A Learning Progression-Based System for Promoting Understanding of Carbon-Transforming Processes

This project builds on prior efforts with learning progressions, and is focused on key carbon-transforming processes in socio-ecological systems at multiple scales, including cellular and organismal metabolism, ecosystem energetics and carbon cycling, carbon sequestration, and combustion of fossil fuels. The primary project outcomes will be coordinated instructional tools that are useful to professionals at all levels in the science education system--classroom teachers, professional developers, and developers of curricula, standards and assessments.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020187
Funding Period: 
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 to Monday, August 31, 2015
Project Evaluator: 
Rose Shaw
Full Description: 

This project--led by science educators at Michigan State University, the National Geographic Society, the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) at Colorado State University, the Berkeley Evaluation and Assessment Research (BEAR) Center, and AAAS Project 2061, and including schools in California, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, and Washington--builds on prior efforts with learning progressions, and is focused on key carbon-transforming processes in socio-ecological systems at multiple scales, including cellular and organismal metabolism, ecosystem energetics and carbon cycling, carbon sequestration, and combustion of fossil fuels.

The project uses an iterative design research process to develop and refine a suite of tools for reasoning and test efficacy of those tools in geographically and culturally diverse schools. The project team is:

1. Refining and validating a detailed learning progression framework covering the middle and high school years; ultimately, the framework will describe the development of students' capacity to use fundamental principles such as conservation of matter and energy to reason about carbon-transforming processes at multiple scales.

2. Refining 'Tools for Reasoning' that make hidden scientific principles - matter, energy, and scale - visible to students; the power of these tools lies in their flexible use for different processes, systems, scales, and curricular contexts.

3. Developing and refining flexible teaching strategies that engage students in cognitive apprenticeship in the practices of environmental science literacy: a) inquiry and argumentation, b) explanations and predictions, and c) decision-making about environmental issues.

4. Using and refining existing summative assessments, and developing and testing formative assessment tools; these assessment tools will provide teachers and researchers with immediate information about their students' intellectual resources and will be linked to the learning progression framework.

5. Developing, field testing, and assessing the effectiveness of six middle school and six high school units that use project tools and enact project principles; the units introduce students to fundamental principles, engage them in reasoning about carbon-transforming processes at organismal scale, and at landscape and global scales. Each unit includes a) an online formative assessment and b) activity sequences that use tools for reasoning and teaching strategies.

6. Developing, field testing, and assessing professional development materials in both face-to-face and facilitated online forms; the materials introduce teachers to learning progressions in environmental science literacy, assessment tools, tools for reasoning, teaching strategies, and teaching materials and activities, and also address difficulties that teachers encounter in using learning progressions and enacting teaching strategies.

The primary project outcomes will be coordinated instructional tools that are useful to professionals at all levels in the science education system--classroom teachers, professional developers, and developers of curricula, standards and assessments.