Learning Progression

Measuring Early Mathematical Reasoning Skills: Developing Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning and Spatial Reasoning

The primary aim of this study is to develop mathematics screening assessment tools for Grades K-2 over the course of four years that measure students' abilities in numeric relational reasoning and spatial reasoning. The team of researchers will develop Measures of Mathematical Reasoning Skills system, which will contain Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning (T-NRR) and Tests of Spatial Reasoning (T-SR).

Award Number: 
1721100
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/15/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

Numeric relational reasoning and spatial reasoning are critical to success in later mathematics coursework, including Algebra 1, a gatekeeper to success at the post-secondary level, and success in additional STEM domains, such as chemistry, geology, biology, and engineering. Given the importance of these skills for later success, it is imperative that there are high-quality screening tools available to identify students at-risk for difficulty in these areas. The primary aim of this study is to develop mathematics screening assessment tools for Grades K-2 over the course of four years that measure students' abilities in numeric relational reasoning and spatial reasoning. The team of researchers will develop Measures of Mathematical Reasoning Skills system, which will contain Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning (T-NRR) and Tests of Spatial Reasoning (T-SR). The measures will be intended for use by teachers and school systems to screen students to determine who is at-risk for difficulty in early mathematics, including students with disabilities. The measures will help provide important information about the intensity of support that may be needed for a given student. Three forms per grade level will be developed for both the T-NRR and T-SR with accompanying validity and reliability evidence collected. 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.

The development of the T-NRR and T-SR measures will follow an iterative process across five phases. The phases include (1) refining the construct; (2) developing test specifications and item models; (3) developing items; (4) field testing the items; and (5) conducting validity studies. The evidence collected and evaluated during each phase will contribute to the overall evaluation of the reliability of the measures and the validity of the interpretations made using the measures. Item models, test specifications, and item development will be continuously evaluated and refined based on data from cognitive interviews, field tests, and reviews by mathematics educators, teachers of struggling students, teachers of culturally and linguistically diverse populations, and a Technical Advisory Board. In the final phase of development of the T-NRR and T-SR, reliability of the results will be estimated and multiple sources of validity evidence will be collected to examine the concurrent and predictive relation with other criterion measures, classification accuracy, and sensitivity to growth. Approximately 4,500 students in Grades K-2 will be involved in all phases of the research including field tests and cognitive interviews. Data will be analyzed using a two-parameter IRT model to ensure item and test form comparability.

Identifying Effective Instructional Practices that Foster the Development of Algebraic Thinking in Elementary School

This project seeks to identify teaching practices that can be linked to students' early algebra learning in grades three, four and five. The goal of the project is to use assessment data and videos of classroom teaching in order to create a tool that can be used to document effective instructional practices. This observation tool can then be used to support teacher professional development in early algebra and research about how teachers' actions can be linked to students' learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721192
Funding Period: 
Thu, 06/01/2017 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

There is a critical need to better prepare all students for learning algebra. Part of this preparation involves developing a strong foundation for algebra in the elementary grades by building on students' informal intuitions about patterns, relationships and structure into more formalized ways of mathematical thinking. This project seeks to identify teaching practices that can be linked to students' early algebra learning in grades three, four and five. The goal of the project is to use assessment data and videos of classroom teaching in order to create a tool that can be used to document effective instructional practices. This observation tool can then be used to support teacher professional development in early algebra and research about how teachers' actions can be linked to students' learning. The project is unique in its work to link an early algebra curriculum with understanding of teachers' practices in implementing that curriculum and students' learning of mathematics.

The project aims to address two research questions. First, what profiles of instructional practice are associated with greater student performance in early algebra? Second, to what extent do these profiles of effective instructional practices vary by grade level? The primary product of the work is an early algebra observation protocol that will capture non-domain and non-grade level specific practices of effective teaching in combination with practices specific to early algebra. Videos of early algebra classrooms will be used to design the observation protocol, which in turn, will then be used along with student assessment data to identify profiles of instructional practices associated with students' learning. Multiple phases of testing and revision will be used to create the observation protocol. The observation protocol will also generate profiles of teacher practices that can be used to describe different models for effectively teaching early algebra. The project will also examine implications of their work for teacher preparation and professional development.

