STEM Practices

Teaching Science Outdoors: A Next Generation Approach for Advancing Elementary Science Teaching in Urban Communities

This project project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. The goal of the project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907506
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on providing meaningful science education opportunities to students living in communities of high poverty and attending under-resourced elementary schools. These students are significantly less likely to receive high-quality science learning opportunities and to be encouraged to engage in (rather than simply learn about) science. This Michigan State University research project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. It builds on and advances prior outdoor education work for the current context of science education that requires elementary teachers to engage students in making sense of phenomena using next generation science and engineering practices. The goal of this project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms. It also will advance knowledge on ways to bridge informal and formal learning environments. To achieve these goals, the project will develop, enact and study a program that involves a scaffolded series of summer professional development sessions focused on outdoor learning and school year follow-up meetings and classroom-based coaching for elementary teachers and informal educators from two high-need districts.

Design-based research will be utilized to: 1) foster teacher practices and study how these develop over time, 2) work with teachers to measure student outcomes, and 3) determine what aspects of this formal/informal approach are productive, measures of student engagement and student learning artifacts--will be analyzed. The project will serve as a model for developing partnerships between informal science organizations, educators, and K-12 programs. Revised measures and outcomes of teacher practices and student learning; outdoor-focused lesson plans; cases illustrating how elementary teachers develop and enact NGSS-aligned outdoor lessons; a revised informal-formal theoretical model; and information about dissemination of products including facilitation guidelines and coaching approaches will be developed and disseminated.

Crowdsourcing Neuroscience: An Interactive Cloud-based Citizen Science Platform for High School Students, Teachers, and Researchers

This project will develop a cloud-based platform that enables high school students, teachers, and scientists to conduct original neuroscience research in school classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908482
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Current priorities in school science education include engaging students in the practices of science as well as the ideas of science. This project will address this priority by developing a cloud-based platform that enables high school students, teachers, and scientists to conduct original neuroscience research in school classrooms. Before students and teachers initiate their own studies using the system, they will participate in existing research studies by contributing their own data and collaborating with researchers using the online, interactive system. When experienced with the system, students and teachers will become researchers by developing independent investigations and uploading them to the interactive platform. Both student-initiated and scientist-initiated proposals will be submitted to the platform, peer-reviewed by students and scientists, revised, and included in the online experimental bank. In addition to conducting their own studies using the platform, scientists will act as educators and mentors by populating the experiment bank with studies that can serve as models for students and provide science content for the educational resource center. This online system addresses a critical need in science education to involve students more fully and authentically in scientific inquiry where they gain experience in exploring the unknown rather than confirming what is already known.

This early stage design and development study is guided by three goals: 1) Develop an open-science citizen science platform for conducting human brain and behavior research in the classroom, 2) Develop a remote neuroscience Student-Teacher-Scientists (STS) partnership program for high schools, and 3) Evaluate the design, development, and implementation of the program and its impacts on students and tachers. In developing this project, the project team will link two quickly emerging trends, one in science education, and one in the sciences. Consistent with current priorities in science education, the project will engage students and their teachers in authentic, active inquiry where they learn scientific practices by using them to conduct authentic inquiry where a search for knowledge is grounded in finding evidence-based answers to original questions. On the science side, students and their science partners will participate in an open science approach by pre-registering their research and committing to an analysis plan before data are collected. In this project, students will primarily be using reaction time and online systems to do research that includes study of their own brain function. The project research is guided by three research questions. How does an online citizen neuroscience STS platform: a) impact students' understanding of, and abilities to apply neuroscience and experimental design concepts? b) Impact students' interests in, and attitudes toward science, including an awareness of science careers and applications? and c) Affect teachers' attitudes towards neuroscience teaching, and the use of inquiry-based strategies? A design-based research approach will be used to iteratively design a sustainable and scalable inquiry-based neuroscience curriculum with teachers as design partners.

