Scientific Data in Schools: Measuring the Efficacy of an Innovative Approach to Integrating Quantitative Reasoning in Secondary Science (Collaborative Research: Mead)

Data Nuggets (http://datanuggets.org) are classroom activities, co-designed by scientists and teachers, which give students practice interpreting quantitative information and making claims based on evidence. The goal of this research is to investigate whether the integration of real data from cutting-edge scientific research in grade 6-10 classrooms will increase students’ quantitative reasoning ability in the context of science. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503211
Funding Period: 
Wednesday, July 15, 2015 to Friday, May 31, 2019
Full Description: 

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 (RMTs). 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. 

The goal of this research is to investigate whether the integration of real data from cutting-edge scientific research in grade 6-10 classrooms will increase students’ quantitative reasoning ability in the context of science. The Data Nuggets are activity-based resources that address current needs in STEM education and were developed by science graduate students and science teachers at Michigan State University through prior support from the NSF GK-12 program. The goal of Data Nuggets is to engage students in the practices of science through an innovative approach that combines scientific content from authentic research with key concepts in quantitative reasoning. Over the course of the project, partners from Michigan State University and BSCS will adapt the materials to address current science and mathematics standards, develop a professional development program for teachers, and test the efficacy of the materials through a quasi-experiment in the classrooms of 30 teachers in Michigan, Colorado, and California.

The evidence from this study will demonstrate whether short, targeted interventions of classroom activities embedded within a typical curriculum can impact student outcomes. A multi-site cluster randomized trial design will be used. Prior to the study teachers will participate in targeted professional development. Then, classrooms of the teachers in the study will be randomly assigned to either a treatment or comparison condition. Student outcomes measures will include understanding of quantitative reasoning in the context of science, understanding of the practices and processes of science, particularly in the areas of analyzing and interpreting data and using mathematics and computational thinking, engagement in the practices of science in the classroom, and motivation to engage in science and improved general interest in science.

In order to adequately train the next generation of citizens and scientists, we must understand how quantitative reasoning skills build upon each other throughout K-16 science education to prepare students for rigorous college science courses. In particular, there is a need for students to experience activities that emphasize how science is conducted, and apply their understandings of how scientists reason quantitatively (Mayes et al. 2014a, 2014b). Establishing the efficacy of Data Nuggets could provide the field with new information about supplementing existing curriculum with short interventions targeted at particular scientific practices. In addition, Data Nuggets allow scientists to share their research broadly, improving access to authentic science. Scientists who create Data Nuggets practice their communication skills and disseminate both the process of science and research findings to K-12 students (and perhaps their families), undergraduates, and teachers, improving the understanding of science in society. 

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