific thinking has been achieved. The data will be analyzed through a mixed-methods approach. Qualitative data will be analyzed through validated coding manuals that specify a range of abilities in scientific thinking. Likert-scale and open-ended survey questions will be used to measure changes in instruction and learning outcomes in various factors related to the research goals.

Supporting Elementary Teacher Learning for Effective School-Based Citizen Science (TL4CS)

This project will develop two forms of support for teachers: guidance embedded in citizen science project materials and teacher professional development. The overarching goal of the project is to generate knowledge about teacher learning that enables elementary school citizen science to support students' engagement with authentic science content and practices through data collection and sense making.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009212
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

Citizen science involves individuals, who are not professional scientists, in authentic scientific research, typically in collaboration with professional scientists. When implemented well in elementary schools, citizen science projects immerse students in science content and engage them with scientific practices. These projects can also create opportunities for students to connect with their local natural surroundings, which is needed, as some research has suggested that children are becoming increasingly detached from nature. The classroom teacher plays a critical role in ensuring that school-based citizen science projects are implemented in a way that maximizes the benefits. However, these projects typically do not include substantial guidance for teachers who want to implement the projects for instructional purposes. This project will develop two forms of support for teachers: (1) guidance embedded in citizen science project materials and (2) teacher professional development. It will develop materials and professional development experiences to support teacher learning for 80 5th grade teachers impacting students in 40 diverse elementary schools.

The overarching goal of this project is to generate knowledge about teacher learning that enables elementary school citizen science to support students' engagement with authentic science content and practices through data collection and sense making. Specifically, the study is designed to address the following research questions: (1) What kinds of support foster teacher learning for enacting effective school-based citizen science? (2) How do supports for teacher learning shape the way teachers enact school-based citizen science? and (3) What is the potential of school-based citizen science for positively influencing student learning and student attitudes toward nature and science? Data collected during project implementation will include teacher surveys, student surveys and assessments, and case study protocols.

Responsive Instruction for Emergent Bilingual Learners in Biology Classrooms

This project seeks to support emergent bilingual students in high school biology classrooms. The project team will study how teachers make sense of and use an instructional model that builds on students' cultural and linguistic strengths to teach biology in ways that are responsive. The team will also study how such a model impacts emergent bilingual students' learning of biology and scientific language practices, as well as how it supports students' identities as knowers/doers of science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010153
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The population of students who are emergent bilinguals in the US is not only growing in number but also, historically, has been underrepresented in STEM fields. Emergent bilingual students have not had access to the same high-quality science education as their peers, despite bringing rich academic, linguistic and cultural strengths to their learning. Building on smaller pilot studies and ideas that have shown to be successful in supporting emergent bilingual students' learning of elementary science, this project seeks to support emergent bilingual students in high school biology classrooms. The project team will study how teachers make sense of and use an instructional model that builds on students' cultural and linguistic strengths to teach biology in ways that are responsive. The team will also study how such a model impacts emergent bilingual students' learning of biology and scientific language practices, as well as how it supports students' identities as knowers/doers of science. The collaboration will include two partner districts that will allow the project work to impact about 11,000 high school students and 30 biology teachers in Florida. Over time, the project team plans to enact and study three cohorts of teachers and students; use the information learned to improve the instructional model; and develop lessons, a website, and other materials that can be applied to other contexts to support emergent bilingual students' learning of biology. This project will increase emergent bilingual students' participation in biology classes, improve their achievement and engagement in science and engineering practices, extend current research-based practices, and document how to build on emergent bilingual students' strengths and prior experiences.

In two previous pilot studies through the collaboration of an interdisciplinary team, the project team developed an instructional model that they found supported emergent bilingual students to have high-quality opportunities for science learning. The model builds on research related to culturally responsive instruction; funds of knowledge (including work on identity affirmation and collaboration); and linguistically responsive instruction (including using students' home languages and multiple modalities, and explicit attention to academic language). Using design-based research, the project team will gather data from two primary settings: their professional development program and biology teachers' classrooms. They will use these data both to improve the instructional model and professional development for biology teachers. Additionally, the project team will study how teachers use the model to support emergent bilingual students' biology engagement and achievement, as well as study how biology teachers enact the instructional model in two school districts. The project will work toward three main outcomes: a) to develop new knowledge related to how diverse learners develop language and content knowledge in biology through engaging in science and engineering practices; b) to generate new knowledge about how biology teachers can adapt responsive instruction to local contexts and student populations; and c) to articulate an instructional model for biology teachers of emergent bilingual students that is rigorous, yet practical. The dissemination and sustainability include publishing and presenting findings at a range of conferences and journals; making available the refined instructional framework and professional development materials on a website; communication with district leaders and policymakers; and white papers that can be more widely distributed.