Longitudinal Learning of Viable Argument in Mathematics for Adolescents

This project builds on a prior study that demonstrated increases in students' knowledge of argumentation and their performance on mathematics assessments. The project will extend the use of the argumentation intervention into all eighth grade content areas, with a specific focus on students' learning of reasoning and proof, and contribute to understanding how students' learning about mathematical practices that can help them learn mathematics better.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621438
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The project will examine learning in eighth grade mathematics with a specific focus on students' learning of reasoning and proof. The intervention builds on a prior study in algebra that demonstrated increases in students' knowledge of argumentation and their performance on mathematics assessments. This project will extend the use of the argumentation intervention into all eighth grade content areas. The investigators will also address support for teachers in the form of teacher materials that link the argumentation content with mathematics standards and state-wide assessments, and a learning progression to engage students in proving tasks. The project will use assessments of mathematics learning and additional data from teachers and students to understand the impact of the argumentation intervention on teachers and students. The project contributes to understanding how students can learn about mathematical practices, such as proving, that can help them learn mathematics better. A significant contribution will be the definition of aspects of proving and descriptions of student outcomes that can be used to measure how well students have achieved these components of proving. The Discovery Research PreK-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. This project is also supported by NSF's EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field.

The project suggests twelve conceptual pillars that are combined with classroom processes and assessable outcomes to examine the use of argumentation practices in the teaching of eighth grade mathematics content. The investigation of classroom support for argumentation includes research questions that focus on improvement on state-level assessments, students' ability to construct mathematical arguments, and the conceptual progression that supports students' understanding of argumentation and proof. In addition, the study will examine teachers' role in argumentation in the classroom and their perception of potential challenges for classroom implementation. The study will use an experimental design to examine an intervention for mathematical reasoning and proof in eighth grade. The project includes a treatment group of teachers that will participate in professional development including a summer institute followed by instructional coaching over a two year period.

Systemic Formative Assessment to Promote Mathematics Learning in Urban Elementary Schools

This project builds on the study of the Ongoing Assessment Project's (OGAP) math assessment intervention on elementary teachers and students and combines the intervention with research-based understandings of systemic reform. This project will produce concrete tools, routines, and practices that can be applied to strengthen programs' implementation by ensuring the strategic support of school and district leaders.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621333
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Sat, 02/29/2020
Full Description: 

Districts have long struggled to implement instructional programming in ways that meaningfully and sustainably impact teaching and learning. Systemic education reform is based on the hypothesis that prevailing patterns of incoherence and misalignment in an educational system can send mixed messages to local implementers as they try to respond to various cues and incentives in the environment. Systemic reform seeks to bring alignment to education systems in multiple ways, including consistency across instructional philosophies, alignment across grade levels, and vertical coherence from district to schools to classrooms. This project builds on the Consortium for Policy Research in Education's (CPRE) ongoing, NSF-funded experimental study of the impacts of the Ongoing Assessment Project's (OGAP) math assessment intervention on elementary teachers and students in Philadelphia-area schools. The project will combine the OGAP math intervention with research-based understandings of systemic reform. OGAP is based upon established theory and research demonstrating the impact of teachers' use of ongoing short- and medium-cycle formative assessment on student learning. It combines these understandings with recent research on learning trajectories within mathematics content domains. By bringing to bear the strengths of all three of these areas of research - formative assessment, learning trajectories, and systemic reform - the project promises a significant contribution to the knowledge base about the application of math learning research to classroom instruction on a large scale. This project will produce concrete tools, routines, and practices that can be applied to strengthen programs' implementation by ensuring the strategic support of school and district leaders. This project is funded by the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) and EHR Core Research (ECR) Programs. The DRK-12 program supports research and development on STEM education innovations and approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field.

CPRE and the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) will establish a research-practice partnership focused on developing, implementing, refining, and testing a systemic support model to strengthen implementation of the OGAP math intervention in elementary schools. CPRE's current experimental study of OGAP's impacts reveals, preliminarily, statistically significant positive effects on teacher knowledge and student learning. As a result, SDP has decided to expand OGAP into an additional 60 schools in 2016-17. However, the current OGAP study has also revealed weak implementation stemming from a lack of consistent leadership support for the intervention. The project will address this implementation challenge by developing, refining, supporting, and documenting a systemic support component that will accompany OGAP's classroom-level implementation. The systemic supports will be developed by a research-practice partnership between CPRE; SDP; OGAP; the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania (PennGSE); and the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium (PERC). The team will use principles of design-based implementation research to iteratively refine and improve the systemic support model. Along with the design and development of the systemic support model, the project will conduct a mixed-methods study of its impacts and roll-out. A three-armed quasi-experimental study will examine the differential impacts of OGAP, with and without systemic supports, and business-as-usual math programming on teacher and student outcomes. A mixed-methods study will examine teacher and administrator experiences in both treatment groups, and will provide feedback to inform the iterative development of the systemic support model.

