Moving Next Generation Science Standards into Practice: A Middle School Ecology Unit and Teacher Professional Development Model

Schools and teachers face unprecedented challenges in meeting the ambitious goals of integrating core interdisciplinary science ideas with science and engineering practices as described in new standards. This project will develop a middle school ecology unit and related teacher professional development that will help high-need and urban middle school students, including English Language Learners, understand these ideas and related practices.

Award Number: 
1418235
Funding Period: 
Monday, September 1, 2014 to Friday, August 31, 2018
Full Description: 

Schools and teachers face unprecedented challenges in meeting the ambitious goals of integrating core interdisciplinary science ideas with science and engineering practices as described in new standards. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in collaboration with the University of Connecticut (UConn), and the Lawrence Hall of Science (the Hall), will develop a middle school ecology unit and related teacher professional development that will help high-need and urban middle school students, including English Language Learners, understand these ideas and related practices. Teachers will be supported through professional development that is directly linked to the curriculum and is designed to develop their science content knowledge as well as their knowledge of how to teach the curriculum. The project builds on existing AMNH resources that include video and text passages supported with literacy strategies, online interactive data tools to plan and carry out investigations, and prior research on these resources used with teachers in professional development and with students in classrooms. In addition to serving the schools, teachers and students who directly participate, the project's deliverables include the ecology unit, teacher professional development, assessment tools, and a model for designing such comprehensives science programs that relate to NGSS.

The curriculum unit will be modeled after the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) 5E model that will use the 5 Phases (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) for students to work through with each of five themes: Ecological Communities, Food Webs, A River Ecosystem, Zebra Mussel Invasion, and Monitoring Human Impact. Teachers will participate in 12 days of professional development that will introduce the program's pedagogical approach (the 5E model) and how it reflects NGSS, with teachers having significant time to learn the science, try out the activities, learn how to facilitate the program, provide feedback on the program as part of the evaluation, and reflect on their practice. The initial approach to the curriculum and teacher professional development will be designed in Year 1 and then iteratively revised and evaluated in Years 2-4 through formative evaluation that focuses on curriculum PD, and measures of student and teacher outcomes. The evaluation will assess the contribution of teacher science and pedagogical knowledge to increases in student knowledge. The evaluation findings and assessment tools developed for the project will provide the foundation for a future efficacy study. The project is one of a relatively small number of projects funded through NSF's DRK-12 program that directly addresses the need for NGSS-related learning resources. The project's learning resources, assessment tools, and model for designing NGSS-related and comprehensive science programs will be shared through professional publications, conference and workshop presentations, and liaison with organizations active in developing new resources bring NGSS into practice.

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