Accessibility

Science Learning through Embodied Performances in Elementary and Middle School

This project's approach uses two types of embodied performances: experiential performances that engage learners in using their bodies to physically experience scientific phenomena (e.g., the increase of heart rate during exercise), and dramatic performances where learners act out science ideas (e.g., the sources and impact of air pollution) with gestures, body movement, dances, role-plays, or theater productions.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1908272
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

There is a need to develop ways of making scientific ideas and practices more accessible to students, in particular students in elementary grades and from populations underrepresented in STEM disciplines. Learning science involves the construction of scientific knowledge and science identities, both of which can be supported by science instruction that integrates scientific practices with theater and literacy practices. This project's approach uses two types of embodied performances: experiential performances that engage learners in using their bodies to physically experience scientific phenomena (e.g., the increase of heart rate during exercise), and dramatic performances where learners act out science ideas (e.g., the sources and impact of air pollution) with gestures, body movement, dances, role-plays, or theater productions. Body movements, positions, and actions along with language and other modes of representation are employed as critical constituents of meaning making, which offer learners opportunities to understand science core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and scientific practices by dramatizing them for and with others. This project is adding to the limited science education literature on the use, value, and impact of embodied performances in science classrooms, and on the brilliance, ingenuity, and science knowledge that all youth, and particularly historically marginalized young people, have and can further develop in urban school classrooms.

This project's research focuses on understanding how embodied performances of science concepts and processes can shape classroom science learning, and how their impact is similar and/or different across science topics, elementary and middle school grade levels, and as the school year progresses. It explores the kinds of science ideas students learn, the multimodal literacy practices in which they engage, and the science identities they construct. The research attends to learning for all young people with a specific focus on children from historically marginalized groups in STEM. Using design-based research, the project team (students and teachers in Chicago Public Schools, teaching artists, and researchers) designs embodied performances that are implemented, studied, and revised throughout the project's duration. Ten teachers participate in professional development to learn relevant theater practices (including adaptation, workshopping, and inter- and intra-personal embodiment practices), to strengthen their science understandings, and to learn ways of intertwining both in their teaching. They are subsequently supported by teaching artists through the implementation of various activities in their classrooms, eventually implementing them without any scaffolding. Data sources include fieldnotes during classwork related to embodied performances; written materials, images, sound files, and other digital productions created to enhance, share, expand, and/or support performances; ongoing written student reflections on learning science and the role of embodied performances; regular assessments found in the science curriculum; reflective conversations with student teams about their embodied performances; one-on-one semi-structured interviews with 6 focal students per classroom about science identity development twice in a school year; video of classwork related to embodied performances; and video of science ideas performed by students to school and community audiences. Analyses include structured and focused coding of qualitative data, multimodal discourse analysis, and content analysis. The findings of this research are providing empirical evidence of the value and impact of integrating performing-arts practices into science teaching and learning and the potential of this approach to transform urban science classrooms into spaces where young people from marginalized groups find access to science to engage with it creatively and deeply.

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CAREER: Bridging the Digital Accessibility Gap in STEM Using Multisensory Haptic Platforms

This project investigates how to use new touch technologies, like touchscreens, to create graphics and simulations that can be felt, heard, and seen. Using readily available, low-cost systems, the principal investigator will investigate how to map visual information to touch and sound for students with visual impairments.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1845490
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

Consider learning visual subjects such as math, engineering, or science without being able to see. Suddenly, the graphs, charts, and diagrams that provide a quick way to gather information are no longer effective. This is a challenge that students with visual impairments face in classrooms today as educational materials are most often presented electronically. The current way that individuals with visual impairments "read" graphics is through touch, feeling raised dots and patterns on paper that represent images. Creating these touch-based graphics requires extensive time and resources, and the output provides a static, hard-copy image. Lack of access to graphics in STEM subjects is one of the most pressing challenges currently facing individuals with visual impairments. This is a concern given the low representation of students with these disabilities in STEM fields and professions.

