Reasoning Skills

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Miller)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010155
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

Assessing College-Ready Computational Thinking (Collaborative Research: Wilson)

The goal of this project is to develop learning progressions and assessment items targeting computational thinking. The items will be used for a test of college-ready critical reasoning skills and will be integrated into an existing online assessment system, the Berkeley Assessment System Software.

Award Number: 
2010314
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

Because of the growing need for students to be college and career ready, high-quality assessments of college readiness skills are in high demand. To realize the goal of preparing students for college and careers, assessments must measure important competencies and provide rapid feedback to teachers. It is necessary to go beyond the limits of multiple-choice testing and foster the skills and thinking that lie at the core of college and career ready skills, such as computational thinking. Computational thinking is a set of valuable skills that can be used to solve problems, design systems, and understand human behavior, and is thus essential to developing a more STEM-literate public. Computational thinking is increasingly seen as a fundamental analytical skill that everyone, not just computer scientists, can use. The goal of this project is to develop learning progressions and assessment items targeting computational thinking. The items will be used for a test of college-ready critical reasoning skills and will be integrated into an existing online assessment system, the Berkeley Assessment System Software.

The project will address a set of research questions focused on 1) clarifying computational thinking constructs, 2) usability, reliability of validity of assessment items and the information they provide, 3) teachers' use of assessments, and 4) relationships to student performance. The study sample of 2,700 used for the pilot and field tests will include all levels of students in 10th through 12th grade and first year college students (both community college and university level). The target population is students in schools which are implementing the College Readiness Program (CRP) of the National Mathematics and Science Institute. In the 2020-21 academic year 54 high schools across 11 states (CA, GA, FL, ID, LA, NC, NM, OH, TX, VA, and WA) will participate. This will include high school students in Advanced Placement classes as well as non-Advanced Placement classes.  The team will use the BEAR Assessment System to develop and refine assessment materials. This system is an integrated approach to developing assessments that seeks to provide meaningful interpretations of student work relative to cognitive and developmental goals. The researchers will gather empirical evidence to develop and improve the assessment materials, and then gather reliability and validity evidence to support their use. In total, item response data will be collected from several thousand students. Student response data will be analyzed using multidimensional item response theory models.

Geological Construction of Rock Arrangements from Tectonics: Systems Modeling Across Scales

This project will create two curriculum units that use sophisticated simulations designed for students in secondary schools that integrate the study of the tectonic system and the rock genesis system. The project seeks to overcome the more typical approaches taken in earth science classrooms where such geologic processes are treated as discrete and highly predictable, rather than intertwined and dynamic.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2006144
Funding Period: 
Thu, 10/01/2020 to Mon, 09/30/2024
Full Description: 

Plate tectonics is the fundamental theory of geology that underlies almost all geological processes, including land and rock formation. However, the geologic processes and immense timeframes involved are often misunderstood. This study will create two curriculum units that use sophisticated simulations designed for students in secondary schools. The simulations will integrate the study of the tectonic system and the rock genesis system. Data from the simulations would be students' sources of evidence. For instance, the Tectonic Rock Explorer would use a sophisticated modeling engine that uses the physics involved in geodynamic data to represent compressional and tensional forces and calculate pressure and temperature in rock forming environments. This project seeks to overcome the more typical approaches taken in earth science classrooms where such geologic processes are treated as discrete and highly predictable, rather than intertwined and dynamic. In addition, this study would include work on students with disabilities in earth science classrooms and explore the practices that seem to be particularly useful in helping understand these systems. By working with simulations, the researchers intend to engage students in scientific practices that are more authentic to the ways that geologists work. The researchers will study if and how these simulations and the computer-based tools allow students to observe and manipulate processes that would be may otherwise be inaccessible.

