Students

Professional Development to Support an Elementary School Science and Integrated Language Curriculum

To help address the need for science classrooms that support language learning for all students, this project will rigorously study the Science and Integrated Language (SAIL) curriculum, a year-long fifth-grade curriculum aligned to current science curriculum standards with a focus on English learners.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2035103
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

The nation's diverse and rapidly changing student demographics includes the rise of English learners, the fastest growing student population. Such demographic shifts highlight the importance of promoting and fostering science classrooms that support language learning for all students, including English learners. To help address this need, this project will rigorously study the Science and Integrated Language (SAIL) curriculum, a year-long fifth-grade curriculum aligned to current science curriculum standards with a focus on English learners. SAIL is grounded in design principles that are based on current research on children's science learning and second language acquisition. The curriculum includes four units that focus on central, driving questions (e.g., What happens to our garbage? or Why do falling stars fall?) to anchor the key physical and life science concepts of interest. The SAIL curriculum was originally developed with a prior DRK-12 grant using iterative cycles of development, field testing, and refinement. The project has three main objectives. First, the team will develop a teacher professional development program to support classroom implementation of SAIL. Second, the project will develop and validate the instruments needed to study the intervention and its impacts on teachers and students. Third, a quasi-experimental field trial will be conducted to assess the SAIL intervention's impacts on teachers and students.

The team will spend first year refining and iteratively developing the SAIL professional development package along with the measures to be used in the field trial. This is followed by the quasi-experimental study, which includes a treatment group of 15 elementary schools. A matched comparison group of 15 elementary schools will be obtained using propensity score matching at the school, teacher, and student levels. Fifth-grade science teachers will participate for 2 years, while two cohorts of fifth-grade students will participate for 1 year each. Measures will focus on student science learning with particular attention to English learner students and observations of teachers' instructional practices. Data will be analyzed using multi-level models accounting for nesting of students within teachers which, in turn, are nested within schools. At the completion of the project the team will have produced: (1) a fully documented professional development program to support teacher implementation of the SAIL curriculum, (2) measures needed to rigorously study the intervention and its impacts on teachers and students, and (3) further evidence of the potential effects of the SAIL intervention on teachers and students through a rigorous quasi-experimental field study.

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.

SimSnap: Orchestrating Collaborative Learning in Biology through Reconfigurable Simulations (Collective Research: Puntambekar)

This project will develop and research collaborative learning in biology using tablet-style computers that support simulations of biological systems and that can be used individually or linked together. The project will be implemented over 4 years in middle school life science classes, in which students will solve important socio-scientific problems, such as growing healthy plants in community gardens to address the need to grow sufficient produce to fulfill ever increasing and varying demands.

Award Number: 
2010357
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research collaborative learning in biology using tablet-style computers that support simulations of biological systems and that can be used individually or linked together. The project will be implemented over 4 years in middle school life science classes, in which students will solve important socio-scientific problems, such as growing healthy plants in community gardens to address the need to grow sufficient produce to fulfill ever increasing and varying demands. Working within a digital plant habitat simulation, students will investigate how different environmental and genetic factors affect the health of a variety of plants and vegetables. As students engage in design tasks, they will be able to seamlessly move between individual and collaborative work with peers by "snapping" their tablets together (by placing them next to each other) to create a single shared simulation that spans all their devices. Students will be able to drop elements of their individual inquiry activities (e.g., plant types, soil compositions) into their shared simulation, providing opportunities for collaborative discussion and knowledge integration. When students "unsnap" their tablets, their collaborative work will stay with them in a digital journal, for individual reflection or as a resource for future collaborative activities (with potentially new group members). Project curriculum units will help students see the connections between the science concepts and principles they are learning, as they iteratively work on their designs through a combination of individual, collaborative and whole class learning. This work will also develop new approaches that help teachers understand the state of the class when students are taking part open-ended biology investigations, and support the teacher classroom orchestration and facilitation. Project research findings, materials and software will be made available to interested teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers nationwide on the project website.