Building a Next Generation Diagnostic Assessment and Reporting System within a Learning Trajectory-Based Mathematics Learning Map for Grades 6-8

This project will build on prior funding to design a next generation diagnostic assessment using learning progressions and other learning sciences research to support middle grades mathematics teaching and learning. The project will contribute to the nationally supported move to create, use, and apply research based open educational resources at scale.

Award Number: 
1621254
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project seeks to design a next generation diagnostic assessment using learning progressions and other research (in the learning sciences) to support middle grades mathematics teaching and learning. It will focus on nine large content ideas, and associated Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. The PIs will track students over time, and work within school districts to ensure feasibility and use of the assessment system.

The research will build on prior funding by multiple funding agencies and address four major goals. The partnership seeks to address these goals: 1) revising and strengthening the diagnostic assessments in mathematics by adding new item types and dynamic tools for data gathering 2) studying alternative ways to use measurement models to assess student mathematical progress over time using the concept of learning trajectories, 3) investigating how to assist students and teachers to effectively interpret reports on math progress, both at the individual and the class level, and 4) engineering and studying instructional strategies based on student results and interpretations, as they are implemented within competency-based and personalized learning classrooms. The learning map, assessment system, and analytics are open source and can be used by other research and implementation teams. The project will exhibit broad impact due to the number of states, school districts and varied kinds of schools seeking this kind of resource as a means to improve instruction. Finally, the research project contributes to the nationally supported move to create, use, and apply research based open educational resources at scale.

Geological Models for Explorations of Dynamic Earth (GEODE): Integrating the Power of Geodynamic Models in Middle School Earth Science Curriculum

This project will develop and research the transformational potential of geodynamic models embedded in learning progression-informed online curricula modules for middle school teaching and learning of Earth science. The primary goal of the project is to conduct design-based research to study the development of model-based curriculum modules, assessment instruments, and professional development materials for supporting student learning of (1) plate tectonics and related Earth processes, (2) modeling practices, and (3) uncertainty-infused argumentation practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621176
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2016 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

This project will contribute to the Earth science education community's understanding of how engaging students with dynamic computer-based systems models supports their learning of complex Earth science concepts regarding Earth's surface phenomena and sub-surface processes. It will also extend the field's understandings of how students develop modeling practices and how models are used to support scientific endeavors. This research will shed light on the role uncertainty plays when students use models to develop scientific arguments with model-based evidence. The GEODE project will directly involve over 4,000 students and 22 teachers from diverse school systems serving students from families with a variety of socioeconomic, cultural, and racial backgrounds. These students will engage with important geoscience concepts that underlie some of the most critical socio-scientific challenges facing humanity at this time. The GEODE project research will also seek to understand how teachers' practices need to change in order to take advantage of these sophisticated geodynamic modeling tools. The materials generated through design and development will be made available for free to all future learners, teachers, and researchers beyond the participants outlined in the project.

The GEODE project will develop and research the transformational potential of geodynamic models embedded in learning progression-informed online curricula modules for middle school teaching and learning of Earth science. The primary goal of the project is to conduct design-based research to study the development of model-based curriculum modules, assessment instruments, and professional development materials for supporting student learning of (1) plate tectonics and related Earth processes, (2) modeling practices, and (3) uncertainty-infused argumentation practices. The GEODE software will permit students to "program" a series of geologic events into the model, gather evidence from the emergent phenomena that result from the model, revise the model, and use their models to explain the dynamic mechanisms related to plate motion and associated geologic phenomena such as sedimentation, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and deformation of strata. The project will also study the types of teacher practices necessary for supporting the use of dynamic computer models of complex phenomena and the use of curriculum that include an explicit focus on uncertainty-infused argumentation.

