Professional Development

Engaging Youth in Engineering Module Study

This project is revising and field testing six existing modules and developing, pilot testing, and field testing two engineering modules for required middle school science and mathematics classes: Catch Me if You Can! with a focus on seventh grade life science; and Creating Bioplastics targeting eighth grade physical science. Each module addresses an engineering design challenge of relevance to industries in the region and fosters the development of engineering habits of mind.

Award Number: 
0918769
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
James Van Haneghan

Cyber-enabled Design Research to Enhance Teachers' Critical Thinking Using a Major Video Collection on Children's Mathematical Reasoning (Collaborative Research: Maher)

This project is working to create a cyber infrastructure that supports development and documentation of additional interventions for teacher professional development using the video collection, as well as other videos that might be added in the future by teacher educators or researchers, including those working in other STEM domains.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822204
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/15/2008 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

The Video Mosaic Collaborative features  videos of student mathematics reasoning,  tools and services to encourage learning, research and practices fostering the development of student reasoning.  The VMC is a collection and service portal intended to support three primary audiences—teacher educators and their pre-service and in-service students, practicing teachers, and researchers.  The Video Mosaic Collaborative features a 22-year longitudinal study of students’ mathematical reasoning skills as they are developed from elementary through high school grades.  The VMC has been carefully designed to leverage the insights and strategies that can be mined in this extensive and unique video collection featuring observations, interventions and interviews with students solving mathematics problems in the classroom and in informal learning settings.  A careful metadata strategy was designed by the library and education research partners in collaboration to capture elements for searching that include forms of reasoning and heuristics, math strand, math problem, NCTM standards, grade level and type of educational environment.  Students and researchers are identified and can be individually tracked through the collection.  Transcripts, student work and dissertations resulting from the videos are linked in metadata.  Tools, such as the VMCAnalytic, a video annotation and analysis tool, are provided to enable registered participants to reuse the videos for instruction, study and research by creating personal clips and combining clips to accomplish research goals such as demonstrating changes in reasoning for an individual student studying probability over several video sessions.  Unlike other video annotation tool, the VMC analytic creates  XML-based independent resources that can be kept private in the researcher’s workspace but that can also be shared.  Shared analytics will be mined for keywords, which will retrieve the video(s) being analyzed, thus adding user tagging to the metadata for the videos.  The analytic resources created are not independently searched and displayed but will display as part of the context for the videos in the collection, along with student work, dissertations, and ultimately published articles, etc., all of which form the critical context of research and study surrounding each video.

Different search strategies, guidance in using videos and opportunities to consult or collaborate with others will be provided for each primary audience of the VMC.  The latest iteration of the portal, with collections and services available for immediate use, will be presented and demonstrated at the DRK12 Principal Investigators’ meeting poster session.  Visitors to the poster will be encouraged to search the portal and to create a small analytic, in a hands-on, interactive one on one demonstration.  We believe that the VMC makes a unique and significant contribution to the efforts of teacher educators, practicing teachers and researchers to discover insights and develop innovative strategies to support the development of student reasoning in mathematics education.

Learning Progressions for Scientific Inquiry: A Model Implementation in the Context of Energy

The project has had three major areas of focus:  (1) Offering professional development to help elementary and 6th grade teachers become more responsive teachers, attending and responding to their students' ideas and reasoning; (2)  Developing web-based resources (both curriculum and case studies) to promote responsive teaching in science; and (3) research how both teachers and students progress in their ability to engage in science inquiry. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0732233
Funding Period: 
Tue, 01/01/2008 to Mon, 12/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Lawrence Hall of Science

A Digital Resource for Developing Mathematics Teachers' TPCK

This project aims to advance the preparation of preservice teachers in middle school mathematics, specifically on the topic of proportionality, a centrally important and difficult topic in middle school mathematics that is essential to students’ later success in algebra. To address the need for a workforce of high-quality teachers to teach this mathematics, the project is developing a digital text that could be widely used to communicate the unique transitional nature of middle school mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918339
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Mark St. John, Inverness

Chemistry Facets: Formative Assessment to Improve Student Understanding in Chemistry

This project implemented a facets-of-thinking perspective to design tools and practices to improve high school chemistry teachers' formative assessment practices. Goals are to identify and develop clusters of facets related to key chemistry concepts; develop assessment items; enhance the assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials; develop teacher professional development and resource materials; and examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733169
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2007 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Heller Research Associates
Full Description: 

Supported by research on students' preconceptions, particularly in chemistry, and the need to build on the knowledge and skills that students bring to the classroom, this project implements a facets-of-thinking perspective for the improvement of formative assessment, learning, and instruction in high school chemistry. Its goals are: to identify and develop clusters of facets (students' ideas and understandings) related to key high school chemistry concepts; to develop assessment items that diagnose facets within each cluster; to enhance the existing web-based Diagnoser assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials for interpreting and using the assessment data; to develop teacher professional development and resource materials to support their use of facet-based approaches in chemistry; and to examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

The proposed work builds on two previously NSF-funded projects focused on designing Diagnoser (ESI-0435727) in the area of physics and on assessment development to support the transition to complex science learning (REC-0129406). The work plan is organized in three strands: (1) Assessment Development, consisting of the development and validation of facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter and the development and validation of question sets related to each facet cluster, including their administration to chemistry classes; (2) Professional Development, through which materials will be produced for a teacher workshop focused on the assessment-for-learning cycle; and (3) Technology Development, to upgrade the Diagnoser authoring system and to include chemistry facets and assessments.