Spanning Boundaries: A Statewide Network to Support Science Teacher Leaders to Implement Science Standards

This project will develop and test a two-year professional development model for secondary school science teacher leaders that will help them support their colleagues in implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907460
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Current priorities in school science education include building strong professional learning communities that foster ongoing professional growth among teachers, teacher leaders, and school administrators. This project responds to these priorities by developing and testing a two-year professional development model for secondary school science teacher leaders that will help them support their colleagues in implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The new model for professional learning combines three key elements: 1) Focusing on teacher leaders who can interpret, translate, and incorporate new approaches and resources into local contexts, 2) Engaging the expertise of informal science education specialists who are well versed in teacher professional learning and experiential approaches to learning, and 3) Establishing a statewide network of peers who can share experiences beyond individual school and district contexts. By developing a geographically-distributed network of support for science teacher leaders, the project is poised to create more equitable access to high quality professional learning opportunities for teachers as well as provide much needed support to the disproportionate number of novice teachers in schools with high populations of historically underrepresented students in science.

This early stage design and development project is guided by two research questions: 1) How do teacher leaders utilize structures, practices, and tools within an informal science institution-based network to interpret, filter, and translate available resources into professional learning supports for localized implementation of phenomena-based instruction? And 2) How do the professional learning supports developed by teacher leaders become more aligned with best practices for professional development (e.g., active learning, sustained, coherent, collaborative, and content-based) and incorporate aspects of informal learning (e.g., choice and experiential learning) throughout their participation in an ISI-based network? The project will engage two cohorts of 25 middle and high school science teacher leaders in overlapping two-year, one-week summer institutes, and a minimum of 12 online meetings during the academic years. The 30-hour summer institutes will be designed to address the multiple roles of teacher leaders as learners, classroom teachers, and teacher professional development providers. To sustain professional development across the academic year, monthly two-hour online meetings will be used to nurture the community of practice. Some sessions will focus on leadership and topics related to the NGSS, and other sessions will focus on deepening science content knowledge. The sources of data to be used in addressing the research questions include: 1) Video recordings, field notes of observations, and artifacts of professional development meetings, 2) Interviews with teacher leaders, and 3) Journal entries and artifacts from professional development sessions implemented by teacher leaders.  

Generalized Embodied Modeling to Support Science through Technology Enhanced Play (Collaborative Research: Danish)

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908632
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students. GEM stands for Generalized Embodied Modeling. Through these embodied, play-as-modeling activities, students will learn the core concepts of science, and the conceptual skills of modeling and systematic measurement. MR environments use new sensing technologies to help transform young children's physical actions during pretend play into a set of symbolic representations and parameters in a science simulation. As students physically move around the classroom, the computer will track their motion and interactions with selected objects and translate their physical activity into a shared display. For example, students pretend they are water particles and work together to model different states of matter. The children see their activity projected onto a computer simulation where a model of a water particle is displayed over the video of themselves. As students collectively reflect upon the nature of a water molecule, they refine their understanding of water as ice, a liquid or a gas. The proposed innovation allows the students to program and revise their own mixed reality simulations as part of their modeling cycle. Embodied and computational modeling will help students to reflect on their models in a unique way that will make their models more computationally accurate and enhance their understanding of the underlying concepts.

The project will research how using the body as a component of the modeling cycle differs from and interacts with the articulation of a scientific model through more structured computational means. The project will investigate the benefits of combining embodiment with computational elements in GEM:STEP by studying the range of concepts that students can learn in this manner. Lessons will be developed to address different disciplinary core ideas, such as states of matter, pollination as a complex system, or decomposition, as well as cross-cutting concepts of systems thinking, and energy/matter flow, all of which link directly to upper elementary science curriculum. Project research will gather data to understand what kinds of models students develop, what learning processes are supported using GEM:STEP, and what learning results. The data will include: (1) documenting and analyzing what students modeled and how accurate the models are; (2) recording student activity using audio and voice to code their activity to document learning processes and to look at how different forms of modeling interact with one another to promote learning; and (3) pre-post content measures to assess learning. All of the software that is developed for GEM:STEP will be made available as Open Source projects, allowing other researchers to build upon and extend this work. The results of the research will be disseminated in academic conferences and peer reviewed journals. The motion tracking software is already available on Github, a popular open-source repository. Once developed, the aim is to implement GEM:STEP in a wide range of classroom contexts, supported by a user-friendly interface, teacher guides, and professional development.