This work follows on from prior work done by the Concord Consortium on simulations of earth systems. The design and development progression in Years 1 and 2 would create two units. The first module focuses on the relationship between tectonic movement and rock formation. The second would investigate geochronology and dating of rock formations. The researchers would work with 3 teachers (and classes), and then 15 teachers (and classes) using automated data logs, class observations, and video of students working in groups in Years 1 and 2. Professional development for teachers would be followed by the creation of educative materials. Researchers will also develop the framework for an assessment tool that includes understanding of geologic terms and embedded assessments. The researchers will used a mixed methods approach to analyze student data, including analyses cycles of analysis of students pre- and post-test scores on targeted concepts, reports of student performances on tasks embedded in the simulations, and the coding of videos to analyze discourse between partners and the supports provided by teachers. Teacher data will be analyzed using interviews, surveys and journals, with some special focus on how they are seeing students with identified disabilities respond to the materials and simulations. The research team intends to make materials widely available to thousands of students through their networks and webpages, and pursue outreach and dissemination in scholarly and practitioner conferences and publications.

Supporting Students' Language, Knowledge, and Culture through Science

This project will test and refine a teaching model that brings together current research about the role of language in science learning, the role of cultural connections in students' science engagement, and how students' science knowledge builds over time. The outcome of this project will be to provide an integrated framework that can guide current and future science teachers in preparing all students with the conceptual and linguistic practices they will need to succeed in school and in the workplace.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010633
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

The Language, Culture, and Knowledge-building through Science project seeks to explore and positively influence the work of science teachers at the intersection of three significant and ongoing challenges affecting U.S. STEM education. First, U.S. student demographics are rapidly changing, with an increasing number of students learning STEM subjects in their second language. This change means that all teachers need new skills for meeting students where they currently are, linguistically, culturally, and in terms of prior science knowledge. Second, the needs and opportunities of the national STEM workforce are changing rapidly within a shifting employment landscape. This shift means that teachers need to better understand future job opportunities and the knowledge and skills that will be necessary in those careers. Third, academic expectations in schools have changed, driven by changes in education standards. These new expectations mean that teachers need new skills to support all students to master a range of practices that are both conceptual and linguistic. To address these challenges, teachers require new models that bring together current research about the role of language in science learning, the role of cultural connections in students' science engagement, and how students' science knowledge builds over time. This project begins with such an initial model, developed collaboratively with science teachers in a prior project. The model will be rigorously tested and refined in a new geographic and demographic context. The outcome will be to provide an integrated framework that can guide current and future science teachers in preparing all students with the conceptual and linguistic practices they will need to succeed in school and in the workplace.

This project model starts with three theoretical constructs that have been integrated into an innovative framework of nine practices. These practices guide teachers in how to simultaneously support students' language development, cultural sustenance, and knowledge building through science with a focus on supporting and challenging multilingual learners. The project uses a functional view of language development, which highlights the need to support students in understanding both how and why to make shifts in language use. For example, students' attention will be drawn to differences in language use when they shift from language that is suited to peer negotiation in a lab group to written explanations suitable for a lab report. Moving beyond a funds of knowledge approach to culture, the team view of integrating students' cultural knowledge includes strengthening the role of home knowledge in school, but also guiding students to apply school knowledge to their out-of-school interests and passions. Finally, the project team's view of cumulative knowledge building, informed by work in the sociology of knowledge, highlights the need for teachers and students to understand the norms for meaning making within a given discipline. In the case of science, the three-dimensional learning model in the Next Generation Science Standards makes these disciplinary norms visible and serves as a launching point for the project's work. Teachers will be supported to structure learning opportunities that highlight what is unique about meaning making through science. Using a range of data collection and analysis methods, the project team will study changes in teachers' practices and beliefs related to language, culture and knowledge building, as teachers work with all students, and particularly with multilingual learners. The project work will take place in both classrooms and out of class science learning settings. By working closely over several years with a group of fifty science teachers spread across the state of Oregon, the project team will develop a typology of teachers (design personas) to increase the field's understanding of how to support different teachers, given their own backgrounds, in preparing all students for the broad range of academic and occupational pathways they will encounter.