Anticipated products include: (1) 8-10 validated facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter; (2) 12-20 items per facet cluster that provide diagnostic information about student understanding in relation to the facet clusters; (3) additional instructional materials related to each facet cluster, including 1-3 questions to elicit inital student ideas, a developmental lesson to encourage students' exploration of new concepts, and 3-5 prescriptive lessons to address persistent problematic ideas; and (4) a publically-available web-based Diagnoser for chemistry (www.Diagnoser.com), including student assessments and instructional materials.

Connected Chemistry as Formative Assessment

This project is developing, validating, and evaluating computer modeling-based formative assessments to improve student learning in chemistry. Activities include developing a series of computer models related to key topics in high school chemistry, developing questions to probe student understanding of matter and energy, identifying teaching and learning resources appropriate for different levels of student conceptual understanding, and developing professional development resources on integrating formative assessments into high school chemistry courses.

Project Email: 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918295
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
William Boone

SAVE Science: Situated Assessment Using Virtual Environments for Science Content and Inquiry

The SAVE Science project is creating an innovative system using immersive virtual environments for evaluating learning in science, consistent with research- and policy-based recommendations for science learning focused around the big ideas of science content and inquiry for middle school years. Motivation for this comes not only from best practices as outlined in the National Science Education Standards and AAAS' Project 2061, but also from the declining interest and confidence of today's student in science.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1157534
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Anthony Lutkus

The Inquiry Project

This project is developing a learning progression in scientific inquiry about the nature of matter. The effort will result in a research-guided system of curriculum, assessment and professional development focusing on the transition from a macroscopic to a microscopic understanding of matter that occurs in upper elementary and middle school. The project has a close collaboration with scientists and urban schools.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0628245
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/01/2006 to Thu, 03/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
John Zuman
Full Description: 

The Inquiry Project is a partnership between teachers, TERC and Tufts University. The project builds an understanding of science in grades 3–5 that lays a foundation for students’ later understanding of matter in terms of molecules and atoms. The Inquiry Project focuses on material, weight, volume, density and related ideas that we know are important and challenging for today’s students. Unique characteristics of this work are the integration of mathematics and science content, and the focus on inquiry through investigation.

The Inquiry Project brings research, curriculum, assessment, and professional development together in one coherent system with each components vital to preparing learners for this challenging learning progression.

 

The Inquiry Project is Asking:

  • What do young children think about matter, material kinds, and their properties?
  • What understandings at the macroscopic level are pivotal for helping children to move towards a microscopic understanding of matter?
  • What kinds of mathematical knowledge and representations are important to their understanding of matter?
  • What kinds of metaconceptual knowledge are needed to support inquiry and theory building about matter?

What understanding do students develop and why is this important?

Inquiry is central to science learning. As described in the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996), a classroom having the essential features of inquiry is one in which learners:

  • engage in scientifically oriented questions
  • give priority to evidence in responding to questions
  • formulate explanations from evidence
  • connect explanations to established scientific knowledge
  • justify and communicate explanations.

The Inquiry Project curriculum is designed with these features in mind, and with three content-specific dimensions of inquiry: measurement of matter, change and conservation, and scale.

Measurement of matter

Students with balance

Many middle school students can calculate density as the ratio of mass to volume, but lack a deeper intuitive sense that density is related to number of particles within a specific volume and the mass of those particles. In The Inquiry Project, students learn to measure weight and volume using a variety of methods and use their measurements as evidence to support explanations. They begin to understand that all matter (in solid, liquid, or gaseous form) has weight and volume. With a firm grasp of the measurement of weight and volume, students are able to build mental models of matter and density that will help them understand the particulate nature of matter later on.

Conservation and Transformation

The Inquiry Project helps students deepen their understanding of matter and materials through investigations of what changes and what stays the same when matter changes state, is reshaped, divided, heated, and mixed. In these investigations students need to isolate variables that are important to their investigations and control their experimentation to measure these variables. They use their measurements and their emerging models of matter to understand that some quantities, such as the total mass of a system, do not change.

Scale

Students build an intuitive sense of scale of space (volume), weight, and density that will later assist them in developing a particulate model of matter. Moving from macroscopic to microscopic thinking requires the ability to construct mental models about things and processes we cannot observe. Students who gain a strong understanding of quantities of volume, weight, and density through observation, measurement, and modeling are poised to understand quantities and phenomena at a scale that they cannot observe.