Development and Empirical Recovery for a Learning Progression-Based Assessment of the Function Concept

The project will design an assessment based on learning progressions for the concept of function - a critical concept for algebra learning and understanding. The goal of the assessment and learning progression design is to specifically incorporate findings about the learning of students traditionally under-served and under-performing in algebra courses.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621117
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The project will design an assessment based on learning progressions for the concept of function. A learning progression describes how students develop understanding of a topic over time. Function is a critical concept for algebra learning and understanding. The goal of the assessment and learning progression design in this project is to specifically incorporate findings about the learning of students traditionally under-served and under-performing in algebra courses. The project will include accounting for the social and cultural experiences of the middle and high school students when creating assessment tasks. The resources developed should impact mathematics instruction (especially for algebra courses) by creating a learning progression which captures the range of student performance and appropriately places them at distinct levels of performance. The important contribution of the work is the development of a learning progression and related assessment tasks that account for the experiences of students often under-served in mathematics. 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.

The learning progression development will begin by comparing and integrating existing learning progressions and current research on function learning. This project will develop an assessment of student knowledge of function based on learning progressions via empirical recovery (looking for the reconstruction of theoretical levels of the learning theory). Empirical recovery is the process through which data will be collected that reconstruct the various levels, stages, or sequences of said learning progression. The development of tasks and task models will include testing computer-delivered, interactive tasks and rubrics that can be used for human and automated scoring (depending on the task). Item response theory methods will be used to evaluate the assessment tasks' incorporation of the learning progression.

Using Cognitive Science Principles to Help Children Learn Place Value (Collaborative Research: Smith)

This project will test new instructional approaches designed to help K-1 students comprehend place value. The project will emphasize the underlying relational structure of place value symbols, and target this structure with instructional materials and techniques drawn from the structure mapping literature. Its theory of action is that instruction which scaffolds structure mapping for place value will better prepare children to face the challenges of advanced operations, such as multi-digit calculation.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621093
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Many children have trouble understanding what multidigit numbers mean and this can lead to long-term problems in mathematics. Poor place value understanding plagues children from all socioeconomic backgrounds and is not limited to those with learning disabilities. This problem is widespread and pervasive; indeed, perhaps more widespread than currently understood because some tests may overestimate what children know. The critical skill needed for long-term success, and one not always measured, is called decomposition. It involves knowing how to break a multi-digit number down into its components by place (ones, tens, hundreds) and interpret its meaning (e.g., 642 = 6 hundreds, 4 tens, and 2 ones). This project will target that crucial skill and test new ways of teaching place value based on principles of analogical reasoning, gleaned from decades of cognitive science research. These new approaches will make place value more transparent by highlighting and aligning its structure across spoken number names, written numerals, and sets of objects. By leveraging these powerful analogical learning mechanisms, it may be possible to teach place value earlier than is typical, so the project will target K-1 students. If successful, this approach could head off the misconceptions that are currently common among older children. The project will also track children over time, using tests that measure decomposition and other place value concepts to see how they interrelate. The project's activities have been designed to be inexpensive and fit into everyday educational practice, so that the results may be easily implemented by teachers.

The project will test new instructional approaches designed to help K-1 students comprehend place value. The project is innovative in that it will emphasize the underlying relational structure of place value symbols, and target this structure with instructional materials and techniques drawn from the structure mapping literature. Its theory of action is that instruction which scaffolds structure mapping for place value will better prepare children to face the challenges of advanced operations, such as multi-digit calculation. The project specifically targets decomposition, as this has been identified as a particular stumbling block for children. Also, decomposition skill has been linked to better long-term mathematics outcomes. There will be three studies. Study 1 will track the development of place value understanding from kindergarten to 2nd grade, using some measures that clearly require decomposition, and others that are in wide use but may not require decomposition, such as number line estimation and magnitude judgments. The study will show how these measures are related over developmental time, as well as testing whether a firm understanding of decomposition predicts later mathematics learning. Studies 2 and 3 will use a pretest-training-posttest design to test the efficacy of six structure mapping activities for place value in K-1 students. The training in Study 2 will be focused on one activity for three weeks, whereas the training in Study 3 will include all six activities presented over an entire semester.