Generalized Embodied Modeling to Support Science through Technology Enhanced Play (Collaborative Research: Enyedy)

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908791
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students. GEM stands for Generalized Embodied Modeling. Through these embodied, play-as-modeling activities, students will learn the core concepts of science, and the conceptual skills of modeling and systematic measurement. MR environments use new sensing technologies to help transform young children's physical actions during pretend play into a set of symbolic representations and parameters in a science simulation. As students physically move around the classroom, the computer will track their motion and interactions with selected objects and translate their physical activity into a shared display. For example, students pretend they are water particles and work together to model different states of matter. The children see their activity projected onto a computer simulation where a model of a water particle is displayed over the video of themselves. As students collectively reflect upon the nature of a water molecule, they refine their understanding of water as ice, a liquid or a gas. The proposed innovation allows the students to program and revise their own mixed reality simulations as part of their modeling cycle. Embodied and computational modeling will help students to reflect on their models in a unique way that will make their models more computationally accurate and enhance their understanding of the underlying concepts.

The project will research how using the body as a component of the modeling cycle differs from and interacts with the articulation of a scientific model through more structured computational means. The project will investigate the benefits of combining embodiment with computational elements in GEM:STEP by studying the range of concepts that students can learn in this manner. Lessons will be developed to address different disciplinary core ideas, such as states of matter, pollination as a complex system, or decomposition, as well as cross-cutting concepts of systems thinking, and energy/matter flow, all of which link directly to upper elementary science curriculum. Project research will gather data to understand what kinds of models students develop, what learning processes are supported using GEM:STEP, and what learning results. The data will include: (1) documenting and analyzing what students modeled and how accurate the models are; (2) recording student activity using audio and voice to code their activity to document learning processes and to look at how different forms of modeling interact with one another to promote learning; and (3) pre-post content measures to assess learning. All of the software that is developed for GEM:STEP will be made available as Open Source projects, allowing other researchers to build upon and extend this work. The results of the research will be disseminated in academic conferences and peer reviewed journals. The motion tracking software is already available on Github, a popular open-source repository. Once developed, the aim is to implement GEM:STEP in a wide range of classroom contexts, supported by a user-friendly interface, teacher guides, and professional development.

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.

Validation of the Equity and Access Rubrics for Mathematics Instruction (VEAR-MI)

The main goal of this project is to validate a set of rubrics that attend to the existence and the quality of instructional practices that support equity and access in mathematics classes. The project team will clarify the relationships between the practices outlined in the rubrics and aspects of teachers' perspectives and knowledge as well as student learning outcomes.

Award Number: 
1908481
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/15/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

High-quality mathematics instruction remains uncommon and opportunities for students to develop the mathematical understanding are not distributed equally. This is particularly true for students of color and students for whom English is not their first language. While educational research has made progress in identifying practices that are considered high-quality, little attention has been given to specific instructional practices that support historically marginalized groups of students particularly as they participate in more rigorous mathematics. The main goal is to validate a set of rubrics that attend to the existence and the quality of instructional practices that support equity and access in mathematics classes. In addition, the project team will clarify the relationships between the practices outlined in the rubrics and aspects of teachers' perspectives and knowledge as well as student learning outcomes.

This project will make use of two existing large-scale datasets focusing on mathematics teachers to develop rubrics on mathematics instructional quality. The datasets include nearly 3,000 video-recorded mathematics lessons and student achievement records from students in Grades 3 through 8. The four phases of this research and development project include training material development, an observation and rubric generalizability study, a coder reliability study, and structural analysis. Data analysis plans involve case studies, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, and cognitive interviews. 

