Instructional Practice

Anchoring High School Students in Real-Life Issues that Integrate STEM Content and Literacy

Through the integration of STEM content and literacy, this project will study the ways teachers implement project practices integrating literacy activities into STEM learning. Teachers will facilitate instruction using scenarios that present students with everyday, STEM-related issues, presented as scenarios, that they read and write about. After reading and engaging with math and science content, students will write a source-based argument in which they state a claim, support the claim with evidence from the texts, and explain the multiple perspectives on the issue.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010312
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/15/2020 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

The STEM Literacy Project sets out to support student learning through developing teacher expertise in collaborative integration of STEM in student writing and literacy skills development. Facilitated by teachers, students will read, discuss, and then write about real-world STEM scenarios, such as water quality or health. The project will build on and research a professional development program first developed through a state-supported literacy program for middle and high school science and math teachers to improve literacy-integrated instruction. The goals of this project include the following: (1) Create a community of practice that recognizes high school teachers as content experts; (2) Implement high quality professional development for teachers on STEM/Literacy integration; (3) Develop assessments based on STEM and literacy standards that inform instruction; and (4) Conduct rigorous research to understand the impact of the professional development. The program is aligned with state and national standards for college and career readiness. Project resources will be widely shared through a regularly updated project website (stemliteracyproject.org), conference presentations, and publications reaching researchers, developers, and educators. These resources will include scenario-based assessment tools and instructional materials.

Through the integration of STEM content and literacy, the project will study the ways teachers implement project practices integrating literacy activities into STEM learning. Teachers will facilitate instruction using scenarios that present students with everyday, STEM-related issues, presented as scenarios, that they read and write about. After reading and engaging with math and science content, students will write a source-based argument in which they state a claim, support the claim with evidence from the texts, and explain the multiple perspectives on the issue. These scenarios provide students with agency as they craft an argument for an audience, such as presenting to a city council, a school board, or another group of stakeholders. Project research will use a mixed methods design. Based on the work completed through the initial designs and development of scenario-based assessments, rubrics, and scoring processes, the project will study the impact on instruction and student learning. Using a triangulation design convergence model, findings will be compared and contrasted in order for the data to inform one another and lead to further interpretation of the data. project will analyze the features of STEM content learning after program-related instruction. Data collected will include pre-post student scenario-based writing; pre-post interviews of up to 40 students each year; pre-post teacher interviews; and teacher-created scenario-based assessments and supporting instructional materials. Student learning reflected in the assessments paired with student and teacher interview responses will provide a deeper understanding of this approach of integrating STEM and literacy. The use of discourse analysis methods will allow growth in content learning to be measured through language use. Project research will build knowledge in the field concerning how participation in teacher professional development integrating STEM content in literacy practices impacts teacher practices and student learning.

Online Practice Suite: Practice Spaces, Simulations and Virtual Reality Environments for Preservice Teachers to Learn to Facilitate Argumentation Discussions in Math and Science

This project will develop, pilot, and refine a set of coordinated and complementary activities that teacher education programs can use in both online and face-to-face settings to provide practice-based opportunities for preservice teachers to develop their ability to facilitate argumentation-focused discussions in mathematics and science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2037983
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/15/2020 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