Enhancing Middle Grades Students' Capacity to Develop and Communicate Their Mathematical Understanding of Big Ideas Using Digital Inscriptional Resources (Collaborative Research: Phillips)

This project will develop and test a digital platform for middle school mathematics classrooms to help students deepen and communicate their understanding of mathematics. The digital platform will allow students to collaboratively create representations of their mathematics thinking, incorporate ideas from other students, and share their work with the class.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620934
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The primary goal of this project is to help middle school students deepen and communicate their understanding of mathematics. The project will develop and test a digital platform for middle school mathematics classrooms. The digital platform will allow students to collaboratively create representations of their mathematics thinking, incorporate ideas from other students, and share their work with the class. The digital learning environment makes use of a problem-centered mathematics curriculum that evolved from extensive development, field-testing and evaluation, and is widely used in middle schools. The research will also contribute to understanding about the design and innovative use of digital resources and collaboration in classrooms as an increasing number of schools are drawing on these kinds of tools. 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.

The project will support students to collaboratively construct, manipulate, and interpret shared representations of mathematics using digital inscriptional resources. The research activities will significantly enhance our understanding of student learning in mathematics in three important ways. The project will report on how (1) evidence of student thinking is made visible through the use of digital inscriptional resources, (2) student inscriptions are documented, discussed, and manipulated in collaborative settings, and (3) students' conceptual growth of big mathematical ideas grows over time. An iterative design research process will incorporate four phases of development, testing and revision, and will be conducted to study student use of the digital learning space and related inscriptional resources. Data sources will include: classroom observations and artifacts, student and teacher interviews and surveys, student assessment data, and analytics from the digital platform. The process will include close collaboration with teachers to understand the implementation and create revisions to the resources.

Using Cognitive Science Principles to Help Children Learn Place Value (Collaborative Research: Mix)

This project will test new instructional approaches designed to help K-1 students comprehend place value. The project will emphasize the underlying relational structure of place value symbols, and target this structure with instructional materials and techniques drawn from the structure mapping literature. Its theory of action is that instruction which scaffolds structure mapping for place value will better prepare children to face the challenges of advanced operations, such as multi-digit calculation.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1664781
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Many children have trouble understanding what multidigit numbers mean and this can lead to long-term problems in mathematics. Poor place value understanding plagues children from all socioeconomic backgrounds and is not limited to those with learning disabilities. This problem is widespread and pervasive; indeed, perhaps more widespread than currently understood because some tests may overestimate what children know. The critical skill needed for long-term success, and one not always measured, is called decomposition. It involves knowing how to break a multi-digit number down into its components by place (ones, tens, hundreds) and interpret its meaning (e.g., 642 = 6 hundreds, 4 tens, and 2 ones). This project will target that crucial skill and test new ways of teaching place value based on principles of analogical reasoning, gleaned from decades of cognitive science research. These new approaches will make place value more transparent by highlighting and aligning its structure across spoken number names, written numerals, and sets of objects. By leveraging these powerful analogical learning mechanisms, it may be possible to teach place value earlier than is typical, so the project will target K-1 students. If successful, this approach could head off the misconceptions that are currently common among older children. The project will also track children over time, using tests that measure decomposition and other place value concepts to see how they interrelate. The project's activities have been designed to be inexpensive and fit into everyday educational practice, so that the results may be easily implemented by teachers.

The project will test new instructional approaches designed to help K-1 students comprehend place value. The project is innovative in that it will emphasize the underlying relational structure of place value symbols, and target this structure with instructional materials and techniques drawn from the structure mapping literature. Its theory of action is that instruction which scaffolds structure mapping for place value will better prepare children to face the challenges of advanced operations, such as multi-digit calculation. The project specifically targets decomposition, as this has been identified as a particular stumbling block for children. Also, decomposition skill has been linked to better long-term mathematics outcomes. There will be three studies. Study 1 will track the development of place value understanding from kindergarten to 2nd grade, using some measures that clearly require decomposition, and others that are in wide use but may not require decomposition, such as number line estimation and magnitude judgments. The study will show how these measures are related over developmental time, as well as testing whether a firm understanding of decomposition predicts later mathematics learning. Studies 2 and 3 will use a pretest-training-posttest design to test the efficacy of six structure mapping activities for place value in K-1 students. The training in Study 2 will be focused on one activity for three weeks, whereas the training in Study 3 will include all six activities presented over an entire semester.

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