Teachers

Comparing the Efficacy of Collaborative Professional Development Formats for Improving Student Outcomes of a Student-Teacher-Scientist Partnership Program

The goal of this project is to study how the integration of an online curriculum, scientist mentoring of students, and professional development for both teachers and scientist mentors can improve student outcomes. In this project, teachers and scientist mentors will engage collaboratively in a professional development module which focuses on photosynthesis and cellular respiration and is an example of a student-teacher-scientist partnership.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010556
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

Science classrooms in the U.S. today increasingly expect students to engage in the practices of science in a way that help them form a deeper understanding of disciplinary core ideas and the practices by which science is done. To do this, students should learn how scientists work and communicate. It also calls for changes in how teachers teach science, which in turn creates a need for high-quality professional development so they can be more effective in the classroom. Professional scientists can also benefit from training preparing them to support teachers, motivate students, and model for students how scientists think and work. Preparing teachers and scientists through collaborative professional development can help maximize the impact they can have on student outcomes. To have the broadest impact, such professional development should be cost-effective and available to teachers in rural or underserved areas. This project focuses on high school life science (biology) teachers and their students. It will make use of an online mentoring platform, a student-teacher-scientist partnership program established in 2005. That study found that implementing in combination with high-quality, in-person collaborative teacher/scientist professional development resulted in positive and statistically significant effects on student achievement and attitudes versus business-as-usual methods of teaching the same science content. This project has two main components: 1) a replication study to determine if findings of the previous successful study hold true; and 2) adding an online format for delivering collaborative professional development to teachers and scientists enabling one to compare the effectiveness of online professional development and in-person professional development delivery formats for improving student outcomes.

The goal of this project is to study how the integration of an online curriculum, scientist mentoring of students, and professional development for both teachers and scientist mentors can improve student outcomes. In this project, teachers and scientist mentors will engage collaboratively in a professional development module which focuses on photosynthesis and cellular respiration and is an example of a student-teacher-scientist partnership. Teachers will use their training to teach the curriculum to their students with students receiving mentoring from the scientists through an online platform. Evaluation will examine whether this curriculum, professional development, and mentoring by scientists will improve student achievement on science content and attitudes toward scientists. The project will use mixed-methods approaches to explore potential factors underlying efficacy differences between in-person and online professional development. An important component of this project is comparing in-person professional development to an online delivery of professional development, which can be more cost-effective and accessible by teachers, especially those in rural and underserved areas.

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. 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

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling (Collaborative Research: Aguirre)

Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling is a teacher PD project focused on strengthening K-5 teaching with mathematics modeling. Building on previous foundational work around mathematics modeling and equity, this project will bring together equity oriented teaching practices and mathematical modeling to design and research the impact of a blended PD program on teacher practice. The project will include video-enhanced reflection and online mentoring in addition to face-to-face components of PD.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2008997
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/15/2020 to Tue, 04/30/2024
Full Description: 

Students bring many mathematical assets to the classroom from their life experiences in their cultures and communities, particularly with respect to being able to model real-world situations in their everyday lives with mathematics. Many equity-related challenges in students' communities can be understood through the use of mathematics and specifically the use of mathematical modeling (the analysis of complex real-world situations using mathematical resources and tools). Supporting teachers to make use of mathematical modeling in the elementary classroom to advance issues of equity will require targeted teacher professional development (PD). Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling is a teacher PD project focused on strengthening K-5 teaching with mathematics modeling. Building on previous foundational work around mathematics modeling and equity, this project will bring together equity oriented teaching practices and mathematical modeling to design and research the impact of a blended PD program on teacher practice. The project will include video-enhanced reflection and online mentoring in addition to face-to-face components of PD. Using five pivotal spaces for elementary mathematics modeling as a framework, the project will explore the ways in which tools and structures that support practices aligned with pivotal spaces in mathematics modeling lessons can help teachers advance equitable participation and develop student competencies in mathematics modeling. The project will engage in cycles of design-based implementation research (DBIR) to study the relationships between features of the PD and changes in teacher practice, understandings, and dispositions.

