Teacher Content Knowledge

Fostering STEM Trajectories: Bridging ECE Research, Practice, and Policy

This project will convene stakeholders in STEM and early childhood education to discuss better integration of STEM in the early grades. PIs will begin with a phase of background research to surface critical issues in teaching and learning in early childhood education and STEM.  A number of reports will be produced including commissioned papers, vision papers, and a forum synthesis report.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417878
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/15/2015 to Tue, 05/31/2016
Full Description: 

Early childhood education is at the forefront of the minds of parents, teachers, policymakers as well as the general public. A strong early childhood foundation is critical for lifelong learning. The National Science Foundation has made a number of early childhood grants in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) over the years and the knowledge generated from this work has benefitted researchers. Early childhood teachers and administrators, however, have little awareness of this knowledge since there is little research that is translated and disseminated into practice, according to the National Research Council. In addition, policies for both STEM and early childhood education has shifted in the last decade. 

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the New America Foundation are working together to highlight early childhood STEM education initiatives. Specifically, the PIs will convene stakeholders in STEM and early childhood education to discuss better integration of STEM in the early grades. PIs will begin with a phase of background research to surface critical issues in teaching and learning in early childhood education and STEM. The papers will be used as anchor topics to organize a forum with a broad range of stakeholders including policymakers as well as early childhood researchers and practitioners. A number of reports will be produced including commissioned papers, vision papers, and a forum synthesis report. The synthesis report will be widely disseminated by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the New America Foundation.

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed project.

Design Technology and Engineering Education for English Learner Students: Project DTEEL

One significant challenge facing elementary STEM education is the varied preparation of English-language learners. The project addresses this with an innovative use of engineering curriculum to build on the English-language learners' prior experiences. The project will support teachers' learning about strategies for teaching English-language learners and using engineering design tasks as learning opportunities for mathematics, science and communication skills. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503428
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2015 to Thu, 05/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. One significant challenge facing elementary STEM education is the varied preparation of English-language learners. The project addresses this with an innovative use of engineering curriculum to build on the English-language learners' prior experiences. The project will support teachers' learning about strategies for teaching English-language learners and using engineering design tasks as learning opportunities for mathematics, science and communication skills. 

The project's cross-disciplinary approach is grounded in both inquiry-based science education research and bilingual cognition research. These complementary foci bridge research areas to highlight how engineering experiences for students can capitalize on bilingual students' experiences as problem solvers. The project will develop teachers' ability and instructional efficacy for both STEM and bilingual student instruction. The project adapts a previously developed curriculum for engineering education by adding resources and tools to support bilingual students. The research design primarily measures teacher-level phenomenon such as implementation of instructional strategies, STEM self-efficacy and ability to address the academic development of bilingual students through engineering design activities. Data collected include classroom observations, teacher surveys, focus groups, and teacher interviews. Student assessments will be piloted in the final year of the project.

Refining a Model with Tools to Develop Math PD Leaders: An Implementation Study

This project will work with middle school mathematics teachers in San Francisco Unified School District to develop their capacity to conduct professional development for the teachers in their schools. A central goal of this project is to develop models and resources for effective professional development and preparation of professional development leaders in mathematics with special attention to students who are English language learners.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417261
Funding Period: 
Thu, 01/01/2015 to Mon, 12/31/2018
Full Description: 

There is increased demand for K-12 teacher professional development that yields improvements in student learning and achievement. This need is particularly high given widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics which challenges teachers to incorporate mathematical thinking and problem solving into their instruction. The professional development challenge is exacerbated as our nation's demographics continue to shift, increasing the number of English language learners in school districts throughout the U.S. To meet this demand, the educational community must develop large-scale, system-level professional development programs aligned with the CCSS that are scalable and sustainable. The project team from Stanford University will work with middle school mathematics teachers in San Francisco Unified School District to develop their capacity to conduct professional development for the teachers in their schools. A central goal of this project is to develop models and resources for effective professional development and preparation of professional development leaders in mathematics with special attention to students who are English language learners. These models and resources will: provide school districts with the tools to build local capacity and provide sustainable professional development to all middle school mathematics teachers; improve the quality of teaching and, in turn, make important progress toward ensuring that all students in middle school can achieve the mathematical skills and understandings identified in the new standards; and meet the needs of English language learners. In addition, the Stanford team will contribute to the knowledge base in mathematics education, professional development and English language learners.