Exploring Early Childhood Teachers' Abilities to Identify Computational Thinking Precursors to Strengthen Computer Science in Classrooms

This project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development to address the lack of research in early computer science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2006595
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

Strengthening computer science education is a national priority with special attention to increasing the number of teachers who can deliver computer science education in schools. Yet computer science education lacks the evidence to determine how teachers come to think about computational thinking (a problem-solving process) and how it could be integrated within their day-to-day classroom activities. For teachers of pre-kindergarten to 2nd (PK-2) grades, very little research has specifically addressed teacher learning. This oversight challenges the achievement of an equitable, culturally diverse, computationally empowered society. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development in San Marcos, Texas, to address the lack of research in early computer science education. The model will emphasize three aspects of teacher learning: a) exploration of and reflection on computer science and computational thinking skills and practices, b) noticing and naming computer science precursor skills and practices in early childhood learning, and c) collaborative design, implementation and assessment of learning activities aligned with standards across content areas. The project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project includes a two-week computational making and inquiry institute focused on algorithms and data in the context of citizen science and historical storytelling. The project also includes monthly classroom coaching sessions, and teacher meetups.

The research will include two cohorts of 15 PK-2 teachers recruited from the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) in years one and two of the project. The project incorporates a 3-phase professional development program to be run in two cycles for each cohort of teachers. Phase one (summer) includes a 2-week Computational Making and Inquiry Institute, phase two (school year) includes classroom observations and teacher meetups and phase three (late spring) includes an advanced computational thinking institute and a community education conference. Research and data collection on impacts will follow a mixed-methods approach based on a grounded theory design to document teachers learning. The mixed-methods approach will enable researchers to triangulate participants' acquisition of new knowledge and skills with their developing abilities to implement learning activities in practice. Data analysis will be ongoing, interweaving qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative data, including field notes, observations, interviews, and artifact assessments, will be analyzed by identifying analytical categories and their relationships. Quantitative data includes pre to post surveys administered at three-time points for each cohort. Inter-item correlations and scale reliabilities will be examined, and a repeated measures ANOVA will be used to assess mean change across time for each of five measures. Project results will be communicated via peer-reviewed journals, education newsletters, annual conferences, family and teacher meetups, and community art and culture events, as well as on social media, blogs, and education databases.

Leveraging Simulations in Preservice Preparation to Improve Mathematics Teaching for Students with Disabilities (Collaborative Research: Cohen)

This project aims to support the mathematics learning of students with disabilities through the development and use of mixed reality simulations for elementary mathematics teacher preparation. These simulations represent low-stakes opportunities for preservice teachers to practice research-based instructional strategies to support mathematics learning, and to receive feedback on their practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009939
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2020 to Tue, 04/30/2024
Full Description: 

The preparation of general education teachers to support the mathematics learning of students with disabilities is critical, as students with disabilities are overrepresented in the lower ranks of mathematics achievement. This project aims to address this need in the context of elementary mathematics teacher preparation through the development and use of mixed reality simulations. These simulations represent low-stakes opportunities for preservice teachers to practice research-based instructional strategies to support mathematics learning, and to receive feedback on their practices. Learning units that use the simulations will focus on two high leverage practices: teacher modeling of self-monitoring and reflection strategies during problem solving and using strategy instruction to teach students to support problem solving. These high-leverage teaching practices will support teachers engaging all students, including students with disabilities, in conceptually sophisticated mathematics in which students are treated as sense-makers and empowered to do mathematics in culturally meaningful ways.