Foundations of Algebra in the Elementary and Middle Grades: Supporting Students to Make, Represent and Justify General Claims about Operations

This project develops images, extended examples, and principles that illustrate how the articulation, representation and justification of general claims about operations evolve in the elementary grades and how this work supports the transition from arithmetic to algebra in the middle grades. An online course uses the Sourcebook as a text to engage teachers in considering the underlying pedagogical and mathematical aspects of the work and implementing these ideas in their instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0550176
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2006 to Thu, 06/30/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Megan Franke

Talk Science: Scalable, Web-Based Professional Learning to Improve Science Achievement

This project is designed to enhance and study the development of elementary science teachers’ skills in managing productive classroom talk in inquiry-based physical science studies of matter. The project hypothesizes that aligning professional learning with conceptually-driven curricula and emphasizing the development of scientific discourse changes classroom culture and increases student learning. The project is developing new Web-based resources, Talk Science PD, to help elementary teachers facilitate scientific discourse.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918435
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Katherine Paget
Full Description: 

 TALK SCIENCE!

Scalable, Web-based Professional Learning to Improve Science Achievement

 

      In spite of its centrality in science, genuine scientific argumentation is rarely observed in classrooms. Instead, most of the talk comes from teachers, and it seems oriented primarily toward persuading students of the validity of the scientific worldview…if the educational goal is to help students understand not just the conclusions of science, but also how one knows and why one believes, then talk needs to focus on how evidence is used in science for the construction of explanations. (Duschl, Schweingruber et al. 2007)

Research from the learning sciences, classroom research, and the National Research Council’s consensus reports on teaching and learning science are clear: talk is central to doing and learning science well (Duschl and Osborne 2002; Duschl, Schweingruber et al. 2007; Michaels, Shouse et al. 2008). Discussion is essential to inquiry, enabling students to compare and evaluate observations and data, raise questions, develop hypotheses and explanations, debate and explore alternative interpretations, develop insight into reasoning they may not have considered, and “make meaning” of inquiry experiences. In fact, mastery of science is to a large extent mastery of its specialized uses of language (Lemke 1993).

            Yet effective scientific discourse is mostly absent in classrooms (Barnes 1992; Lemke 1993; Alexander 2001; Cazden 2001). Few teachers are sufficiently prepared to manage classroom talk or effectively improvise and facilitate dialogue in the unpredictable flow of classroom discussion. Thus, despite well-designed curricula and well-intentioned teachers, students are failing to obtain a deep understanding of science and to develop critical 21st century skills, such as negotiating shared meaning and co-construction of problem resolution (Dede 2007). This is the challenge we are addressing.

TERC, in close collaboration with the Mason School in Roxbury, MA, the Benjamin A. Banneker School in Cambridge, MA, Newton Massachusetts Schools, Lamoille North Schools in Vermont, and scientists and linguists from three Boston area universities, is:   

1.     developing and pilot-testing Talk Science!, a web-enabled collection of rich, multimedia professional learning resources for 4th and 5th grade teachers that supports the NSF-funded Inquiry Curriculum and that is focused on promoting scientific discourse in the classroom. These resources are being deployed on the Inquiry Project web site (inquiryproject.terc.edu). This effort is resulting in a model of web-based professional learning that is scalable, accessible and of consistent quality.

2.     investigating the development of teachers' skills with regard to facilitating productive discourse in the science classroom. We hypothesized that aligning professional learning with conceptually-driven curriculum and emphasizing development of scientific discourse would promote changes in classroom culture and increased student learning. We further hypothesized that as teachers implement strategies for scientific discourse, the nature of talk in classrooms and classroom culture will shift toward shared scientific meaning-making. This research is currently underway with results expected by December 2012.

 

Talk Science! PD is comprised of two nine-week professional development courses of study (i.e. professional pathways), aligned with the 4th and 5th grade web-based, Inquiry Curriculum. Thus, curriculum and professional learning “live” together side-by-side within the same web site so teachers can shift seamlessly between the curriculum and their own professional learning as they prepare to teach. The professional development is comprised of three main components: classroom cases, scientist cases, and talk strategies.

 

We are using a pedagogical approach in which teachers strengthen their understanding of science, develop specific pedagogical skills, and implement skills into their teaching through a cognitive apprenticeship model (Collins, Brown et al). This involves 1) modeling, coaching, and scaffolding that help teachers acquire professional skills and scientific understanding through observation (in our case video) and guided practice, 2) articulation and reflection in which teachers articulate their understanding and questions, and 3) exploration in which they incorporate new practices into their teaching.

 

Talk Science! is based on four major principles that effectively change teacher practice and student learning:

  1. Close alignment between professional learning and specific curriculum offers a relevant context for teacher learning and ensures transfer from professional learning to classroom application.
  2. Understanding science as a knowledge-generating enterprise helps teachers facilitate student learning that deepens understanding of core concepts and blends the development of conceptual understanding and disciplinary practice.
  3. Developing abilities to facilitate productive academic talk in the classroom helps teachers establish a classroom culture where norms of discourse are in place and students make claims based on evidence and advance toward deeper understanding of scientific ideas.
  4. Providing opportunity for teachers to work together and learn from each other while using the affordances of web-based technologies to exploit the power of professional learning communities.

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