In previous work, the team developed two interconnected models--the Problem-Solving Cycle (PSC) and the Mathematics Leadership Preparation (MLP) models for preparing professional development leaders. The PSC model consists of a series of interconnected workshops organized around a problem that can be solved using multiple representations and solutions and can be adapted for multiple grade levels. Each cycle focuses on a different math problem. During the first cycle, teachers collaboratively solve the focal math problem and develop plans for teaching it to their students. Teachers then teach the lesson in their classes and the lessons are videotaped. Subsequent workshops focus on participants' classroom experiences teaching the problem. The goals of these workshops are to help teachers learn how to build on student thinking and to explore a variety of instructional practices. They rely heavily on video clips from the PSC lesson to foster productive conversations and situate the conversations in teachers' classroom instruction. The MLP model is designed to prepare Math Leaders to facilitate the PSC. The MLP prepares teachers to lead professional development for their colleagues. These models showed promise of effectiveness in improving middle school mathematics teachers' knowledge and practice, developing math professional development leaders, and improving student achievement. Investigators intend to refine and test the design of the PSC and MLP models and develop resources that can be used by other schools and districts, as well as conduct an evaluation of the work.

CAREER: Proof in Secondary Classrooms: Decomposing a Central Mathematical Practice

This project will develop an intervention to support the teaching and learning of proof in the context of geometry.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1453493
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2015 to Tue, 06/30/2020
Full Description: 

This project, funded as part of the CAREER program, would add to the knowledge base on the teaching and learning of proof in the context of the most prevalent course/topic in which proof is taught in the K-12 curriculum, geometry. Given the centrality of the role of proof, and the persistent difficulties in teaching proof in the K-12 and undergraduate curriculum, the topic is of vital importance. The work is novel, focusing on an area of proof that is understudied, the introduction of students to the topic of proof. While building on prior work in proof, the project will tackle an important area of beginning to teach proof, which may lead to broader innovations at both the K-12 and undergraduate level. The project will produce a resource, a set of lessons, which can be used widely and are likely to be broadly disseminated based on the PI's previous NSF-supported work, which has been broadly disseminated to practitioner audiences. 

The goal of the project is to develop an intervention to support the teaching and learning of proof in the context of geometry. This study takes as its premise that if we introduce proof, by first teaching students particular sub-goals of proof, such as how to draw a conclusion from a given statement and a definition, then students will be more successful with constructing proofs on their own. The 5-year design and development study builds on the researcher's prior work from a Knowles Science Teaching Fellowship (KSTF) grant to study how teachers introduce proof to students. This study will build on the prior work to refine a framework for introducing proof developed in the KSTF study. Using this framework the researcher will work with five high school geometry teachers to develop lessons via Lesson Study methods to introduce sub-goals of proof. The PI will study the impact of the use of these lessons on students' ability to perform proofs, and compare to students of ten teachers who will not have participated in the intervention.

 

CAREER: L-MAP: Pre-service Middle School Teachers' Knowledge of Mathematical Argumentation and Proving

This program of research will examine how middle school pre-service teachers' knowledge of mathematical argumentation and proving develops in teacher preparation programs. The project explores the research question: What conceptions of mathematical reasoning and proving do middle school preservice teachers hold in situations that foster reasoning about change, proportionality, and proportional relationships, as they enter their mathematics course sequence in their teacher preparation program, and how do these conceptions evolve throughout the program?

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1350802
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/15/2014 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

The field of mathematics teacher education needs a strong understanding of pre-service teachers' knowledge about the practice of mathematical argumentation and proof, including the development of this knowledge, to effectively move pre-service teachers toward a more sophisticated understanding and enactment of this practice with their own students. The integrated research and educational activities will contribute to the knowledge base teacher education programs need to effectively prepare middle school teachers for meeting the challenges of how to make reasoning and proof an integral aspect of instructional practice. The research results have the potential to guide teacher educators and educational researchers concerned with strengthening pre-service teachers' ability to make reasoning and proving an integral aspect of school mathematics. Consequently, pre-service teachers will be better equipped to develop mathematical reasoning skills in their future students and to support their students in learning mathematics with understanding. Given this country's growing need for a competent STEM workforce, helping all students learn mathematics in a way that supports deeper understanding is a priority. Additionally, the support of early CAREER scholars in mathematics education will add to the capacity of the country to address issues in mathematics education in the future.