The project work encompasses three primary aims. The first aim is to develop a consensus around shared definitions of high-leverage practices across the mathematics education and special education communities. To accomplish this goal, the project will convene a series of consensus-building panels with mathematics education and special education experts to develop shared definitions of the two targeted high leverage practices. This work will include engaging with current research, group discussion, and production of documents with specifications for the practices. The second aim is to develop learning units for elementary mathematics methods courses grounded in mixed reality simulation. These simulations will allow teacher candidates to enact the high leverage practices with simulated students and to receive coaching on their practice from the research team. The impact of this work will be assessed through the analysis of interviews with teacher educators implementing the units and observations and artifacts from the implementations. The third aim will be to assess the effectiveness of the simulations on teacher candidates? practices and beliefs through small-scaled randomized control trials. Teacher candidates will be randomly assigned to conditions that address the practices and make use of simulations, and a business as usual condition focused on lesson planning, student assessment, and small group discussions of the high leverage practices. The impact of the work will be assessed through the analysis of baseline and exit simulations, measures of teacher self-efficacy for teaching students with disabilities, and observations of classroom teaching in their clinical placement settings.

Leveraging Simulations in Preservice Preparation to Improve Mathematics Teaching for Students with Disabilities (Collaborative Research: Jones)

This project aims to support the mathematics learning of students with disabilities through the development and use of mixed reality simulations for elementary mathematics teacher preparation. These simulations represent low-stakes opportunities for preservice teachers to practice research-based instructional strategies to support mathematics learning, and to receive feedback on their practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010298
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2020 to Tue, 04/30/2024
Full Description: 

The preparation of general education teachers to support the mathematics learning of students with disabilities is critical, as students with disabilities are overrepresented in the lower ranks of mathematics achievement. This project aims to address this need in the context of elementary mathematics teacher preparation through the development and use of mixed reality simulations. These simulations represent low-stakes opportunities for preservice teachers to practice research-based instructional strategies to support mathematics learning, and to receive feedback on their practices. Learning units that use the simulations will focus on two high leverage practices: teacher modeling of self-monitoring and reflection strategies during problem solving and using strategy instruction to teach students to support problem solving. These high-leverage teaching practices will support teachers engaging all students, including students with disabilities, in conceptually sophisticated mathematics in which students are treated as sense-makers and empowered to do mathematics in culturally meaningful ways.

The project work encompasses three primary aims. The first aim is to develop a consensus around shared definitions of high-leverage practices across the mathematics education and special education communities. To accomplish this goal, the project will convene a series of consensus-building panels with mathematics education and special education experts to develop shared definitions of the two targeted high leverage practices. This work will include engaging with current research, group discussion, and production of documents with specifications for the practices. The second aim is to develop learning units for elementary mathematics methods courses grounded in mixed reality simulation. These simulations will allow teacher candidates to enact the high leverage practices with simulated students and to receive coaching on their practice from the research team. The impact of this work will be assessed through the analysis of interviews with teacher educators implementing the units and observations and artifacts from the implementations. The third aim will be to assess the effectiveness of the simulations on teacher candidates? practices and beliefs through small-scaled randomized control trials. Teacher candidates will be randomly assigned to conditions that address the practices and make use of simulations, and a business as usual condition focused on lesson planning, student assessment, and small group discussions of the high leverage practices. The impact of the work will be assessed through the analysis of baseline and exit simulations, measures of teacher self-efficacy for teaching students with disabilities, and observations of classroom teaching in their clinical placement settings.

CAREER: Exploring Teacher Noticing of Students' Multimodal Algebraic Thinking

This project investigates and expands teachers' learning to notice in two important ways. First, the research expands beyond teachers' noticing of written and verbal thinking to attend to gesture and other aspects of embodied and multimodal thinking. Second, the project focuses on algebraic thinking and seeks specifically to understand how teacher noticing relates to the content of algebra. Bringing together multimodal thinking and the mathematical ideas in algebra has the potential to support teachers in providing broader access to algebraic thinking for more students.

Award Number: 
1942580
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2020 to Sat, 05/31/2025
Full Description: 

Effective teachers of mathematics attend to and respond to the substance of students' thinking in supporting classroom learning. Teacher professional development programs have supported teachers in learning to notice students' mathematical thinking and using that noticing to make instructional decisions in the classroom. This project investigates and expands teachers' learning to notice in two important ways. First, the research expands beyond teachers' noticing of written and verbal thinking to attend to gesture and other aspects of embodied and multimodal thinking. Second, the project focuses on algebraic thinking and seeks specifically to understand how teacher noticing relates to the content of algebra. Bringing together multimodal thinking and the mathematical ideas in algebra has the potential to support teachers in providing broader access to algebraic thinking for more students.