This project investigates how to use new touch technologies, like touchscreens, to create graphics and simulations that can be felt, heard, and seen. Using readily available, low-cost systems, the principal investigator will investigate how to map visual information to touch and sound. This research builds on prior research focused on representing the building blocks of graphics (points, lines, and shapes) nonvisually. In this project, the investigator will determine how to represent more challenging graphics such as charts, plots, and diagrams, nonvisually. The project will then explore the role of touch feedback in interactive simulations, which have moving elements that change with user input, making nonvisual access challenging. Finally, the projects extends the research to students with other disabilities, toward understanding the benefits and changes necessary for touch technologies to have broad impact. The project involves group and single-subject designs with approximately 65 students with visual impairments and focuses on the following outcomes of interest: students' graph literacy, percent correct on task assessments, time of exploration, response time, number of revisits to particular areas of the graphic, and number of switches between layers. Working closely with individuals with disabilities and their teachers, this work seeks to bridge the current graphical accessibility gap in STEM and raise awareness of universal design in technology use and development.

STEM Sea, Air, and Land Remotely Operated Vehicle Design Challenges for Rural, Middle School Youth

This project provides middle school students in a high poverty rural area in Northern Florida an opportunity to pursue post-secondary study in STEM by providing quality and relevant STEM design. The project will integrate engineering design, technology and society, electrical knowledge, and computer science to improve middle school students' spatial reasoning through experiences embedded within engineering design challenges.

Award Number: 
1812913
Funding Period: 
Mon, 04/01/2019 to Thu, 03/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project provides middle school students in a high poverty rural area in Northern Florida an opportunity to pursue post-secondary study in STEM by providing quality and relevant STEM design. The design challenges will be contextualized within a rural region (i.e., GIS mapping and drones used for surveying large ranches, farms, and forests), producing a series of six design challenge modules and two competition design challenges with accompanying teacher guides for preparing relevant STEM modules for 90 middle school aged students. The project will integrate 4 components: (a) engineering design, (b) technology and society, (c) electrical knowledge, and (d) computer science. The project aims to improve middle school students' spatial reasoning through experiences embedded within engineering design challenges.

Collaborative partners consisting of school level, college level, and STEM professionals will develop the design challenges, using best practices from STEM learning research, with the intent of advancing STEM pathway awareness and participation among historically underserved students in the rural, high-poverty region served by North Florida Community College. Data regarding student outcomes will be collected before and after implementation, including measures of content mastery, spatial reasoning skills, self-efficacy, attitudes and interests in STEM, and academic achievement in science courses. Assessment of the data will involve the research and development phases of six curriculum modules and (2) an intervention study following a delayed-treatment design model.

There is a growing need for the increased broadening of STEM by underserved groups. By increasing the number of rural students who participate in STEM hands on, interdisciplinary experiences, the project has the potential to expand interest and competency in mathematics and science and expand the number of students who are aware of STEM career pathways.

CAREER: Building on Diverse Students' Funds of Knowledge to Promote Scientific Discourse and Strengthen Connections to Science Learning in Urban Classrooms

This project will aim to investigate how to increase equitable and active participation of diverse students' science learning in middle schools. The central premise of this study will be that building upon and integrating diverse students' funds of knowledge into their learning opportunities would contribute to create equitable access to effective participation.

Award Number: 
1845048
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

Framed around existing inequities in science education, particularly within underserved student populations, the project will aim to investigate how to increase equitable and active participation of diverse students' science learning in middle schools. The central premise of this study will be that building upon and integrating diverse students' funds of knowledge into their learning opportunities would contribute to create equitable access to effective participation. Thus, the study will promote "authentic scientific discourse" as a critical feature of students' participation in science practices. In the context of this work, scientific discourse will refer to the spoken and written words, and gestures of students and teachers as they interact in science classrooms. This, in turn, would promote students' science learning at higher levels defined in the Next Generation Science Standards.