Strengthening Middle School Mathematical Argumentation through Teacher Coaching: Bridging from Professional Development to Classroom Practice

This project is a professional learning experience for middle school teachers to support them in developing five mathematical practices in their teaching focused on mathematical argumentation - creating mathematical arguments, using appropriate tools strategically, looking for and make use of structure, attending to precision, and looking for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907561
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The Bridging Professional Development project is a professional learning experience for middle school teachers to support them in developing five mathematical practices in their teaching focused on mathematical argumentation. These practices are: create mathematical arguments, use appropriate tools strategically, look for and make use of structure, attend to precision, and look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. Mathematics argumentation is an important component of complex problem solving and supporting students in understanding the why, not just the how, of mathematics. The professional development intervention consists of summer workshop focused on approximations of teaching practice, and coaching during the school year. The coaching component includes face-to-face coaching and a video-based tool that allows teachers and coaches to engage with records of classroom interactions. The project expands the successful Bridging professional development work by adding four additional mathematical practices that relate to argumentation, adding the coaching component, collecting data on students' equitable participation in classroom discussions, and piloting an impact study to determine whether the professional development that includes coaching leads to improved mathematics teaching and learning, and the mechanisms by which that hypothesized improvement occurs.

The Bridging series of professional development projects are built on a theoretical framework that begins with providing teachers with opportunities to engage in meaningful mathematics teaching practices, identify teaching moves that would support students in learning those practices, and to try out those moves with other teachers in approximations of teaching practice. The outcomes of such activity are increased teacher knowledge that can be mobilized in the planning and enactment of lessons, and improved pedagogical moves in the classroom. This in turn is likely to lead to increased student engagement and mathematics achievement. In this award, Bridging adds cycles of coaching to support teachers in translating lessons learned from approximations of practice to the work in their classrooms with students, and to provide ongoing school-year support for implementation. The research components of the project focus on understanding the practice of the coaches, including the design and deployment of coaching training and coaching sessions, as it relates to teachers' abilities to foster stronger student engagement in mathematical practices. The project will recruit 25 teachers at middle schools with experienced mathematics coaches to participate, with teachers directed to select a single focus class for data collection. Case studies will be pursued with six teachers and three coaches that represent diverse backgrounds, experiences, and levels of prior knowledge. Video records of coaching training and sessions will be collected and analyzed, along with lessons plans and teacher-enacted lessons, to determine the influence of the coaching on practice. The study will also investigate the ways in which teacher engagement in the professional developments leads to changes in teacher practice and student outcomes. Video records of practice, written lesson plans, student work, and interviews will be collected and analyzed to determine the impact on teaching practice. Teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching will also be assessed at key points in the project to assess teacher learning, and student standardized assessment scores and performance assessment outcomes will be collected to assess student learning.

Case Studies of a Suite of Next Generation Science Instructional, Assessment, and Professional Development Materials in Diverse Middle School Settings

This project addresses a gap between vision and implementation of state science standards by designing a coordinated suite of instructional, assessment and teacher professional learning materials that attempt to enact the vision behind the Next Generation Science Standards. The study focuses on using state-of-the-art technology to create an 8-week long, immersive, life science field experience organized around three investigations.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907944
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

New state science standards are ambitious and require important changes to instructional practices, accompanied by a coordinated system of curriculum, assessment, and professional development materials. This project addresses a gap between vision and implementation of such standards by designing a coordinated suite of instructional, assessment and teacher professional learning materials that attempt to enact the vision behind the Next Generation Science Standards. The study focuses on the design of such materials using state-of-the-art technology to create an 8-week long, immersive, life science field experience organized around three investigations. Classes of urban students in two states will collect data on local insect species with the goal of understanding, sharing, and critiquing environmental management solutions. An integrated learning technology system, the Learning Navigator, draws on big data to organize student-gathered data, dialogue, lessons, an assessment information. The Learning Navigator will also amplify the teacher's role in guiding and fostering next generation science learning. This project advances the field through an in-depth exploration of the goals for the standards documents. The study begins to address questions about what works when, where, and for whom in the context of the Next Generation Science Standards.