The project will deploy a blended PD model that includes face-to-face sessions, coaching, and video-based reflection. Three DBIR cycles will be undertaken, starting with case study-based design cycles, focused PD cycles facilitated by project staff, and full-scale PD cycles facilitated by teacher leaders. Sites in four states have been recruited that represent a wide range of contexts and student demographics. Six professional learning modules related to elementary math modeling will be created. The project will use the lesson observation protocol known as M2C3-Scan to assess changes in teacher practice, conduct student pre and post assessments of mathematical modeling competencies for students in grades 3-5 and formative assessments of mathematical modeling competencies for all students, and assess beliefs and confidence of teachers teaching mathematical modeling. The project team will also interview teachers, collect implementation logs, and use a teacher-annotated video reflection platform to analyze changes in classroom practice. Repeated measures analyses will be conducted on student learning data, with cycles of qualitative analyses related to understand changes in teacher practices, competencies, and beliefs.

The Discovery Research preK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling (Collaborative Research: Carlson)

Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling is a teacher PD project focused on strengthening K-5 teaching with mathematics modeling. Building on previous foundational work around mathematics modeling and equity, this project will bring together equity oriented teaching practices and mathematical modeling to design and research the impact of a blended PD program on teacher practice. The project will include video-enhanced reflection and online mentoring in addition to face-to-face components of PD.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010202
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/15/2020 to Tue, 04/30/2024
Full Description: 

Students bring many mathematical assets to the classroom from their life experiences in their cultures and communities, particularly with respect to being able to model real-world situations in their everyday lives with mathematics. Many equity-related challenges in students' communities can be understood through the use of mathematics and specifically the use of mathematical modeling (the analysis of complex real-world situations using mathematical resources and tools). Supporting teachers to make use of mathematical modeling in the elementary classroom to advance issues of equity will require targeted teacher professional development (PD). Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling is a teacher PD project focused on strengthening K-5 teaching with mathematics modeling. Building on previous foundational work around mathematics modeling and equity, this project will bring together equity oriented teaching practices and mathematical modeling to design and research the impact of a blended PD program on teacher practice. The project will include video-enhanced reflection and online mentoring in addition to face-to-face components of PD. Using five pivotal spaces for elementary mathematics modeling as a framework, the project will explore the ways in which tools and structures that support practices aligned with pivotal spaces in mathematics modeling lessons can help teachers advance equitable participation and develop student competencies in mathematics modeling. The project will engage in cycles of design-based implementation research (DBIR) to study the relationships between features of the PD and changes in teacher practice, understandings, and dispositions.

The project will deploy a blended PD model that includes face-to-face sessions, coaching, and video-based reflection. Three DBIR cycles will be undertaken, starting with case study-based design cycles, focused PD cycles facilitated by project staff, and full-scale PD cycles facilitated by teacher leaders. Sites in four states have been recruited that represent a wide range of contexts and student demographics. Six professional learning modules related to elementary math modeling will be created. The project will use the lesson observation protocol known as M2C3-Scan to assess changes in teacher practice, conduct student pre and post assessments of mathematical modeling competencies for students in grades 3-5 and formative assessments of mathematical modeling competencies for all students, and assess beliefs and confidence of teachers teaching mathematical modeling. The project team will also interview teachers, collect implementation logs, and use a teacher-annotated video reflection platform to analyze changes in classroom practice. Repeated measures analyses will be conducted on student learning data, with cycles of qualitative analyses related to understand changes in teacher practices, competencies, and beliefs.