To achieve its goal of supporting authentic scientific discourse in diverse middle school classrooms, the work will address three research questions. (1) What funds of knowledge do students bring to bear, and how can these be productively integrated to support participation in authentic scientific discourse? (2) What are the ways in which students connect cognitively, motivationally, and socially to science learning when participating in authentic scientific discourse within urban classrooms? (3) What progress do students make in key aspects of scientific discourse and their science learning? The study will be conducted across approximately 15 middle schools and will employ a mixed-methods approach with a sample of teachers (n= 18) and students (n= 450). The work will be organized in three phases. Phase 1 will employ mixed methods, longitudinal approach to describe the complex interactions between students' funds of knowledge, disciplinary content and practices of authentic scientific discourse, and connections to science learning. Phase 2 will utilize design-based research cycles with teachers to apply and develop science instructional materials focused on improving opportunities for authentic scientific discourse by integrating students' funds of knowledge in urban classrooms using data from demographics, classroom videos, post-observation student-focus-group interviews, surveys, and science assessments. Phase 3 will focus on dissemination of research and educational findings. The main outcomes of this effort will include scholarly publications, an authentic scientific discourse framework, and instructional materials, such as lessons, videos, and student work for educators. An advisory board will provide both formative and summative evaluation feedback.

Using Technology to Capture Classroom Interactions: The Design, Validation, and Dissemination of a Formative Assessment of Instruction Tool for Diverse K-8 Mathematics Classrooms

This project will refine, expand, and validate a formative assessment tool called Math Habits Tool (MHT) for kindergarten through 8th grade classrooms. MHT is intended to capture and understand patterns of in-the-moment teacher-student and student-student classroom interactions in ways that can promote more equitable access to high quality math learning experiences for all students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814114
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

An important aspect of mathematics teaching and learning is the provision of timely and targeted feedback to students and teachers on the teaching and learning processes. However, many of the tools and resources focused on providing such feedback (e.g., formative assessment) are aimed at helping students. However, formative assessment of teaching can be equally transformative for teachers and school leaders and is a key component of improved teacher practice. This project will refine, expand and validate a formative assessment tool called Math Habits Tool (MHT) for kindergarten through 8th grade classrooms. MHT is intended to capture and understand patterns of in-the-moment teacher-student and student-student classroom interactions in ways that can promote more equitable access to high quality math learning experiences for all students. The tablet or computer-based tool is intended for use with teacher leaders, principals, coaches, and others interested in assessing teacher practice in a formative way.

This project will continue the development of the MHT through: (1) the integration of an access component; (2) analysis of videos collected during prior studies covering a diverse set of classrooms across the K-8 spectrum; (2) a validation study using validity-argument approach; and (3) the development, piloting, and refinement of professional development modules that will guide math educators, researchers, and practitioners in using the MHT effectively as a formative assessment of instruction. The revised MHT will be validated through analyses of video data from a range of K-8 classrooms with varying demographics and contexts such as socio-economic status, language backgrounds, gender, school settings (e.g., urban, rural, suburban), and race, with particular attention to increasing accessibility to mathematics learning by students who are traditionally underserved, including emergent bilingual students. The data analysis plan involves video coding with multiple checks on reliability, dimensionality analysis with optimal scaling, correlation analysis, and hierarchical linear modeling.

Accelerating Higher Order Thinking and STEM Content Learning Among Students with Learning Disabilities

The purpose of this project is to develop and refine an innovative Google-platform based application called CORGI for use with middle school students in physical, life, and earth science classrooms. The new version, CORGI_2, will include supports for content learning and higher order thinking and will pair with the cloud-based applications of the Google environment to offer multiple means of representation, response and engagement as well as videos, models, supports for decoding, and supports for background knowledge.

Award Number: 
1813556
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

The need for reduction in achievement gaps and the growing adoption of rigorous curriculum standards has raised expectations for all students, but especially for students with learning disabilities. Students are expected to learn science concepts and use their understanding to investigate the natural world through scientific inquiry. They must also develop higher-order reasoning skills, integrate knowledge and ideas using primary sources, use causal reasoning to understand the chain of events, delineate and evaluate claims, and assess the reasoning used in arguments. Lower participation and achievement in science courses makes students with learning disabilities less likely to pursue STEM degrees, STEM careers, and succeed in the labor market where higher order thinking skills and scientific literacy are increasingly important. It is important to develop innovative tools that build on evidence based practices in combination with promising new technologies to improve the academic trajectory in STEM disciplines. The purpose of this project is to develop and refine an innovative Google-platform based application called CORGI for use with middle school students in physical, life, and earth science classrooms. The new version, CORGI_2, will include supports for content learning and higher order thinking and will pair with the cloud-based applications of the Google environment to offer multiple means of representation, response and engagement as well as videos, models, supports for decoding, and supports for background knowledge. The team will refine CORGI to offer enhanced functionality and supports for scientific argumentation, concept mastery, collaboration strategies and social skills for cooperative groups.  Technology enhancements will include multimedia input and output, writing supports (e.g., sentence starters), discussion threads, and affective reactions to content/lessons.

