Biology

Supporting Students' Science Content Knowledge through Project-based Inquiry

This project will address STEM learning through classroom implementation at two project partner schools in North Carolina, one urban and the other rural, with culturally diverse student populations. The project offers high school students the opportunity to be immersed in science content through engaging in globally-relevant learner-centered activities.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1907895
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

The Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global initiative will address STEM learning through classroom implementation at two project partner schools in North Carolina, one urban and the other rural, with culturally diverse student populations. Both are innovative public high schools implementing the Early College High School model, preparing diverse students from populations underrepresented in STEM fields for college success. Because of the synergistic interaction of theory and practice, the project will produce substantial advances in the development of improved inquiry-based learning materials and research on the impact of these materials on students and teachers. The project offers high school students the opportunity to be immersed in science content through engaging in globally-relevant learner-centered activities. The following three research questions will be addressed: 1) How does inquiry through the PBI Global process support student science content knowledge? 2) How can students' motivation and engagement be characterized after participating in the PBI Global process? 3) To what degree do teachers' attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogies change as a result of PBI Global professional development?

Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global responds to the need for research-informed and field-tested products with iterative development and implementation of a globally relevant, inquiry-based STEM curriculum. The project focuses on developing 9th grade student physical, biological, and environmental science content knowledge and science and engineering practices through the topics of global water and sanitation issues. Factors influencing student motivation and engagement, as well as teacher attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogies will be investigated. The project will use a Design-Based Research (DBR) approach to develop and refine instructional materials and teacher professional development for the existing interdisciplinary PBI Global initiative. A mixed-methods research convergent parallel design will be used to explore the effects of the classroom implementation on student and teacher outcomes.

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Developing the Science Comprehensive Online Learning Platform for Rural School Science Teacher Development

This project will develop, evaluate, and compare the effectiveness of newly-designed online learning platform with traditional face-to-face PD in supporting rural high school science teachers' implementation of an existing biology curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908937
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

Rural school districts in the US face unique challenges: isolation in small farm communities, significant distances between communities, minimal funding, and low teacher salaries. They also serve high numbers of diverse and low-income students, who deserve equitable access to high quality science learning opportunities. Effective online professional development (PD) is needed for teachers working in isolated rural communities where high quality face-to-face PD may be economically impractical for districts to offer. This project will develop, evaluate, and compare the effectiveness of newly-designed online learning platform with traditional face-to-face PD in supporting rural high school science teachers' implementation of an existing biology curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The online learning platform will be modeled after successful face-to-face PD features: (1) job-embedded - learning occurs within the context of teachers' classroom instruction, (2) collaborative - teachers share experiences in implementing new practices, and (3) content-specific - teachers develop disciplinary content and instructional practices that support students' understanding of science. Once developed and refined, the online PD platform can be used broadly across other contexts and content areas.

Over a three year period, this project will develop, evaluate, and then compare an online PD platform for supporting rural science teachers in implementing the Towards High School Biology (THSB) curriculum with a traditional face-to-face PD. In year one, the research team will iteratively develop the online platform and adapt the already developed face-to-face PD for implementing THSB to an online format. Utilizing Curator, a social learning platform developed by HT2Labs, project researchers will embed teacher learning that is situated with their own classroom contexts, is asynchronously and synchronously collaborative, and is focused on the THSB curriculum content. In years two and three, forty eight rural middle-school science educators will be recruited from southwest Kansas and randomly assigned to online PD (treatment) or face-to-face PD (comparison). Using mixed methodology, the project will examine if differences exist between the conditions in regards to teacher content knowledge, teacher self-efficacy in using new practices, teacher classroom practices, and student learning outcomes. It is hypothesized that there should be no differences between conditions in fostering successful implementation of evidence-based science practices and student outcomes, demonstrating the success of an online modality to support deep conceptual change in teachers' instructional practices. Furthermore, lessons learned in developing and investigating a science comprehensive online learning platform can inform application to other disciplinary content (e.g., physics, chemistry, Earth and space sciences) and across other grade level and school contexts.