In teacher education it is widely acknowledged that learning to teach requires that preservice teachers have robust, authentic, and consistent opportunities to engage in the work of teaching—ideally across different contexts, with diverse student populations, and for varied purposes—as they hone their instructional practice. Practice teaching experiences in K-12 classrooms, such as field placements and student teaching, are the most widely used approaches to provide these opportunities. In an ideal world these experiences are opportunities for preservice teachers to observe and work closely with mentor teachers and try out new instructional strategies with individual, small groups, and whole classes of K-12 students. While these experiences are critical to supporting preservice teachers' learning, it can be difficult to help preservice teachers transition from university classrooms to field placements in ways that provide them with opportunities to enact ambitious instructional strategies. This need is particularly acute in mathematics and science education, where classrooms that model strong disciplinary discourse and argumentation are not always prevalent. This challenge is amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic environment; with schools and universities across the nation operating online, many preservice teachers will miss out on opportunities to practice teaching both within their courses and in K-12 classrooms. To address this urgent challenge in STEM education, project researchers will develop, pilot, and refine a set of coordinated and complementary activities that teacher education programs can use in both online and face-to-face settings to provide practice-based opportunities for preservice teachers to develop their ability to facilitate argumentation-focused discussions in mathematics and science, a critical teaching practice in these content areas. The practice-based activities include: (1) interactive, online digital games that create targeted practice spaces to engage preservice teachers to respond to students' content-focused ideas and interactions; (2) facilitating group discussions with upper elementary or middle school student avatars in a simulated classroom using performance-based tasks; and (3) an immersive virtual reality whole-classroom environment that allows for verbal, textual and non-verbal interactions between a teacher avatar and 24 student avatars. The online practice suite, made up of these activities along with supports to help teacher educators use them effectively, represents not just an immediate remedy to the challenge of COVID-19, but a rich and flexible set of resources with the potential to support and improve teacher preparation well beyond the COVID-19 challenge.

This study will use design-based research to create this integrated system of practice teaching opportunities. This approach will involve developing and refining the individual practice activities, the integrated online practice suite, and the teacher educator support materials by working with a teacher educator community of practice and engaging up to 20 teacher educators and 400 preservice teachers in multiple rounds of tryouts and piloting during the three-year project. The project will proceed in three phases: a first phase of small-scale testing, a second phase trying the materials with teacher educators affiliated with the project team, and a third phase piloting materials with a broader group of mathematics and science teacher educators. Data sources include surveys of preservice teachers' background characteristics, perceptions of the practice activities, beliefs about content instruction, perceptions about preparedness to teach, and understanding of argumentation and discussion, videos and/or log files of their performances for each practice teaching activity, and scores on their practice teaching performances. The project team will also observe the in-class instructional activities prior to and after the use of each practice teaching activity, conduct interviews with teacher educators, and collect instructional logs from the teacher educators and instructional artifacts used to support preservice teachers' learning. Data analysis will include pre and post comparisons to examine evidence of growth in preservice math and science teachers' beliefs, perceptions, understanding, and teaching performance. The project team will also build a series of analytic memos to describe how each teacher educator used the online practice suite within the mathematics or science methods course and the factors and decisions that went into that each use case. Then, they will describe and understand how the various uses and adaptations may be linked to contextual factors within these diverse settings. Findings will be used to produce empirically and theoretically grounded design principles and heuristics for these types of practice-based activities to support teacher learning.

Supporting Science Learning and Teaching in Middle School Classrooms through Automated Analysis of Students' Writing (Collaborative Research: Puntambekar)

This project will develop a novel, automated technology to provide middle-school students and their teachers with real-time feedback about students' written explanations of physics phenomena. Working in groups to design a roller coaster, students will learn about key principles in physics such as the conservation of energy and the laws concerning forces and motion and record their ideas and explanations in a digital journal.

Award Number: 
2010483
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project will develop a novel, automated technology to provide middle-school students and their teachers with real-time feedback about students' written explanations of physics phenomena. The use of evidence to build scientific explanations is a central practice by which scientific knowledge is generated and learned. Students often do not understand what a scientific explanation is and frequently write incomplete, non-causal accounts of scientific phenomenon. Teachers often have difficulties in helping students write explanations, as it is complex and time-consuming. Working in groups of three or four and experimenting with designing a roller coaster, students will learn about key principles in physics such as the conservation of energy and the laws concerning forces and motion. Each student will be provided with a digital journal. The prompts and information in the journal will structure the roller coaster activities (supported 6-8 weeks of instruction) and provide the students with a place to record their written ideas and explanations. At the close of several rounds of experimentation and analysis, students will write causal explanations for their current design. Through the use of the wise crowd automated assessment system, students will receive feedback on their writing. (The automated wise crowd model uses a content assessment of the explanations of experts as the foundation for analyzing and providing feedback to students.) Teachers will also use information from the system to facilitate full class discussions and individualized support. Project research and development activities will result in a fully developed and tested mechanism for providing feedback for students' science explanations. Through automated support of the content analysis of student writing across multiple assignments, the project innovations will allow teachers to more fully integrate writing into their assignments. Ultimately, the project can help students understand how scientific explanations are developed and justified and make them more critical consumers of scientific knowledge so they can make better informed decisions about scientific issues in everyday life.