Exploring Early Childhood Teachers' Abilities to Identify Computational Thinking Precursors to Strengthen Computer Science in Classrooms

This project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development to address the lack of research in early computer science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2006595
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

Strengthening computer science education is a national priority with special attention to increasing the number of teachers who can deliver computer science education in schools. Yet computer science education lacks the evidence to determine how teachers come to think about computational thinking (a problem-solving process) and how it could be integrated within their day-to-day classroom activities. For teachers of pre-kindergarten to 2nd (PK-2) grades, very little research has specifically addressed teacher learning. This oversight challenges the achievement of an equitable, culturally diverse, computationally empowered society. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development in San Marcos, Texas, to address the lack of research in early computer science education. The model will emphasize three aspects of teacher learning: a) exploration of and reflection on computer science and computational thinking skills and practices, b) noticing and naming computer science precursor skills and practices in early childhood learning, and c) collaborative design, implementation and assessment of learning activities aligned with standards across content areas. The project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project includes a two-week computational making and inquiry institute focused on algorithms and data in the context of citizen science and historical storytelling. The project also includes monthly classroom coaching sessions, and teacher meetups.

The research will include two cohorts of 15 PK-2 teachers recruited from the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) in years one and two of the project. The project incorporates a 3-phase professional development program to be run in two cycles for each cohort of teachers. Phase one (summer) includes a 2-week Computational Making and Inquiry Institute, phase two (school year) includes classroom observations and teacher meetups and phase three (late spring) includes an advanced computational thinking institute and a community education conference. Research and data collection on impacts will follow a mixed-methods approach based on a grounded theory design to document teachers learning. The mixed-methods approach will enable researchers to triangulate participants' acquisition of new knowledge and skills with their developing abilities to implement learning activities in practice. Data analysis will be ongoing, interweaving qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative data, including field notes, observations, interviews, and artifact assessments, will be analyzed by identifying analytical categories and their relationships. Quantitative data includes pre to post surveys administered at three-time points for each cohort. Inter-item correlations and scale reliabilities will be examined, and a repeated measures ANOVA will be used to assess mean change across time for each of five measures. Project results will be communicated via peer-reviewed journals, education newsletters, annual conferences, family and teacher meetups, and community art and culture events, as well as on social media, blogs, and education databases.

Comparing the Efficacy of Collaborative Professional Development Formats for Improving Student Outcomes of a Student-Teacher-Scientist Partnership Program

The goal of this project is to study how the integration of an online curriculum, scientist mentoring of students, and professional development for both teachers and scientist mentors can improve student outcomes. In this project, teachers and scientist mentors will engage collaboratively in a professional development module which focuses on photosynthesis and cellular respiration and is an example of a student-teacher-scientist partnership.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010556
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

Science classrooms in the U.S. today increasingly expect students to engage in the practices of science in a way that help them form a deeper understanding of disciplinary core ideas and the practices by which science is done. To do this, students should learn how scientists work and communicate. It also calls for changes in how teachers teach science, which in turn creates a need for high-quality professional development so they can be more effective in the classroom. Professional scientists can also benefit from training preparing them to support teachers, motivate students, and model for students how scientists think and work. Preparing teachers and scientists through collaborative professional development can help maximize the impact they can have on student outcomes. To have the broadest impact, such professional development should be cost-effective and available to teachers in rural or underserved areas. This project focuses on high school life science (biology) teachers and their students. It will make use of an online mentoring platform, a student-teacher-scientist partnership program established in 2005. That study found that implementing in combination with high-quality, in-person collaborative teacher/scientist professional development resulted in positive and statistically significant effects on student achievement and attitudes versus business-as-usual methods of teaching the same science content. This project has two main components: 1) a replication study to determine if findings of the previous successful study hold true; and 2) adding an online format for delivering collaborative professional development to teachers and scientists enabling one to compare the effectiveness of online professional development and in-person professional development delivery formats for improving student outcomes.