 

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Case Studies of a Suite of Next Generation Science Instructional, Assessment, and Professional Development Materials in Diverse Middle School Settings

This project addresses a gap between vision and implementation of state science standards by designing a coordinated suite of instructional, assessment and teacher professional learning materials that attempt to enact the vision behind the Next Generation Science Standards. The study focuses on using state-of-the-art technology to create an 8-week long, immersive, life science field experience organized around three investigations.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907944
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

New state science standards are ambitious and require important changes to instructional practices, accompanied by a coordinated system of curriculum, assessment, and professional development materials. This project addresses a gap between vision and implementation of such standards by designing a coordinated suite of instructional, assessment and teacher professional learning materials that attempt to enact the vision behind the Next Generation Science Standards. The study focuses on the design of such materials using state-of-the-art technology to create an 8-week long, immersive, life science field experience organized around three investigations. Classes of urban students in two states will collect data on local insect species with the goal of understanding, sharing, and critiquing environmental management solutions. An integrated learning technology system, the Learning Navigator, draws on big data to organize student-gathered data, dialogue, lessons, an assessment information. The Learning Navigator will also amplify the teacher's role in guiding and fostering next generation science learning. This project advances the field through an in-depth exploration of the goals for the standards documents. The study begins to address questions about what works when, where, and for whom in the context of the Next Generation Science Standards.

The project uses a series of case studies to create, test, evaluate and refine the system of instructional, assessment and professional development materials as they are enacted in two distinct urban school settings. It is designed with 330 students and 22 teachers in culturally, racially and linguistically diverse, under-resourced schools in Pennsylvania and California. These schools are located in neighborhoods that are economically challenged and have students who demonstrate patterns of underperformance on state standardized tests. It will document the process of team co-construction of Next Generation Science-fostering instructional materials; develop assessment tasks for an instructional unit that are valid and reliable; and, track the patterns of use of the instructional and assessment materials by teachers. The study will also record if new misconceptions are revealed as students develop Next Generation Science knowledge,  comparing findings across two diverse school locations in two states. Data collection will include: (a) multiple types of data to establish validity and reliability of educational assessments, (b) the design, evaluation and use of a classroom observation protocol to gather information on both frequency and categorical degree of classroom practices that support the vision, and (c) consecutive years of ten individual classroom enactments through case studies analyzed through cross-case analyses. This should lead to stronger and better developed understandings about what constitutes strong Next Generation Science learning and the classroom conditions, instructional materials, assessments and teacher development that foster it.

Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences Collaborative Research: Metcalf)

This project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing STEM literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907398
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways. Learners will take on the role of a scientist working at an ocean-floor research station, cut off from the surface due to a catastrophe. They must identify problems, design experiments, create models, and argue from evidence to lead the station to survival. Learners will be challenged with highly relevant, contemporary issues such as waste management, energy use/production/storage, and ecological sustainability in the setting of a fantastical story. Designed for Grades 5-8, the game will be playable in 30-minute segments and will work on Chromebooks and tablet computers. The game will involve 40 educators in a yearlong fellowship where they will become co-designers, steer the project to serve the diverse students they represent, learn about games in education, facilitate playtests in their classrooms, and report their experiences to peers. The resulting game, in English and Spanish, will be utilized by at least 162,000 students by the end of the project and hundreds of thousands more after the project is completed. The project will broaden access through digital distribution and minimal technology requirements, which will create a low-cost opportunity for students to engage in science practices, even in schools where time, equipment, or expertise are not available.

Learning progressions are the steps that students go through when they are learning about a topic. The project will research how learning progressions can provide a framework for educational game design. These progressions will be empirically derived from large audience game play data. The game can thus be designed to create personalized interventions for students to improve learning outcomes. Project research will use an approach called stealth assessment, which analyzes data from students' game behavior without requiring a disruption or intervention in the game activities. This project will use this approach for developing empirically validated understandings of how different students develop their science practices. Based on this research, the game will be revised to improve student learning by providing individualized feedback to each student.

Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences (Collaborative Research: Baker)

This project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing STEM literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907437
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways. Learners will take on the role of a scientist working at an ocean-floor research station, cut off from the surface due to a catastrophe. They must identify problems, design experiments, create models, and argue from evidence to lead the station to survival. Learners will be challenged with highly relevant, contemporary issues such as waste management, energy use/production/storage, and ecological sustainability in the setting of a fantastical story. Designed for Grades 5-8, the game will be playable in 30-minute segments and will work on Chromebooks and tablet computers. The game will involve 40 educators in a yearlong fellowship where they will become co-designers, steer the project to serve the diverse students they represent, learn about games in education, facilitate playtests in their classrooms, and report their experiences to peers. The resulting game, in English and Spanish, will be utilized by at least 162,000 students by the end of the project and hundreds of thousands more after the project is completed. The project will broaden access through digital distribution and minimal technology requirements, which will create a low-cost opportunity for students to engage in science practices, even in schools where time, equipment, or expertise are not available.

Learning progressions are the steps that students go through when they are learning about a topic. The project will research how learning progressions can provide a framework for educational game design. These progressions will be empirically derived from large audience game play data. The game can thus be designed to create personalized interventions for students to improve learning outcomes. Project research will use an approach called stealth assessment, which analyzes data from students' game behavior without requiring a disruption or intervention in the game activities. This project will use this approach for developing empirically validated understandings of how different students develop their science practices. Based on this research, the game will be revised to improve student learning by providing individualized feedback to each student.

Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences (Collaborative Research: Gagnon)

This project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing STEM literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1907384
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways. Learners will take on the role of a scientist working at an ocean-floor research station, cut off from the surface due to a catastrophe. They must identify problems, design experiments, create models, and argue from evidence to lead the station to survival. Learners will be challenged with highly relevant, contemporary issues such as waste management, energy use/production/storage, and ecological sustainability in the setting of a fantastical story. Designed for Grades 5-8, the game will be playable in 30-minute segments and will work on Chromebooks and tablet computers. The game will involve 40 educators in a yearlong fellowship where they will become co-designers, steer the project to serve the diverse students they represent, learn about games in education, facilitate playtests in their classrooms, and report their experiences to peers. The resulting game, in English and Spanish, will be utilized by at least 162,000 students by the end of the project and hundreds of thousands more after the project is completed. The project will broaden access through digital distribution and minimal technology requirements, which will create a low-cost opportunity for students to engage in science practices, even in schools where time, equipment, or expertise are not available.

Learning progressions are the steps that students go through when they are learning about a topic. The project will research how learning progressions can provide a framework for educational game design. These progressions will be empirically derived from large audience game play data. The game can thus be designed to create personalized interventions for students to improve learning outcomes. Project research will use an approach called stealth assessment, which analyzes data from students' game behavior without requiring a disruption or intervention in the game activities. This project will use this approach for developing empirically validated understandings of how different students develop their science practices. Based on this research, the game will be revised to improve student learning by providing individualized feedback to each student.

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CAREER: Expanding Latinxs' Opportunities to Develop Complex Thinking in Secondary Science Classrooms through a Research-Practice Partnership

This project will address the need to educate teachers and students to engage in asking questions, collecting and interpreting data, making claims, and constructing explanations about real-world problems that matter to them. The study will explore ways to enhance youths' learning experiences in secondary school classrooms (grades 6-12) by building a sustainable partnership between researchers and practitioners.

Award Number: 
1846227
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

This project will address the need to educate teachers and students to engage in asking questions, collecting and interpreting data, making claims, and constructing explanations about real-world problems that matter to them. Science educators generally agree that science classrooms should provide opportunities for students to advance their thinking by engaging in critical conversations with each other as capable sense-makers. Despite decades of reform efforts and the use of experiential activities in science instruction, research indicates that classroom learning for students remains largely procedural, undemanding, and disconnected from the development of substantive scientific ideas. Furthermore, access to high-quality science instruction that promotes such complex thinking is scarce for students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project goals will be: (1) To design a year-long teacher professional development program; and (2) To study the extent to which the professional development model improves teachers' capacity to plan and implement inclusive science curricula.