The project will use a design-based research approach in developing the automated system using wise-crowd analysis and in assessing the impacts of the system on student learning and teacher classroom practices. Four research questions will guide the research: (1) How does feedback from the wise crowd system affect students' written explanation of scientific phenomenon?; (2) How do students with different levels of prior knowledge and reading comprehension benefit from automated feedback and teacher scaffolding?; (3) How do teachers use automated assessment and aggregated summaries of students' explanations during instruction?; and (4) In what ways does scaffolding from the wise crowd system and feedback from teachers support students' written explanations of learning? Through the four-year project, an iterative development process will include the design of the system and testing of two iterations of the system; research of student responses across the progression of roller coaster design and written assignments; and use of some validated and custom instruments to assess student understanding of key forces and assessment of student abilities to use data to evaluate claims. Classroom studies will use video data and researcher field notes to help understand how teachers facilitated the use of the wise-crowd system. Research will culminate in testing of the final version of the wise crowd system. Using a quasi-experimental design, classes will be randomly assigned to the treatment or comparison conditions. Findings will advance knowledge in the field about the best ways to integrate content assessment and feedback from the automated system with classroom and individual support from teachers to optimize learning for students. Materials and results generated from the project will be broadly disseminated, resulting in significant impacts for researchers and practitioners.

Supporting Science Learning and Teaching in Middle School Classrooms through Automated Analysis of Students' Writing (Collaborative Research: Passonneau)

This project will develop a novel, automated technology to provide middle-school students and their teachers with real-time feedback about students' written explanations of physics phenomena. Working in groups to design a roller coaster, students will learn about key principles in physics such as the conservation of energy and the laws concerning forces and motion and record their ideas and explanations in a digital journal.

Award Number: 
2010351
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project will develop a novel, automated technology to provide middle-school students and their teachers with real-time feedback about students' written explanations of physics phenomena. The use of evidence to build scientific explanations is a central practice by which scientific knowledge is generated and learned. Students often do not understand what a scientific explanation is and frequently write incomplete, non-causal accounts of scientific phenomenon. Teachers often have difficulties in helping students write explanations, as it is complex and time-consuming. Working in groups of three or four and experimenting with designing a roller coaster, students will learn about key principles in physics such as the conservation of energy and the laws concerning forces and motion. Each student will be provided with a digital journal. The prompts and information in the journal will structure the roller coaster activities (supported 6-8 weeks of instruction) and provide the students with a place to record their written ideas and explanations. At the close of several rounds of experimentation and analysis, students will write causal explanations for their current design. Through the use of the wise crowd automated assessment system, students will receive feedback on their writing. (The automated wise crowd model uses a content assessment of the explanations of experts as the foundation for analyzing and providing feedback to students.) Teachers will also use information from the system to facilitate full class discussions and individualized support. Project research and development activities will result in a fully developed and tested mechanism for providing feedback for students' science explanations. Through automated support of the content analysis of student writing across multiple assignments, the project innovations will allow teachers to more fully integrate writing into their assignments. Ultimately, the project can help students understand how scientific explanations are developed and justified and make them more critical consumers of scientific knowledge so they can make better informed decisions about scientific issues in everyday life.