The Discovery Research preK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling (Collaborative Research: Suh)

Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling is a teacher PD project focused on strengthening K-5 teaching with mathematics modeling. Building on previous foundational work around mathematics modeling and equity, this project will bring together equity oriented teaching practices and mathematical modeling to design and research the impact of a blended PD program on teacher practice. The project will include video-enhanced reflection and online mentoring in addition to face-to-face components of PD.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010269
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/15/2020 to Tue, 04/30/2024
Full Description: 

Students bring many mathematical assets to the classroom from their life experiences in their cultures and communities, particularly with respect to being able to model real-world situations in their everyday lives with mathematics. Many equity-related challenges in students' communities can be understood through the use of mathematics and specifically the use of mathematical modeling (the analysis of complex real-world situations using mathematical resources and tools). Supporting teachers to make use of mathematical modeling in the elementary classroom to advance issues of equity will require targeted teacher professional development (PD). Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling is a teacher PD project focused on strengthening K-5 teaching with mathematics modeling. Building on previous foundational work around mathematics modeling and equity, this project will bring together equity oriented teaching practices and mathematical modeling to design and research the impact of a blended PD program on teacher practice. The project will include video-enhanced reflection and online mentoring in addition to face-to-face components of PD. Using five pivotal spaces for elementary mathematics modeling as a framework, the project will explore the ways in which tools and structures that support practices aligned with pivotal spaces in mathematics modeling lessons can help teachers advance equitable participation and develop student competencies in mathematics modeling. The project will engage in cycles of design-based implementation research (DBIR) to study the relationships between features of the PD and changes in teacher practice, understandings, and dispositions.

The project will deploy a blended PD model that includes face-to-face sessions, coaching, and video-based reflection. Three DBIR cycles will be undertaken, starting with case study-based design cycles, focused PD cycles facilitated by project staff, and full-scale PD cycles facilitated by teacher leaders. Sites in four states have been recruited that represent a wide range of contexts and student demographics. Six professional learning modules related to elementary math modeling will be created. The project will use the lesson observation protocol known as M2C3-Scan to assess changes in teacher practice, conduct student pre and post assessments of mathematical modeling competencies for students in grades 3-5 and formative assessments of mathematical modeling competencies for all students, and assess beliefs and confidence of teachers teaching mathematical modeling. The project team will also interview teachers, collect implementation logs, and use a teacher-annotated video reflection platform to analyze changes in classroom practice. Repeated measures analyses will be conducted on student learning data, with cycles of qualitative analyses related to understand changes in teacher practices, competencies, and beliefs.

The Discovery Research preK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling (Collaborative Research: Turner)

Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling is a teacher PD project focused on strengthening K-5 teaching with mathematics modeling. Building on previous foundational work around mathematics modeling and equity, this project will bring together equity oriented teaching practices and mathematical modeling to design and research the impact of a blended PD program on teacher practice. The project will include video-enhanced reflection and online mentoring in addition to face-to-face components of PD.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010178
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/15/2020 to Tue, 04/30/2024
Full Description: 

Students bring many mathematical assets to the classroom from their life experiences in their cultures and communities, particularly with respect to being able to model real-world situations in their everyday lives with mathematics. Many equity-related challenges in students' communities can be understood through the use of mathematics and specifically the use of mathematical modeling (the analysis of complex real-world situations using mathematical resources and tools). Supporting teachers to make use of mathematical modeling in the elementary classroom to advance issues of equity will require targeted teacher professional development (PD). Advancing Equity and Strengthening Teaching with Elementary Mathematical Modeling is a teacher PD project focused on strengthening K-5 teaching with mathematics modeling. Building on previous foundational work around mathematics modeling and equity, this project will bring together equity oriented teaching practices and mathematical modeling to design and research the impact of a blended PD program on teacher practice. The project will include video-enhanced reflection and online mentoring in addition to face-to-face components of PD. Using five pivotal spaces for elementary mathematics modeling as a framework, the project will explore the ways in which tools and structures that support practices aligned with pivotal spaces in mathematics modeling lessons can help teachers advance equitable participation and develop student competencies in mathematics modeling. The project will engage in cycles of design-based implementation research (DBIR) to study the relationships between features of the PD and changes in teacher practice, understandings, and dispositions.