The project uses a series of case studies to create, test, evaluate and refine the system of instructional, assessment and professional development materials as they are enacted in two distinct urban school settings. It is designed with 330 students and 22 teachers in culturally, racially and linguistically diverse, under-resourced schools in Pennsylvania and California. These schools are located in neighborhoods that are economically challenged and have students who demonstrate patterns of underperformance on state standardized tests. It will document the process of team co-construction of Next Generation Science-fostering instructional materials; develop assessment tasks for an instructional unit that are valid and reliable; and, track the patterns of use of the instructional and assessment materials by teachers. The study will also record if new misconceptions are revealed as students develop Next Generation Science knowledge,  comparing findings across two diverse school locations in two states. Data collection will include: (a) multiple types of data to establish validity and reliability of educational assessments, (b) the design, evaluation and use of a classroom observation protocol to gather information on both frequency and categorical degree of classroom practices that support the vision, and (c) consecutive years of ten individual classroom enactments through case studies analyzed through cross-case analyses. This should lead to stronger and better developed understandings about what constitutes strong Next Generation Science learning and the classroom conditions, instructional materials, assessments and teacher development that foster it.

Streams of Data: Nurturing Data Literacy in Young Science Learners (Collaborative Research: Kochevar)

This project will develop an approach to support fourth grade students' data literacy with complex, large-scale, professionally collected data sets. The work will focus on analytical thinking as a subset of data literacy, specifically evaluating and interpreting data. The project will teach students about working with geoscience data, which connect to observable, familiar aspects of the natural world and align with Earth science curriculum standards.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1906264
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

These skills are essential for working with scientific data sets, but educators know very little about how to prepare students for the issues involved in making appropriate inferences from data. The need is compounded by the fact that studies that exist have worked with data sets that students themselves collected, whereas the many electronic data sets, proliferating in the public domain, pose different challenges. This project will develop an approach to support fourth grade students' data literacy with complex, large-scale, professionally collected data sets. The work will focus on analytical thinking as a subset of data literacy, specifically evaluating and interpreting data. The project will teach students about working with geoscience data, which connect to observable, familiar aspects of the natural world and align with Earth science curriculum standards. An interdisciplinary team of educators, researchers, and scientists from the Oceans of Data Institute at Educational Development Center and the American Geological Institute will (1) conduct baseline research to understand students' natural affinities for understanding inference from complex data and phenomena; (2) develop and test scaffolding activities that leverage students' intellectual assets and minimize barriers to analytical thinking with professionally collected data; and (3) examine the degree to which the resulting activities support students to do productive work with professionally collected data. In developing an instructional approach, the project informs generally how professionally collected, scientific data can be used to support elementary students to develop data literacy skills.

Hypothesizing that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education generally can benefit from the instructional use of complex, large, interactive, and professionally-collected (CLIP) data sets (e.g., related to precipitation, stream flow, and groundwater levels), this study will explore approaches to integrating those data into fourth grade classroom instruction. The research is based on a premise that students who engage with CLIP data early in their classroom STEM experiences will develop skills and attitudes that promote meaningful analyses of those data earlier than if that exposure is delayed until secondary courses. The project will use a three-phase iterative design that will unfold in three urban and suburban school districts in Virginia and Maryland. Phase one will focus on creating a baseline of the reasoning students employ when making inferences from data. It will involve 45 students from grades 3-5 in targeted interviews, which will be recorded, transcribed and analyzed. Phases two and three will focus on design and development in grade 4. Phase two will develop and test activities through an iterative design plan that employs a semi-clinical method with small groups of students. Phase three will implement the activities that result from that process in six classrooms across three districts with approximately 150 students. A scoring rubric that captures student learning will be constructed in phase two and used to measure impacts of the field testing in phase three. Observations and interviews will also be conducted at field sites to understand what students learn about analytical thinking from the activities.

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