The research team will work with both teachers and students to develop integrated units, new higher order thinking routines, learning and collaboration strategies, and new technological functionality in CORGI_2. Researcher-practitioner-student design teams will use Design-Based Intervention Research (DBR) methods to iteratively: (a) identify the science content for inclusion, (b) develop integrated content units in life, physical, and earth science, (c) integrate additional higher order thinking and learning strategies to promote higher-order thinking and reasoning, and (c) design and implement additional UDL and mobile functionality for CORGI_2. Participants will include 30 middle school teachers and approximately 200 students with learning disabilities, including reading disabilities. Researchers will collect formative evaluation data from teachers and students to examine the usability, science content learning, higher order thinking skills, engagement, and motivation of general education and special education students in middle school classrooms. Professional development modules will be developed to support the DBR cycles as well as to support wider scale adoption and use by all students.

Developing Preservice Teachers' Capacity to Teach Students with Learning Disabilities in Algebra I

Project researchers are training pre-service teachers to tutor students with learning disabilities in Algebra 1, combining principles from special education, mathematics education, and cognitive psychology. The trainings emphasize the use of gestures and strategic questioning to support students with learning disabilities and to build students’ understanding in Algebra 1.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813903
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project is implementing a program to train pre-service teachers to tutor students with learning disabilities in Algebra 1, combining principles from special education, mathematics education, and cognitive psychology. The project trains tutors to utilize gestures and strategic questioning to support students with LD to build connections between procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding in Algebra 1, while supporting students’ dispositions towards doing mathematics. The training will prepare tutors to address the challenges that students with LD often face—especially challenges of working memory and processing—and to build on their strengths as they engage with Algebra 1. The project will measure changes in tutors’ ability to use gestures and questioning to support the learning of students with LD during and after the completion of our training. It will also collect and analyze data on the knowledge and dispositions of students with LD in Algebra 1 for use in the ongoing refinement of the training and in documenting the impact of the training program.

Highly Adaptive Science Simulations for Accessible STEM Education

This project will research, design, and develop adaptive accessibility features for interactive science simulations. The proposed research will lay the foundation that advances the accessibility of complex interactives for learning and contribute to solutions to address the significant disparity in science achievement between students with and without disabilities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814220
Funding Period: 
Sun, 04/15/2018 to Wed, 03/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will research, design, and develop adaptive accessibility features for interactive science simulations. The proposed research will lay the foundation that advances the accessibility of complex interactives for learning and contribute to solutions to address the significant disparity in science achievement between students with and without disabilities. The PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder and collaborators at Georgia Tech, with expertise in accessible technology and design, will form the project team. The project team will conduct design-based implementation research, where adaptive accessibility features for interactive science simulations are developed through co-design with students with disabilities and their teachers. Students will include those with dyslexia, visual impairments or blindness, and students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, ranging from 5th grade through high school, and recent high school graduates. The adaptive accessibility features will be implemented within a set of PhET interactive science simulations, and allow students with disabilities to access the science simulations with alternative input devices (such as keyboards, switches, and sip-and-puff devices), alter the visual display of the simulations (changing color contrast, zoom and enlarge, and simplify), hear different auditory representations of the visual display (descriptions, sonification, and text-to-speech), and control the rate of simulated events. All features will be capable of being turned on or off and modified on-the-fly by teachers or students through a global control panel that includes curated feature sets, resulting in highly flexible, highly accessible, interactive learning resources.