The objective of this program of research is to examine how middle school pre-service teachers' knowledge of mathematical argumentation and proving develops in teacher preparation programs. The project explores the research question: What conceptions of mathematical reasoning and proving do middle school preservice teachers hold in situations that foster reasoning about change, proportionality, and proportional relationships, as they enter their mathematics course sequence in their teacher preparation program, and how do these conceptions evolve throughout the program? This development will be studied along three dimensions: (a) pre-service teachers' own ability to formulate mathematical arguments, (b) their ability to analyze mathematical arguments, and (c) their ability to analyze situations that engage students in mathematical argumentation and proving. Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of 60 pre-service teachers' models, or systems of interpretation, of mathematical argumentation and proof in curricular context that foster reasoning about change, proportionality and proportional relationships will be conducted to provide an understanding of the trajectory that captures how pre-service teachers develop their knowledge of mathematical argumentation and proving throughout their university mathematics preparation program and into their student teaching.

CAREER: Advancing Secondary Mathematics Teachers' Quantitative Reasoning

Advancing Reasoning addresses the lack of materials for teacher education by investigating pre-service secondary mathematics teachers' quantitative reasoning in the context of secondary mathematics concepts including function and algebra. The project extends prior research in quantitative reasoning to develop differentiated instructional experiences and curriculum that support prospective teachers' quantitative reasoning and produce shifts in their knowledge.

Award Number: 
1350342
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/15/2014 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics [STEM] and STEM education researchers and policy documents have directed mathematics educators at all levels to increase emphasis on quantitative reasoning so that students are prepared for continued studies in mathematics and other STEM fields. Often, teachers are not sufficiently prepared to support their students' quantitative reasoning. The products generated by this project fill a need for concrete materials at the pre-service level that embody research-based knowledge in the area of quantitative reasoning. The accessible collection of research and educational products provides a model program for changing prospective mathematics teachers' quantitative reasoning that is adoptable at other institutions across the nation. Additionally, the support of early CAREER scholars in mathematics education will add to the capacity of the country to address issues in mathematics education in the future.

Advancing Reasoning addresses the lack of materials for teacher education by investigating pre-service secondary mathematics teachers' quantitative reasoning in the context of secondary mathematics concepts including function and algebra. The project extends prior research in quantitative reasoning to develop differentiated instructional experiences and curriculum that support prospective teachers' quantitative reasoning and produce shifts in their knowledge. Three interrelated research questions guide the project: (i) What aspects of quantitative reasoning provide support for prospective teachers' understanding of major secondary mathematics concepts such as function and algebra? (ii) How can instruction support prospective teachers' quantitative reasoning in the context of the teaching and learning of major secondary mathematics concepts such as function and algebra? (iii) How do the understandings prospective teachers hold upon entering a pre-service program support or inhibit their quantitative reasoning? Advancing Reasoning addresses these questions by enacting an iterative, multi-phase study with 200 prospective teachers enrolled in a secondary mathematics education content course over 5 years. The main phase of the study implements a series of classroom design experiments to produce knowledge on central aspects of prospective teachers' quantitative reasoning and the instructional experiences that support such reasoning. By drawing this knowledge from a classroom setting, Advancing Reasoning contributes research-based and practice-driven deliverables that improve the teaching and learning of mathematics.