To study teacher noticing of multimodal algebraic thinking, this project will facilitate video club sessions in which teachers examine and annotate classroom video. The video will allow text-based and visual annotation of the videos to obtain rich portraits of the thinking that teachers notice as they examine algebra-related middle school practice. The research team will create a video library focused on three main algebraic thinking areas: equality, functional thinking, and proportional reasoning. Clips will be chosen that feature multimodal student thinking about these content areas, and provide moments that would be fruitful for advancing student thinking. Two cohorts of preservice teachers will engage in year-long video clubs using this video library, annotate videos using an advanced technological tool, and engage in reflective interviews about their noticing practices. Follow-up classroom observations will be conducted to see how teachers then notice multimodal algebraic thinking in their classrooms. Materials to conduct the video clubs in other contexts and the curated video library will be made available, along with analyses of the teacher learning that resulted from their implementation.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: Increasing the Impact of Educational Research on Practice

The focus of this conference is to carefully examine past and current research with an eye toward improving its impact on practice and to create concrete steps that could shape the nature and impact of mathematics education research.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1941494
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The focus of the proposed conference is to carefully examine past and current research with an eye toward improving its impact on practice. This conference is designed to create concrete steps that could shape the nature and impact of mathematics education research for years to come. A diverse group of 50 participants will be invited to participate. Participants include 10 experienced K-12 educators whose perspectives will be used to anchor the conference in problems of practice. Other participants represent senior through more junior scholars who have demonstrated a commitment to addressing the disconnect between research and practice, along with technology experts to advise participants on capabilities and innovative uses of modern technologies for instruction, assessment and data management.

The overarching goal for the conference is to help the field of mathematics education think deeply about the most productive ways to answer the following questions: [1] Why hasn't past research had a more direct impact on practice? What can be learned from this historical analysis for future research? [2] What is a possible vision for research that would have a more direct impact on practice? What questions should be asked? What methods should be used? What concrete steps can be taken to launch the new research programs? [3] What are the implications of adopting new kinds of research programs? If they gain traction, how will such changes affect the broader education community and infrastructure, including preservice teacher education, teacher professional development, and the training of future researchers? How should the roles of researchers and teachers change? What incentive structures might motivate these changes? How will new programs of research interact with existing programs?

Supporting Students' Science Content Knowledge through Project-based Inquiry

This project will address STEM learning through classroom implementation at two project partner schools in North Carolina, one urban and the other rural, with culturally diverse student populations. The project offers high school students the opportunity to be immersed in science content through engaging in globally-relevant learner-centered activities.

Award Number: 
1907895
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

The Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global initiative will address STEM learning through classroom implementation at two project partner schools in North Carolina, one urban and the other rural, with culturally diverse student populations. Both are innovative public high schools implementing the Early College High School model, preparing diverse students from populations underrepresented in STEM fields for college success. Because of the synergistic interaction of theory and practice, the project will produce substantial advances in the development of improved inquiry-based learning materials and research on the impact of these materials on students and teachers. The project offers high school students the opportunity to be immersed in science content through engaging in globally-relevant learner-centered activities. The following three research questions will be addressed: 1) How does inquiry through the PBI Global process support student science content knowledge? 2) How can students' motivation and engagement be characterized after participating in the PBI Global process? 3) To what degree do teachers' attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogies change as a result of PBI Global professional development?

Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global responds to the need for research-informed and field-tested products with iterative development and implementation of a globally relevant, inquiry-based STEM curriculum. The project focuses on developing 9th grade student physical, biological, and environmental science content knowledge and science and engineering practices through the topics of global water and sanitation issues. Factors influencing student motivation and engagement, as well as teacher attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogies will be investigated. The project will use a Design-Based Research (DBR) approach to develop and refine instructional materials and teacher professional development for the existing interdisciplinary PBI Global initiative. A mixed-methods research convergent parallel design will be used to explore the effects of the classroom implementation on student and teacher outcomes.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global 2020

Presenter(s): Hiller Spires & Erin Krupa


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