PhET simulations are widely used in US classrooms, evidence-based, aligned with standards, and highly engaging and effective learning resources. With the proposed highly adaptive features and supporting resources, teachers will be able to quickly adapt the PhET simulations to meet the needs of many students with disabilities, simplifying the task of creating differentiated learning opportunities for students and supporting students with disabilities to engage in collaborative learning - a foundational component of a high-quality STEM education - alongside their non-disabled peers. To research, design, and develop the adaptive features and investigate their use by students, project team members will co-teach in classrooms with students with disabilities and conduct co-design activities with students, where students engage in design thinking to help design and refine the adaptive features to meet identified accessibility needs (their own and those of their peers). In addition, interviews with individual students with and without disabilities will also be conducted, to test early prototypes of individual features, to later refine the layering of the many different features, and to ensure the presence of adaptive features does not negatively impact traditional use of the simulations. The proposed work also includes surveys of teachers and students and analysis of teacher use, to refine global control features, develop curated feature sets, and develop supporting teacher resources. The project will address key questions at the heart of educational design for students with diverse needs, including how to make adaptive features that support student achievement of specific learning goals. The project will use design-based implementation research, with significant co-designing with students with disabilities (including visual impairments, cognitive disabilities, or dyslexia), interviews, case studies, and classroom implementation to design and evaluate the accessibility features. This will inform new models and theories of learning with technology. The project will investigate: 1) How students engage with, use, and learn from adaptive accessibility features, 2) how adaptive accessibility features can be designed to layer harmoniously together in a learning resource, and 3) how to effectively support access to rich, dynamic feature controls and curated feature sets for intuitive classroom use by students and teachers. The project will produce 8 PhET simulations with adaptive accessibility features and supporting teacher resources. The foundational research knowledge will result in effective design and implementation of adaptive accessibility features through the analysis of student engagement, usability, and learning from accessible simulations. Additionally, the project will provide technical infrastructure, exemplars, and software for use by other STEM education technology developers. The project team will work together to create a deep understanding of how to design adaptive science simulations with practical, usable, effective accessibility, so that learners with diverse needs can advance their science content knowledge and participate in science practices alongside their peers. The work has great potential to transform STEM learning for students with disabilities and to make simulations more effective for all learners. Results will provide insight into the effectiveness of accessible simulation-based activities and their corresponding teacher materials in engaging students in science practices and learning in the classroom.

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.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Measuring Early Mathematical Reasoning Skills

Presenter(s): Leanne Ketterlin Geller


BioGraph 2.0: Online Professional Development for High School Biology Teachers for Teaching and Learning About Complex Systems

This proposal will develop and test an open-access, online system of professional development for high school biology teachers in order to build pedagogical competencies for teaching about complex systems and to support the application of those competencies in high school biology classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721003
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project develops and tests an open-access, online asynchronous system of professional development for high school biology teachers in order to build pedagogical competencies for teaching about complex systems and to support the application of those competencies in high school biology classrooms. The online teacher professional development (PD) is delivered through the edX open access platform.

This research follows on nearly two decades of NSF-funded projects to build curriculum using agent-based modeling tools and instructional practices based on what we know best about how students and teachers learn. The modeling platform, StarLogo Nova, enables students and teachers to visualize hidden aspects of complex systems phenomena, such as natural selection in evolutionary systems, that typically create challenges in conceptual understanding. The curriculum, called BioGraph (short form for graphical programming simulations in biology), is NGSS-aligned using experimentation, argumentation, and modeling as essential scientific practices in investigating five core areas of biology and complex systems. The curricular units take 3 days to complete and are designed to be easily integrated into the standard high school biology course. Teacher-vetted student activity packets and teacher guides provide scaffolded support for classroom implementation.

Our previous face-to-face PD model for learning how to teach with BioGraph materials revealed a number of important best practice characteristics that included working on teacher beliefs, providing just-in-time facilitation, and building a collaborative professional community. In the current project, we aim to construct opportunities for a wide range of teachers to participate in the PD (that was previously limited only to local teachers). Moving to an online asynchronous platform would enable anywhere, anytime access to high quality curriculum (widely understood to be barriers to engaging in impactful PD). However, research on online teacher PD is still in its relative infancy especially pertaining to computer-supported teaching and learning. Of particular interest in the literature is how to build an ongoing collaborative teacher learning community that shares knowledge and advances in their instruction together. Thus, our project aims to investigate this goal in addition to the curricular goals through a social capital online delivery structure that includes activities and scaffolds for building social ties, depth of interactions, access to expertise, and trust. This research will produce insights and guidelines that can be immediately incorporated into the emerging field of online PD, and online education in general.

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