The project will deploy a blended PD model that includes face-to-face sessions, coaching, and video-based reflection. Three DBIR cycles will be undertaken, starting with case study-based design cycles, focused PD cycles facilitated by project staff, and full-scale PD cycles facilitated by teacher leaders. Sites in four states have been recruited that represent a wide range of contexts and student demographics. Six professional learning modules related to elementary math modeling will be created. The project will use the lesson observation protocol known as M2C3-Scan to assess changes in teacher practice, conduct student pre and post assessments of mathematical modeling competencies for students in grades 3-5 and formative assessments of mathematical modeling competencies for all students, and assess beliefs and confidence of teachers teaching mathematical modeling. The project team will also interview teachers, collect implementation logs, and use a teacher-annotated video reflection platform to analyze changes in classroom practice. Repeated measures analyses will be conducted on student learning data, with cycles of qualitative analyses related to understand changes in teacher practices, competencies, and beliefs.

The Discovery Research preK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Responding to a Global Pandemic: The Role of K-12 Science Teachers

This project will support a national research study on how teachers are helping students respond to COVID-19. The findings will inform the development of curriculum materials for teaching about COVID-19 and help science teachers to adapt their instruction as they help to fulfill a critical public health function. This study will enable a better understanding of the role that science teachers can play in a national response, both now and in future crises.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2027397
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2020 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

When a global health crisis emerges, students at all levels turn to their science teachers for information and, at times, reassurance, according to researchers at Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI). Science teachers serve a critically important public health function and become an important part of the nation's response efforts. Given the magnitude of the current COVID-19 crisis, it is likely that students are bringing their questions and concerns to their science teachers. As this award is made, nearly all K-12 school buildings in the U.S. are closed, and science teachers face unprecedented challenges in carrying out the instruction for which they are responsible while simultaneously addressing students' questions about COVID-19. Moreover, they must do this within new instructional formats. Education is crucial for helping students to understand the facts about the virus, despite much conflicting information and misinformation available. Education helps students understand and actively participate in measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. This award will support a national research study on how teachers are helping students respond to COVID-19. The findings will inform the development of curriculum materials for teaching about COVID-19, which are much needed right now, and help science teachers to adapt their instruction as they help to fulfill a critical public health function. This study will enable a better understanding of the role that science teachers can play in a national response, both now and in future crises.

The research will build on a study of science teachers conducted by HRI following the Ebola outbreak of 2014. Specifically, the research will investigate (1) where teachers of science get their information about coronavirus and COVID-19; (2) what types of resources teachers find most useful; (3) what factors influence whether science teachers address COVID-19 in their instruction; and (4) how science teachers adapt their teaching in response to COVID-19. HRI will recruit a nationally representative sample of several thousand K-12 teachers of science and invite them to complete a survey about their instruction related to COVID-19, both before school buildings closed and after. Using the Theory of Planned Behavior, the survey will be constructed to identify factors that predict whether teachers take up the topic. The survey will also collect data about how teachers address the virus and its transmission with their students. HRI will disaggregate survey data by school-, class-, student-, and teacher-level variables to identify patterns in student opportunities. Survey data will be supplemented by interviews with 50 survey respondents to gather more in-depth information related to the constructs of interest. Study findings will be immediately shared through a preliminary report that focuses on the survey data; mainstream print media using press releases; and social media partnering with the National Science Teaching Association. HRI also will publish policy briefs intended as guidance for schools, districts, and states; and research articles.