Teaching Environmental Sustainability - Model My Watershed (Collaborative Research: Kerlin)

This project will develop curricula for environmental/geoscience disciplines for high-school classrooms. The Model My Watershed (MMW) v2 app will bring new environmental datasets and geospatial capabilities into the classroom, to provide a cloud-based learning and analysis platform accessible from a web browser on any computer or mobile device, thus overcoming the cost and technical obstacles to integrating Geographic Information System technology in secondary education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418133
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project will develop curricula for environmental/geoscience disciplines for high-school classrooms. It will teach a systems approach to problem solving through hands-on activities based on local data and issues. This will provide an opportunity for students to act in their communities while engaging in solving problems they find interesting, and require synthesis of prior learning. The Model My Watershed (MMW) v2 app will bring new environmental datasets and geospatial capabilities into the classroom, to provide a cloud-based learning and analysis platform accessible from a web browser on any computer or mobile device, thus overcoming the cost and technical obstacles to integrating Geographic Information System technology in secondary education. It will also integrate new low-cost environmental sensors that allow students to collect and upload their own data and compare them to data visualized on the new MMW v2. This project will transform the ability of teachers throughout the nation to introduce hands-on geospatial analysis activities in the classroom, to explore a wide range of geographic, social, political and environmental concepts and problems beyond the project's specific curricular focus.

The Next Generation Science Standards state that authentic research experiences are necessary to enhance STEM learning. A combination of computational modeling and data collection and analysis will be integrated into this project to address this need. Placing STEM content within a place- and problem-based framework enhances STEM learning. Students, working in groups, will not only design solutions, they will be required to defend them within the application portal through the creation of multimedia products such as videos, articles and web 2.0 presentations. The research plan tests the overall hypothesis that students are much more likely to develop an interest in careers that require systems thinking and/or spatial thinking, such as environmental sciences, if they are provided with problem-based, place-based, hands-on learning experiences using real data, authentic geospatial analysis tools and models, and opportunities to collect their own supporting data. The MMW v2 web app will include a data visualization tool that streams data related to the modeling application. This database will be modified to integrate student data so teachers and students can easily compare their data to data collected by other students and the government and research data. All data will be easily downloadable so that students can increase the use of real data to support the educational exercises. As a complement to the model-based activities, the project partners will design, manufacture, and distribute a low-cost environmental monitoring device, called the Watershed Tracker. This device will allow students to collect real-world data to enhance their understanding of watershed dynamics. Featuring temperature, light, humidity, and soil moisture sensors, the Watershed Tracker will be designed to connect to tablets and smartphones through the audio jack common to all of these devices.

Survey of U.S. Middle School Mathematics Teachers and Teaching

This descriptive study will systematically track key instructional indicators in middle school mathematics classrooms, specifically, teachers' mathematical knowledge, the curriculum in place, and the nature of mathematics instruction offered to students. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417731
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

For the past 25 years, three major goals have animated U.S. educational policy: developing more knowledgeable teachers, implementing more challenging curricula, and fostering more ambitious instruction in classrooms. Yet despite volumes of policy guidance, on-the-ground effort, and research over the past decades, few comprehensive and representative portraits of teacher and teaching quality in U.S. classrooms exist. Instead, most research into these topics has been conducted with small or nonrepresentative samples, with the result that it is difficult to ascertain what, if any, progress has been made toward the three goals. Unlike student achievement, which the National Assessment of Educational Progress has tracked for almost 50 years, the classroom experiences of the typical U.S. student remain obscure.

To address this issue, the 4-year descriptive study will begin by systematically tracking key instructional indicators in middle school mathematics classrooms, specifically, teachers' mathematical knowledge, the curriculum in place, and the nature of mathematics instruction offered to students. To initiate this line of research, the research team will collect data in 2015 from a national representative sample of 600 U.S. middle school mathematics teachers. A written survey will build on one conducted in 2005-06, allowing for the comparison over time of teachers' curriculum use and mathematical knowledge. The research team will also record and score videos of instruction from a subset of these teachers, enabling both a description of current instruction and a comparison to lessons captured during the 1999 TIMSS video study. Both the survey and video datasets can serve as referents for future studies of instruction, for instance, studies investigating whether student participation in the development of mathematical ideas has changed over time. The research team will use both old and new technologies to complete the study. The mail survey will consist of existing items that tap teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching, or the professional knowledge teachers draw upon in providing mathematics instruction to children. To conduct the video study, they will mail tablets for teachers to record their own instruction, and guidance on taping will be provided via YouTube video. The lessons that result will be scored using the Mathematical Quality of Instruction (MQI) instrument. The MQI measures key dimensions of mathematics classrooms, including the proportion of class time spent on mathematical tasks, the mathematical integrity of lesson content, and the nature of student participation in the development of mathematical ideas. Video and data from the survey will be made available to other researchers for scoring with other methods and observation instruments. Teachers, parents and students will be asked to consent to their classroom videos being made available. The study is largely descriptive, as are many others of its kind. However, describing the range of U.S. instruction can have a profound effect on the field, much as the TIMSS video studies did over a decade ago. Establishing methodologies for studying teachers and teaching at scale will contribute to efforts to evaluate and monitor progress toward broad-reaching national goals.

Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG): Factors that Support Racial and Ethnic Minority Students’ Success in Low-Income Middle Schools

Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG) designs and implements curriculum aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and uses school gardens as learning contexts in grade 6 (2014-2015), grade 7 (2015-2016) and grade 8 (2016-2017) in two low-income urban schools. The project investigates the extent to which SciLG activities predict students’ STEM identity, motivation, learning, and grades in science using a theoretical model of motivational development.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418270
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG) will use school gardens as the context for learning at two low-income middle schools with predominantly racial and ethnic minority students in Portland, Oregon. There are thousands of gardens flourishing across the country that are underutilized as contexts for active engagement in the middle grades. School gardens provide important cultural contexts while addressing environmental and food issues. SciLG will bring underrepresented youth into gardens at a critical time in their intellectual development to broaden the factors that support motivation to pursue STEM careers and educational pathways. The project will adapt, organize, and align two disparate sets of existing resources into the project curriculum: 6th grade science curriculum resources, and garden-based lessons and units. The curriculum will be directly aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). 

The project will use a design-based research approach to refine instruction and formative assessment, and to investigate factors for student success in science proficiency and their motivational engagement in relation to the garden curriculum. The curriculum will be pilot-tested during the first year of the project in five sixth-grade classes with 240 students in Portland Public Schools. Students will be followed longitudinally in grades 7 and 8 in years 2 and 3 respectively, as curricular integration continues. The research team will support participating teachers each year in using their schools' gardens, and study how this context can serve as an effective pedagogical strategy for NGSS-aligned science curriculum. Academic learning will be measured by assessments of student progress towards the end of middle-school goals defined by NGSS. Motivation will be measured by a validated motivational engagement instrument. SciLG results along with the motivational engagement instrument will be disseminated widely through a variety of professional networks to stimulate implementation nationwide.

Promoting Active Learning Strategies in Biology (PALS)

This project examines the potential of two research-based and college-tested active learning strategies in high school classrooms: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) and Peer Instruction by adapting the strategies for implementation in biology classes, with the goal of determining which strategy shows the most promise for increasing student achievement and attitudes toward science.

Award Number: 
1417735
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

The use of active learning strategies has long been advocated in the sciences, but high school science instruction remains highly didactic across the country. This project addresses this longstanding concern by examining the potential of two research-based and college-tested learning strategies in high school classrooms: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) and Peer Instruction. The POGIL strategy was developed initially for chemistry classes, and Peer Instruction was developed within physics classes. These two learning strategies will be adapted for implementation in biology classes, with the goal of determining which strategy shows the most promise for increasing student achievement and attitudes toward science. The project will also study the influence of these instructional strategies on teacher beliefs about active learning and the contributions of these beliefs on student success in biology. Creation of the professional development model and materials for this project bring together high school biology teachers, university biology faculty, and science education specialists.

The project will conduct design and development research to iteratively develop the instructional materials through a collaboration of high school teachers and college faculty members experienced in using the instructional approaches being compared. Adaptation of the learning strategies for use in biology was chosen because biology is the science course most often taught across schools in the country, and it is required for graduation in the state where this project is being conducted. To compare the outcomes of the two instructional approaches, 42 teacher pairs will be randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: POGIL, Peer Instruction, or traditional instruction. Outcomes of the instructional approaches will be measured in terms of conceptual gains among teachers and students, attitudes toward science, personal agency beliefs, and instructional implementation fidelity.

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