CAREER: Investigating Fifth Grade Teachers' Knowledge of Noticing Appalachian Students' Thinking in Science

This project will investigate teachers' knowledge of noticing students' science thinking. The project will examine teacher noticing in practice, use empirical evidence to model the teacher knowledge involved, and design teacher learning materials informed by the model. The outcomes of this project will be a model of teachers' knowledge of noticing Appalachian students' thinking in science and the design of web-based interactive instructional materials supporting teachers' knowledge construction around noticing Appalachian students' thinking in science.

Full Description: 

This is a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) proposal responsive to Program Solicitation NSF 15-555. The CAREER program is a National Science Foundation-wide activity that offers the most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. Based on findings from research on effective science teaching supporting the notion that meaningful learning occurs when teachers attend to students' thinking, this project will conduct an in-depth investigation of teachers' knowledge of noticing students' science thinking in terms of what they do and say, to not only attend to their ideas, but also to make sense of and respond to those ideas. The work will be grounded on the premise that there is a relationship between teachers' practice and knowledge, and that it is possible to observe practice in order to infer knowledge. The project will examine teacher noticing in practice, use empirical evidence to model the specialized teacher knowledge involved, and design teacher learning materials informed by the model. The setting of the study will include an existing school-university partnership serving diverse student populations in Appalachian communities, where students significantly underperform nationally in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics areas across grades levels. It will target fifth grade science teachers' noticing their students' thinking as they engage in science learning in six rural and semi-rural elementary schools.

The three research questions will be: (1) What disciplinary ideas in students' thinking do elementary teachers notice in practice?; (2) What knowledge do elementary teachers draw on when noticing the disciplinary ideas in students' thinking in practice?; and (3) How does a set of web-based interactive instructional materials support teachers' knowledge construction around noticing the disciplinary ideas in students' thinking in science? In order to investigate teachers' noticing students' thinking, and answer the research questions, the project will use two wearable technologies to collect data of teachers' "in-the-moment" noticing while engaged in planning, instructional, and assessment activities. One is a point-of-view digital video system consisting of three parts: a small video camera, a hand-held remote, and a separate recording module. The other is an audio-recording wristband with a recording mode allowing the user to capture previous one-minute loops of audio data. An audio loop is saved whenever the user taps the wristband. Data will be analyzed for evidence of students' disciplinary knowledge and skills in order to give insight of teachers' knowledge involved in noticing each instance using the three interconnected dimensions featured in "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" (National Research Council, 2012). The project will consist of four strands of work: (1) empirically investigating teachers' noticing of students' thinking; (2) developing an initial conceptual model of teachers' knowledge of noticing students' thinking; (3) conducting design-based research to develop instructional materials supporting teachers' knowledge construction around noticing students' thinking in science; and (4) producing and disseminating these instructional materials through an interactive web-based platform. The main outcomes of this project will be (a) an empirically grounded model of fifth grade teachers' knowledge of noticing Appalachian students' thinking in science; and (b) the design of web-based interactive instructional materials supporting fifth grade teachers' knowledge construction around noticing Appalachian students' thinking in science. These outcomes will serve as the foundation for a more comprehensive future research agenda testing and refining the initial model and instructional materials in other learning environments in order to eventually contribute to a practice-based theory of teachers' knowledge of noticing students' thinking in science to inform and impact science teaching practice. An advisory board will oversee the project's progress, and an external evaluator will conduct both formative and summative evaluation.