The goal of this project is to study how the integration of an online curriculum, scientist mentoring of students, and professional development for both teachers and scientist mentors can improve student outcomes. In this project, teachers and scientist mentors will engage collaboratively in a professional development module which focuses on photosynthesis and cellular respiration and is an example of a student-teacher-scientist partnership. Teachers will use their training to teach the curriculum to their students with students receiving mentoring from the scientists through an online platform. Evaluation will examine whether this curriculum, professional development, and mentoring by scientists will improve student achievement on science content and attitudes toward scientists. The project will use mixed-methods approaches to explore potential factors underlying efficacy differences between in-person and online professional development. An important component of this project is comparing in-person professional development to an online delivery of professional development, which can be more cost-effective and accessible by teachers, especially those in rural and underserved areas.

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. 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

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Evolving Minds: Promoting Causal-Explanatory Teaching and Learning of Biological Evolution in Elementary School

Adopting a teaching and curricular approach that will be novel in its integration of custom explanatory storybook materials with hands-on investigations, this project seeks to promote third grade students' understanding of small- and large-scale evolution by natural selection. By studying students across multiple school districts, this research will shed light on the benefits to diverse students of instruction that focuses on supporting children's capacities to cogently explain aspects of the biological world rather than learn disparate facts about it.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009176
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2020 to Fri, 05/31/2024
Full Description: 

Natural selection is a fundamental mechanism of evolution, the unifying principle of biology. It is central to understanding the functional specialization of living things, the origin of species diversity and the inherent unity of biological life. Despite the early emergence of tendencies that can make evolution increasingly challenging to learn over time, natural selection is currently not taught until middle or high school. This is long after patterns of misunderstanding are likely to have become more entrenched. The current research responds to this situation. It targets elementary school as the time to initiate comprehensive instruction on biological evolution. Adopting a teaching and curricular approach that will be novel in its integration of custom explanatory storybook materials with hands-on investigations, it seeks to promote third grade students' understanding of small- and large-scale evolution by natural selection. By studying students across multiple school districts, this research will shed light on the benefits to diverse students of instruction that focuses on supporting children's capacities to cogently explain aspects of the biological world rather than learn disparate facts about it. It will also illuminate the value of simple tools, like explanatory storybooks, for elementary school teachers who are often expected to teach counterintuitive topics such as natural selection while not feeling confident in their own understanding.

This project will investigate changes in Grade 3 students' learning and reasoning about living things during implementation of a guided inquiry curriculum unit on evolution by natural selection that emphasizes causal-mechanistic explanation. Classroom inquiry activities and investigations into a range of real-world phenomena will be framed by engagement with a sequence of innovative custom causal-explanatory storybook, animation and writing prompt materials that were developed under prior NSF support to promote transferable, scientifically accurate theory- and evidence-based reasoning about natural selection. In response to the distinctive challenges of life science and evolution learning, the project will integrate and thematically unify currently disparate Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) content and practice standards to create a comprehensive unit that addresses all three NGSS dimensions and is accompanied by evidence-based approaches to teacher professional development (PD). Using a design based research approach, and informed by cognitive developmental findings, this 4-year project will engage at least 700 students and their teachers and include partners from at least four school districts, Boston University, and TERC.

CAREER: Supporting Model Based Inference as an Integrated Effort Between Mathematics and Science

This project will design opportunities for mathematics and science teachers to coordinate their instruction to support a more coherent approach to teaching statistical model-based inference in middle school. It will prepare teachers to help more students develop a deeper understanding of ideas and practices related to measurement, data, variability, and inference and to use these tools to generate knowledge about the natural world.