International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES): 2020 Biennial Conference

This award will support teacher practitioners from the U.S. to attend the 2020 International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) conference. The IMBES conference is an opportunity for scholars and educators to come together to engage in reciprocal dialogue about research and practice in biology, education, and the cognitive and developmental sciences.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2016241
Funding Period: 
Sun, 03/15/2020 to Thu, 12/31/2020
Full Description: 

The International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) conference has taken place every 2-3 years since 2007. IMBES aims to facilitate cross-cultural collaboration in biology, education, and the cognitive and developmental sciences. The IMBES meeting is an opportunity for scholars and educators to come together to engage in reciprocal dialogue about research and practice. Researchers investigating learning processes have the opportunity to share results with educators and receive feedback on the translational opportunities for the research. Educators can update their understanding of the cognitive and neural bases of learning and impart their knowledge of efficacious techniques, tools, and classroom practices with researchers. This type of interaction between researchers and practitioners is crucial for generating research that contributes to usable knowledge for education. This conference aims to assess the degree to which scientific ideas are ready for the classroom, consider the extent to which further educational research is still required, evaluate the potential of current research in meaningfully shaping pedagogy, and recognize opportunities to use the classroom to challenge the robustness of research.

This award to Temple University will provide partial support for the International, Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) conference to be held in Montreal in June 2020. This award will specifically support teacher practitioners from the U.S. to attend the conference and learn more about educational neuroscience and its potential implications for practice. The teacher practitioners will also have opportunities to share with researchers the nature of effective educational practice.

Systemic Transformation of Inquiry Learning Environments for STEM

This project will help teachers design and facilitate high-quality, real world STEM experiences for students, as teachers move from traditional approaches to organizing their teaching around interdisciplinary questions or problems. The project will work with building administrators to make the structural changes needed for interdisciplinary STEM instruction.

Award Number: 
2010530
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

This project will address a special challenge for schools: preparing educators to adopt an integrated approach to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This is especially important for educators in underserved urban populations where teacher expertise and guidance are necessary for meaningful student engagement with STEM. Frameworks for helping teachers make these changes are urgently needed, especially approaches that support new perspectives for STEM teaching and learning at the school level. This project will help teachers design and facilitate high-quality, real world STEM experiences for students, as teachers move from traditional approaches to organizing their teaching around interdisciplinary questions or problems. The project will work with building administrators to make the structural changes needed for interdisciplinary STEM instruction. School-based instructional coaches will develop new strategies for guiding STEM teaching and sustaining the work long-term.

The project goals are to: (1) determine the feasibility and utility of the refined project approach, (2) determine the utility of the project's implementation for facilitating change in teacher knowledge and practices, (3) understand the utility of the project's implementation for fostering student change, and (4) understand the extent to which the refined project model supports organizational change in schools. To do this, the program will make its professional development more accessible by adding a blended learning component, expanding the school leadership program, formalizing a training program for new facilitators, and identifying novel ways of defining student outcomes for transdisciplinary learning. The mixed methods research design will involve twenty schools (elementary and intermediate) in New York City and New Haven, CT. A quasi-experimental, within-school rotation model will randomize grade-level participation at the school level to yield a sample of at least 240 teachers, 3,000 students, 40 school-based coaches, and 20 administrators. Quantitative data will primarily capture teacher and student outcomes, while the qualitative data will describe the context of the model implementation and provide a deeper understanding of the quantitative results.