The project will use a design-based research approach in developing the automated system using wise-crowd analysis and in assessing the impacts of the system on student learning and teacher classroom practices. Four research questions will guide the research: (1) How does feedback from the wise crowd system affect students' written explanation of scientific phenomenon?; (2) How do students with different levels of prior knowledge and reading comprehension benefit from automated feedback and teacher scaffolding?; (3) How do teachers use automated assessment and aggregated summaries of students' explanations during instruction?; and (4) In what ways does scaffolding from the wise crowd system and feedback from teachers support students' written explanations of learning? Through the four-year project, an iterative development process will include the design of the system and testing of two iterations of the system; research of student responses across the progression of roller coaster design and written assignments; and use of some validated and custom instruments to assess student understanding of key forces and assessment of student abilities to use data to evaluate claims. Classroom studies will use video data and researcher field notes to help understand how teachers facilitated the use of the wise-crowd system. Research will culminate in testing of the final version of the wise crowd system. Using a quasi-experimental design, classes will be randomly assigned to the treatment or comparison conditions. Findings will advance knowledge in the field about the best ways to integrate content assessment and feedback from the automated system with classroom and individual support from teachers to optimize learning for students. Materials and results generated from the project will be broadly disseminated, resulting in significant impacts for researchers and practitioners.

Co-learning Math Teaching Project: Collaborative Structures to Support Learning to Teach across the Professional Teaching Continuum

This project will design and study an innovative model of collaborative learning for pre-service and experienced secondary mathematics teachers that focuses on equitable mathematics teaching practices that include understanding students' knowledge, math understandings, and experiences they bring to the classroom.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010634
Funding Period: 
Sun, 11/01/2020 to Thu, 10/31/2024
Full Description: 

An ongoing challenge for the preparation of new mathematics teachers is creating quality experiences in classrooms for student teaching. The project will design and study an innovative model of collaborative learning for pre-service and experienced secondary mathematics teachers. Multiple pre-service teachers will collaborate in the same secondary mathematics teacher's classroom for their field placements. The partnership between the school and the university will allow for professional development for the pre-service teachers and the experienced teachers. A particular focus of the project will be equity in mathematics teaching and learning. Developing equitable mathematics teaching practices includes better understanding students' knowledge, math understandings, and experiences they bring to the classroom. Improving the student teaching experience may improve retention in the teaching profession and help pre-service teachers be better prepared for their first years of teaching.

This is an exploratory project about mathematics teaching and teacher development in field experiences for pre-service teachers. The project introduces collaborative learning structures for pre-service teacher education that focus on equitable mathematics teaching practices. The collaborative learning structures include both the cooperating teacher and multiple pre-service teachers working in the same classroom. The project will use a design-based research model to systematically study the process of co-learning and the critical features of collaborative learning structures as they are designed to support co-learning between novice and experienced teachers. Multiple universities are included in the project in order to compare the model in different settings. The project will use Math Studio as a model for the teachers to focus on a lesson taught by one teacher but the group plans, observes, and reflects about the lesson together. A facilitator or math coach supports the group's work during the Math Studio process. The project has two research questions. First, how do pre-service teachers and cooperating teachers co-learn? More specifically, what vision, dispositions, understandings and practices of justification and generalization does each teacher develop during their time together? How does each teacher's vision, dispositions, understandings, and practices of mathematics teaching shift during their time together? Second, what are the design characteristics of the collaborative learning structures that support or inhibit pre-service teachers and cooperating teachers in learning? The qualitative study will collect video recordings and artifacts from the Math Studio, assessments of math teaching practices, and data from the leadership team in order to compare the model's implementation at different sites. The data analysis will occur iteratively throughout the project to refine the coding framework to describe learning and shifts in teacher practice.