Award Number: 
1942770
Funding Period: 
Sat, 02/01/2020 to Fri, 01/31/2025
Full Description: 

This project will design opportunities for mathematics and science teachers to coordinate their instruction to support a more coherent approach to teaching statistical model-based inference in middle school. It will prepare teachers to help more students develop a deeper understanding of ideas and practices related to measurement, data, variability, and inference. Since there is little research to show how to productively coordinate learning experiences across disciplinary boundaries of mathematics and science education, this project will address this gap by: (1) creating design principles for integrating instruction about statistical model-based inference in middle grades that coordinates data modeling instruction in mathematics classes with ecology instruction in science classes; (2) generating longitudinal (2 years) evidence about how mathematical and scientific ideas co-develop as students make use of increasingly sophisticated modeling and inferential practices; and (3) designing four integrated units that coordinate instruction across mathematics and science classes in 6th and 7th grade to support statistical model-based inference.

This project will use a multi-phase design-based research approach that will begin by observing teachers' current practices related to statistical model-based inference. Information from this phase will help guide researchers, mathematics teachers, and science teachers in co-designing units that integrate data modeling instruction in mathematics classes with ecological investigations in science classes. This project will directly observe students' thinking and learning across 6th and 7th grades through sample classroom lessons, written assessment items, and interviews. Data from these aspects of the study will generate evidence about how students make use of mathematical ideas in science class and how their ecological investigations in science class provoke a need for new mathematical tools to make inferences. The resulting model will integrate mathematics and science learning in productive ways that are sensitive to both specific disciplinary learning goals and the ways that these ideas and practices can provide a better approximation for students to knowledge generating practices in STEM disciplines.

CAREER: Understanding Latinx Students' Stories of Doing and Learning Mathematics

This project characterizes and analyses the developing mathematical identities of Latinx students transitioning from elementary to middle grades mathematics. The central hypothesis of this project is that elementary Latino students' stories can identify how race and language are influential to their mathematical identities and how school and classroom practices may perpetuate inequities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2036549
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2020 to Sat, 05/31/2025
Full Description: 

Although the Latino population throughout the United States continues to increase, various researchers have shown that Latino students are often not afforded high quality learning experiences in their mathematics classrooms. As a result, Latino students are underrepresented in higher level mathematics courses and careers involving mathematics. Having a better understanding of Latino students' perspectives and experiences is imperative to improving their opportunities to learn mathematics. Yet, little research has made central Latinos students' perspectives of learning and doing mathematics, especially over a critical period of time like the transition from elementary to middle school. The goal of this study will be to improve mathematics teaching and learning for Latino youth as they move from upper elementary to early middle school mathematics classrooms. The project involves three major parts: investigating the policy, media, and oral histories of Latino families/communities to understand the context for participating Latino students' mathematics education; exploring Latino students' stories about their experiences learning and doing mathematics to understand these students' perspectives; and creating documentary video portraitures (or composite cases) of participants' stories about learning and doing mathematics that can be used in teacher preparation and professional development. Finally, the project will look across the experiences over the duration of the project to develop a framework that can be used to improve Latino students' mathematics education experiences. This project will provide a window into how Latino students may experience inequities and can broaden mathematics educators' views on opportunities to engage Latino students in rigorous mathematics. The project will also broaden the field's understanding of how Latino students racial/ethnic and linguistic identities influence their experiences learning mathematics. It will also identify key factors that impact Latino students' experiences in learning mathematics to pinpoint specific areas where interventions and programs need to be designed and implemented. An underlying assumption of the project is that carefully capturing and understanding Latino students' stories can illuminate the strengths and resilience these students bring to their learning and doing of mathematics.