Bridging Science Teaching and Learning in Title 1 Schools

This project aims to expand opportunities for elementary science in Title 1 schools through the development, implementation, and evaluation of a professional development model that will prepare teachers to effectively utilize science education practices grounded in culturally responsive pedagogy. It provides a new science instruction model that intersects the best practices in science education with the theoretical principles of culturally relevant/responsive pedagogy found to influence students from low economic, diverse communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010361
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2020 to Sat, 04/30/2022
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on a national commitment to and interest in advancing the prosperity and welfare of young learners who have been historically underrepresented in science. It addresses challenges with broadening participation in science by providing equity and access to quality science instruction at Title 1 elementary schools in metro Atlanta, Georgia. Title 1 schools are schools with large concentrations of low-income students that receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting educational goals and educational needs of students living near poverty levels. Opportunities to learn science in elementary school are particularly limited; especially in those schools that serve racially and ethnically diverse children and children suffering from poverty. Interventions aimed at broadening participation have been limited in both impact and scope. This project is addressing this challenge through the development, implementation, and evaluation of a professional development model that will prepare teachers to effectively utilize science education practices grounded in culturally responsive pedagogy. It provides a new science instruction model that intersects the best practices in science education with the theoretical principles of culturally relevant/responsive pedagogy found to influence students from low economic, diverse communities. By focusing on both in-service and preservice teachers, the project will make a valuable contribution to the understanding of teacher education across the trajectory of educators' careers and deepen an understanding of how to prepare teachers to adopt and effectively utilize effective practices in their everyday classrooms, particularly in relation to science teaching and learning.

The project will involve 30 preservice and 20 in-service teachers participating in a summer academy and workshops introducing them to instructional features of the model that will later be used during instruction with the students. Instruction provided by the teachers will impact approximately 1,420 students. The goal of the project is to design and test an innovative science instruction model that intersects the best practices in science education with the principles of culturally responsive pedagogy. The two-year design and development project incorporate mixed methods to examine the three components of the model hypothesized as critical for improvements in teacher practice: culturally responsive classroom management, discourse, and anchoring. Use of qualitative and quantitative methods and measures during exploration provides critical information on how to support instruction in Title 1 STEM schools in ways that are feasible, yet effective.

Evolving Minds: Promoting Causal-Explanatory Teaching and Learning of Biological Evolution in Elementary School

Adopting a teaching and curricular approach that will be novel in its integration of custom explanatory storybook materials with hands-on investigations, this project seeks to promote third grade students' understanding of small- and large-scale evolution by natural selection. By studying students across multiple school districts, this research will shed light on the benefits to diverse students of instruction that focuses on supporting children's capacities to cogently explain aspects of the biological world rather than learn disparate facts about it.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009176
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2020 to Fri, 05/31/2024
Full Description: 

Natural selection is a fundamental mechanism of evolution, the unifying principle of biology. It is central to understanding the functional specialization of living things, the origin of species diversity and the inherent unity of biological life. Despite the early emergence of tendencies that can make evolution increasingly challenging to learn over time, natural selection is currently not taught until middle or high school. This is long after patterns of misunderstanding are likely to have become more entrenched. The current research responds to this situation. It targets elementary school as the time to initiate comprehensive instruction on biological evolution. Adopting a teaching and curricular approach that will be novel in its integration of custom explanatory storybook materials with hands-on investigations, it seeks to promote third grade students' understanding of small- and large-scale evolution by natural selection. By studying students across multiple school districts, this research will shed light on the benefits to diverse students of instruction that focuses on supporting children's capacities to cogently explain aspects of the biological world rather than learn disparate facts about it. It will also illuminate the value of simple tools, like explanatory storybooks, for elementary school teachers who are often expected to teach counterintuitive topics such as natural selection while not feeling confident in their own understanding.

This project will investigate changes in Grade 3 students' learning and reasoning about living things during implementation of a guided inquiry curriculum unit on evolution by natural selection that emphasizes causal-mechanistic explanation. Classroom inquiry activities and investigations into a range of real-world phenomena will be framed by engagement with a sequence of innovative custom causal-explanatory storybook, animation and writing prompt materials that were developed under prior NSF support to promote transferable, scientifically accurate theory- and evidence-based reasoning about natural selection. In response to the distinctive challenges of life science and evolution learning, the project will integrate and thematically unify currently disparate Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) content and practice standards to create a comprehensive unit that addresses all three NGSS dimensions and is accompanied by evidence-based approaches to teacher professional development (PD). Using a design based research approach, and informed by cognitive developmental findings, this 4-year project will engage at least 700 students and their teachers and include partners from at least four school districts, Boston University, and TERC.

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