The project will research collaborative learning along three planesindividual, small group and whole classwith technologies and classroom teachers supporting learning in innovative ways. Research has shown that technology can support collaborative learning, but there is limited research on how it can support transitions between individual and collaborative learning. While research has also shown that collaborative or individual learning may be more beneficial depending on the task or learning goal, there are relatively few studies that examine the potential for learning when students move between these social planes. Further, as these configurations become increasingly complex, there is also the challenge of how to support teachers' orchestration and facilitation. Studies will focus around four main research questions: 1) How does engaging in personally relevant biology curriculum through user-driven investigations help students understand the underlying science content? 2) How are students using and sharing the work of others to develop their own understanding about the underlying science concepts? 3) How do designs that allow for the movement between individual, small group, and whole class configurations allow students to work as a learning community? 4) How does the technology platform support teachers in orchestrating and facilitating classroom activities? Project studies will follow a design-based research methodology, guided by the premise that learning in naturalistic settings is the product of multiple interacting variables that cannot be reduced to a small set of controlled factors. The research will be broken down across four main developmental arcs: Technology design and iteration; Facilitation, user testing, and co-design; Classroom implementation; and Research and analysis. Each of the designed technologies will be user tested in the lab prior to being deployed in the classroom. Part of the analysis will focus on how the different technologies (i.e., individual and connected tablets, the teacher orchestration tablet) support learning and collaboration in naturalistic settings. The project research framework provides a way to examine the usability, usefulness and impact of interactions in a multi-user collaborative context using a mixed-method approach with various quantitative measures and qualitative indicators. Teachers will be prepared to use the system through 2-week summer institutes, during which they will also participate in co-design of the curriculum and the technology. Project research findings, materials and software will be made available to interested teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers nationwide on the project website, as well as being disseminated to appropriate audiences via conference presentations and publications.

SimSnap: Orchestrating Collaborative Learning in Biology through Reconfigurable Simulations (Collective Research: Tissenbaum)

This project will develop and research collaborative learning in biology using tablet-style computers that support simulations of biological systems and that can be used individually or linked together. The project will be implemented over 4 years in middle school life science classes, in which students will solve important socio-scientific problems, such as growing healthy plants in community gardens to address the need to grow sufficient produce to fulfill ever increasing and varying demands.

Award Number: 
2010456
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research collaborative learning in biology using tablet-style computers that support simulations of biological systems and that can be used individually or linked together. The project will be implemented over 4 years in middle school life science classes, in which students will solve important socio-scientific problems, such as growing healthy plants in community gardens to address the need to grow sufficient produce to fulfill ever increasing and varying demands. Working within a digital plant habitat simulation, students will investigate how different environmental and genetic factors affect the health of a variety of plants and vegetables. As students engage in design tasks, they will be able to seamlessly move between individual and collaborative work with peers by "snapping" their tablets together (by placing them next to each other) to create a single shared simulation that spans all their devices. Students will be able to drop elements of their individual inquiry activities (e.g., plant types, soil compositions) into their shared simulation, providing opportunities for collaborative discussion and knowledge integration. When students "unsnap" their tablets, their collaborative work will stay with them in a digital journal, for individual reflection or as a resource for future collaborative activities (with potentially new group members). Project curriculum units will help students see the connections between the science concepts and principles they are learning, as they iteratively work on their designs through a combination of individual, collaborative and whole class learning. This work will also develop new approaches that help teachers understand the state of the class when students are taking part open-ended biology investigations, and support the teacher classroom orchestration and facilitation. Project research findings, materials and software will be made available to interested teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers nationwide on the project website.

The project will research collaborative learning along three planesindividual, small group and whole classwith technologies and classroom teachers supporting learning in innovative ways. Research has shown that technology can support collaborative learning, but there is limited research on how it can support transitions between individual and collaborative learning. While research has also shown that collaborative or individual learning may be more beneficial depending on the task or learning goal, there are relatively few studies that examine the potential for learning when students move between these social planes. Further, as these configurations become increasingly complex, there is also the challenge of how to support teachers' orchestration and facilitation. Studies will focus around four main research questions: 1) How does engaging in personally relevant biology curriculum through user-driven investigations help students understand the underlying science content? 2) How are students using and sharing the work of others to develop their own understanding about the underlying science concepts? 3) How do designs that allow for the movement between individual, small group, and whole class configurations allow students to work as a learning community? 4) How does the technology platform support teachers in orchestrating and facilitating classroom activities? Project studies will follow a design-based research methodology, guided by the premise that learning in naturalistic settings is the product of multiple interacting variables that cannot be reduced to a small set of controlled factors. The research will be broken down across four main developmental arcs: Technology design and iteration; Facilitation, user testing, and co-design; Classroom implementation; and Research and analysis. Each of the designed technologies will be user tested in the lab prior to being deployed in the classroom. Part of the analysis will focus on how the different technologies (i.e., individual and connected tablets, the teacher orchestration tablet) support learning and collaboration in naturalistic settings. The project research framework provides a way to examine the usability, usefulness and impact of interactions in a multi-user collaborative context using a mixed-method approach with various quantitative measures and qualitative indicators. Teachers will be prepared to use the system through 2-week summer institutes, during which they will also participate in co-design of the curriculum and the technology. Project research findings, materials and software will be made available to interested teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers nationwide on the project website, as well as being disseminated to appropriate audiences via conference presentations and publications.