This research project characterizes and analyses the developing mathematical identities of Latinx students transitioning from elementary to middle grades mathematics. The overarching research question for this study is: What are the developing stories of learning and doing mathematics of Latino students as they transition from elementary to middle school mathematics? To answer this question, this study is divided into three phases: 1) understanding and documenting the historical context by examining policy documents, local newspaper articles, and doing focus group interviews with community members; 2) using ethnographic methods over two years to explore students' stories of learning and doing mathematics and clinical interviews to understand how they think about and construct arguments about mathematics (i.e., measurement, division, and algebraic patterning); and 3) creating video-cases that can be used in teacher education. Traditional ways of teaching mathematics perpetuate images of who can and cannot do mathematics by not acknowledging contributions of other cultures to the mathematical sciences (Gutiérrez, 2017) and the way mathematics has become a gatekeeper for social mobility (Martin, Gholson, & Leonard, 2010; Stinson, 2004). Focusing on Latino students' stories can illuminate teachers' construction of equitable learning spaces and how they define success for their Latino students. The central hypothesis of this project is that elementary Latino students' stories can identify how race and language are influential to their mathematical identities and how school and classroom practices may perpetuate inequities. Finally, the data and video-cases will then be used to develop a conceptual framework for understanding the development of the participating students' developing mathematical identities. This framework will provide an in-depth understanding of the developing racial/ethnic, linguistic, and mathematical identities of the participating Latino students. The educational material developed (e.g. video documentaries, discussion material) from this project will be made available to all interested parties freely through the project website. The distribution of these materials, along with further understanding of Latino students' experiences learning mathematics, will help in developing programs and interventions at the elementary and middle grade level to increase the representation of Latino students in STEM careers. Additionally, identifying the key factors impacting Latino students' experiences in learning mathematics can pinpoint specific areas where interventions and programs still need to be designed and implemented. Future projects could include the assessment of these programs. This project will also inform the development of professional learning experiences for prospective and practicing teachers working with Latino or other marginalized students.

This project was previously funded under award #1941952.

Generalized Embodied Modeling to Support Science through Technology Enhanced Play (Collaborative Research: Danish)

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908632
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students. GEM stands for Generalized Embodied Modeling. Through these embodied, play-as-modeling activities, students will learn the core concepts of science, and the conceptual skills of modeling and systematic measurement. MR environments use new sensing technologies to help transform young children's physical actions during pretend play into a set of symbolic representations and parameters in a science simulation. As students physically move around the classroom, the computer will track their motion and interactions with selected objects and translate their physical activity into a shared display. For example, students pretend they are water particles and work together to model different states of matter. The children see their activity projected onto a computer simulation where a model of a water particle is displayed over the video of themselves. As students collectively reflect upon the nature of a water molecule, they refine their understanding of water as ice, a liquid or a gas. The proposed innovation allows the students to program and revise their own mixed reality simulations as part of their modeling cycle. Embodied and computational modeling will help students to reflect on their models in a unique way that will make their models more computationally accurate and enhance their understanding of the underlying concepts.

The project will research how using the body as a component of the modeling cycle differs from and interacts with the articulation of a scientific model through more structured computational means. The project will investigate the benefits of combining embodiment with computational elements in GEM:STEP by studying the range of concepts that students can learn in this manner. Lessons will be developed to address different disciplinary core ideas, such as states of matter, pollination as a complex system, or decomposition, as well as cross-cutting concepts of systems thinking, and energy/matter flow, all of which link directly to upper elementary science curriculum. Project research will gather data to understand what kinds of models students develop, what learning processes are supported using GEM:STEP, and what learning results. The data will include: (1) documenting and analyzing what students modeled and how accurate the models are; (2) recording student activity using audio and voice to code their activity to document learning processes and to look at how different forms of modeling interact with one another to promote learning; and (3) pre-post content measures to assess learning. All of the software that is developed for GEM:STEP will be made available as Open Source projects, allowing other researchers to build upon and extend this work. The results of the research will be disseminated in academic conferences and peer reviewed journals. The motion tracking software is already available on Github, a popular open-source repository. Once developed, the aim is to implement GEM:STEP in a wide range of classroom contexts, supported by a user-friendly interface, teacher guides, and professional development.

Pages

Subscribe to Reasoning Skills