Biocomplexity: Transforming an Innovative High School Curriculum with UDL Scaffolds and Multimedia Resources

This project transforms an already-useful curriculum to reach a wider population of students and teachers. The curriculum effectively builds on a base of core science and math concepts to bring important current science to high school, using a case-based approach that incorporates authentic scientific inquiry. The Biocomplexity and the Habitable Planet curriculum is designed to provide material for a year-long capstone course in ecology and environmental science, or two individual modules for semester-long electives.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020089
Funding Period: 
Wednesday, September 1, 2010 to Saturday, August 31, 2013
Project Evaluator: 
PERG
Full Description: 

This project transforms an already-useful and innovative curriculum to reach a wider population of students and teachers than anticipated. The curriculum to be transformed effectively builds on a base of core science and math concepts to bring important current science to high school, using a case-based approach that incorporates authentic scientific inquiry. The Biocomplexity and the Habitable Planet curriculum engages high school students in the science of coupled natural and human systems, exploring the complex fabric of relationships between humans and the environment at all spatial and temporal scales. The curriculum is designed to provide material for a year-long capstone course in ecology and environmental science, or two individual modules for semester-long electives.

Pilot and field tests provide preliminary evidence that this material has produced significant student learning. External evaluation during the pilot has yielded two important findings: 1) Teachers have confronted a much more heterogeneous student population than expected at the capstone level. This offers the opportunity to expand the potential audience for the curriculum. 2) Though the previous project has provided supports for teachers and students that address the innovative pedagogy and novel content of the curriculum, this unexpectedly large heterogeneity provides an exciting opportunity to conduct design research to develop effective new curricular scaffolding and contextual supports. In collaboration with CAST, TERC has identified strategies for a transformation and extension of the materials in order to create an enhanced electronic curriculum infused by the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

The project will result in the following deliverables:

1. An e-text based on two of the most requested Biocomplexity units, to provide the following UDL scaffolds: a) Contextual supports for student work with complex quantitative and visual data that include structured data sets, smart graphs, smart images, and other scaffolds to support data analysis; and b) Reading supports, including highlighting tools, embedded glossary, and careful linking of visual and textual data.

2. Multimedia resources for students on challenging core science ideas and on techniques of scientific argumentation, and teacher materials that provide both content and pedagogical support, for all four units.

3. Study and assessment materials for all four units, including a study guide, test items, and glossary.

4. A research article on the effectiveness of contextual supports for scaffolding student understanding of complex data.

5. A white paper for curriculum developers including guidelines for scaffolding student work with complex data.