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.

Broadening Participation in Mathematics for English Learners with Mathematics Difficulties: A Multi-Site Impact Study

The purpose of this project is to rigorously test the efficacy of the Precision Mathematics First-Grade (PM-1) intervention on the mathematics outcomes of English learners (ELs) who face mathematics difficulties (MD). The PM-1 intervention is designed to support students with or at risk for MD in developing a robust understanding of the underlying concepts, problem-solving skills, and vocabulary of early measurement and statistical investigation.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010550
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

Success in mathematics has major implications for student success at the public school and postsecondary levels, as well as contributing to the nation's STEM workforce and economy. While building mathematics literacy is important for all learners, it is especially critical for students most vulnerable for academic risk. Among these at-risk subgroups are English learners (ELs). By definition, ELs are not yet proficient in academic English and often come to school unprepared for the linguistic demands of disciplinary learning. Authentic and engaged content learning activities, such as early mathematics, may comprise the ideal context for acquiring the language and literacy skills ELs need. Research suggests ELs represent the fastest growing subgroup in U.S. schools. Currently, U.S. classrooms serve over five million ELs and estimated projections suggest that up to one in four students in 2025 will be an EL. Considering the rising presence of ELs, there is an urgent need to advance equity and eliminate disparities in STEM education among this group of learners who are often underserved by current practice. Overwhelming evidence suggests that ELs place well short of their non-EL peers in the area of mathematics. Therefore, the purpose of this 5-year Impact Project is to rigorously test the efficacy of the Precision Mathematics First-Grade (PM-1) intervention on the mathematics outcomes of ELs who face mathematics difficulties (MD). PM-1 is an innovative, first-grade, English-based, mathematics intervention focused on state-of-the-art technology and hands-on problem-solving activities, the PM-1 intervention is designed to support students with or at risk for MD in developing a robust understanding of the underlying concepts, problem-solving skills, and vocabulary of early measurement and statistical investigation. This study will examine student response to the PM-1 intervention based on variables such as students' initial mathematics skill levels and proficiency in English, and explore how the rate and quality of mathematics discourse opportunities for ELs may predict gains in mathematics outcomes.

This impact study will investigate the efficacy of the Precision Mathematics First-Grade (PM-1) intervention through a methodologically rigorous randomized controlled trial. The study will utilize a randomized block design, blocking on classrooms and randomly assigning first-grade English learners (ELs) who face mathematics difficulties (MD) within first-grade classrooms to one of two conditions: (a) PM-1 intervention or (b) control (business-as-usual). Approximately 900 ELs from 150 first-grade classrooms will participate. Three research aims will guide this study. Aim 1 will systematically evaluate the average effect of PM-1 on student mathematics achievement; while Aim 2 will investigate differential response to the intervention based on student-level variables, including ELs proficiency in English and pretreatment mathematics performance. In Aim 3, researchers will explore whether the frequency and quality of mathematics discourse opportunities for ELs predicts gains in mathematics achievement. Although random assignment will take place at the student level, students will be assigned to small instructional group formats for intervention delivery. Therefore, the design employs a partially nested mixed-model Time × Condition analyses to evaluate the effect of PM-1 on pretest to posttest gains in mathematics achievement (Aim 1) and differential response to PM-1 based on student characteristics (Aim 2). A random coefficients analysis that nests repeated assessments within students and PM-1 intervention groups will explore whether the rate and quality of mathematics discourse opportunities predicts ELs' gains in mathematics achievement (Aim 3).

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.

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