Design Talks: Building Community with Elementary Engineering (Collaborative Research: Watkins)

This project explores how classroom conversations can engage children in making sense of the problems that they are addressing and foregrounding ethics while making design decisions. To provide children with opportunities to engage in rich classroom conversations, the project team uses a community-based engineering curricular approach, where students address problems that affect their local school communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010237
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Inclusion of engineering design activities in elementary classrooms has become increasingly common, and teachers are becoming more comfortable with the basics of teaching engineering. There is now a need and an opportunity to understand different approaches teachers can take to support students to deepen their understanding of engineering design content knowledge and engineering practices. While many existing approaches to preK-12 engineering education emphasize problem solving and the development of engineering solutions, this project also explores how classroom conversations can engage children in making sense of the problems that they are addressing and foregrounding ethics while making design decisions. To provide children with opportunities to engage in rich classroom conversations, the project team uses a community-based engineering curricular approach, where students address problems that affect their local school communities. The discussion-focused, community-based engineering curricular approach has promise in providing opportunities for children to practice sense-making and decision-making skills and also develop a perspective of care as central to engineering design work.

To accomplish this project, the researchers extend an ongoing partnership with two elementary teachers to implement the discussion-rich community-based engineering curricular approach and collect video-recordings of the elementary students' engineering design conversations. The videos will be analyzed using discourse analysis to generate evidence-based theory on the characteristics and dynamics of classroom talk that support elementary students' knowledge construction in engineering design contexts, as well as theory on how teachers prompt them and elicit meaningful participation from all students. By providing additional resources and an intellectual framework for investigating and prompting meaningful disciplinary discourse in engineering design, the project will support the two partner teachers to apprentice eight of their colleagues over three years into the work of community-based engineering and design talk. This collaboration will develop resources that will support teachers and students to engage in more caring, ethical discourse around design. Specifically, the project team will create an online video library of design talk resources for grade 1-6 classroom teachers. The Design Talk website will enable elementary teachers to see distinctly different kinds of classroom conversations that make elementary engineering a site for students not just to build products, but also to build knowledge.

Design Talks: Building Community with Elementary Engineering (Collaborative Research: Wendell)

This project explores how classroom conversations can engage children in making sense of the problems that they are addressing and foregrounding ethics while making design decisions. To provide children with opportunities to engage in rich classroom conversations, the project team uses a community-based engineering curricular approach, where students address problems that affect their local school communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010139
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Inclusion of engineering design activities in elementary classrooms has become increasingly common, and teachers are becoming more comfortable with the basics of teaching engineering. There is now a need and an opportunity to understand different approaches teachers can take to support students to deepen their understanding of engineering design content knowledge and engineering practices. While many existing approaches to preK-12 engineering education emphasize problem solving and the development of engineering solutions, this project also explores how classroom conversations can engage children in making sense of the problems that they are addressing and foregrounding ethics while making design decisions. To provide children with opportunities to engage in rich classroom conversations, the project team uses a community-based engineering curricular approach, where students address problems that affect their local school communities. The discussion-focused, community-based engineering curricular approach has promise in providing opportunities for children to practice sense-making and decision-making skills and also develop a perspective of care as central to engineering design work.

To accomplish this project, the researchers extend an ongoing partnership with two elementary teachers to implement the discussion-rich community-based engineering curricular approach and collect video-recordings of the elementary students' engineering design conversations. The videos will be analyzed using discourse analysis to generate evidence-based theory on the characteristics and dynamics of classroom talk that support elementary students' knowledge construction in engineering design contexts, as well as theory on how teachers prompt them and elicit meaningful participation from all students. By providing additional resources and an intellectual framework for investigating and prompting meaningful disciplinary discourse in engineering design, the project will support the two partner teachers to apprentice eight of their colleagues over three years into the work of community-based engineering and design talk. This collaboration will develop resources that will support teachers and students to engage in more caring, ethical discourse around design. Specifically, the project team will create an online video library of design talk resources for grade 1-6 classroom teachers. The Design Talk website will enable elementary teachers to see distinctly different kinds of classroom conversations that make elementary engineering a site for students not just to build products, but also to build knowledge.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Miller)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010155
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Lehrer)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010207
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Peake)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010119
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

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