This study will explore ways to enhance youths' learning experiences in secondary school classrooms (grades 6-12) by building a sustainable partnership between researchers and practitioners. The work will build on a previous similar activity with one local high school; plans are to expand the existing study to an entire school district over five years. The proposed work will be conducted in three phases. During Phase I, the study will develop a conceptual framework focused on inclusive science curricula, and implement the new teacher professional development program in 3 high schools with 15 science teachers. Phase II will expand to 6 middle schools in the school district with 24 teachers aimed at creating a continuous and sustainable research-practice partnership approach at the district. Phase III will focus on data analysis, assessment of partnership activities, dissemination, and planning a research agenda for the immediate future. The study will address three research questions: (1) Whether and to what extent does participating teachers' capacity of planning and implementing the curriculum improve over time; (2) How and why do teachers show differential progress individually and collectively?; and (3) What opportunities and constraints within schools and the school district shape teachers' development of their capacity to design and implement curricula? To address the research questions, the project will gather information about the quality of planned and implemented curriculum using both qualitative and quantitative data. Main project's outcomes will be: (1) a framework that guides teachers' engagement in planning and implementing inclusive science curricula; and (2) increased knowledge base on teacher learning. An advisory board will oversee the work in progress. An external evaluator will provide formative and summative feedback.

Articulating a Transformative Approach for Designing Tasks that Measure Young Learners' Developing Proficiencies in Integrated Science and Literacy (Collaborative Research: Billman)

The main goal of this study will be to conduct exploratory-design work to produce both the design approach and the early-stage tasks that are critical inputs for creating a program of research and development to more fully develop a suite of innovative assessment tasks for the early grades.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1853951
Funding Period: 
Sat, 12/15/2018 to Sat, 11/30/2019
Full Description: 

SRI International, University of California-Berkeley (Lawrence Hall of Science), and WestEd will join efforts to articulate a potentially transformative approach for designing new kinds of classroom-based, three-dimensional assessment tasks that measure first graders' proficiencies in integrated science and literacy learning. The main goal of this study will be to conduct exploratory-design work to produce both the design approach and the early-stage tasks that are critical inputs for creating a program of research and development to more fully develop a suite of innovative assessment tasks for the early grades. Specific goals of the effort will be: (1) to iteratively develop and refine a design approach that enables assessment designers to develop Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned tasks and rubrics that include a literacy component for the early grades; (2) to use this design approach to create two exemplar assessment tasks that are feasible for classroom use; and (3) to collect initial evidence that informs the promise of the design approach.

The work's research question will be: How can we extend current methodology to create assessments that integrate the three dimensions of the NGSS and literacy for early learners? The study will select first grade as the learning environment and two of the NGSS first grade performance expectations as the assessment targets. First grade students are typically at a critical point in developing their language and literacy proficiencies, which will allow the team to take on the challenges of variation in language and literacy skills. Correspondingly, the study will select two NGSS first grade life sciences performance expectations, because they include direct ties to literacy practices in science: (1) From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes (Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive); and (2) Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits (Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like their parents). The design phase of the activity will consist of an assessment of the learning context and targets of the study, and the development of an assessment framework following the National Research Center's report, "Designing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards" (2014), including the principled assessment evidence-centered-design methodology. Data gathering, and interpretation strategies will include Experts' Review of the design approach, a focus group of teachers (n=8), and one-on-one cognitive interviews with students (n=20), conducted by researchers, which will be recorded to determine the quality and usability of the assessments using qualitative methods. The ultimate outcome of the proposed work will be a design approach for creating assessment tasks in a principled way across science disciplines for early elementary grade students. An advisory board will provide formative assessment feedback to the research team.

Professional Development Supports for Teaching Bioinformatics through Mobile Learning

This project will investigate the professional development supports needed for teaching bioinformatics at the high school level. The project team will work with biology and mathematics teachers to co-design instructional modules to engage students with core bioinformatics concepts and computational literacies, by focusing on local community health issues supported through mobile learning activities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812738
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 02/28/2022
Full Description: 

Bioinformatics is an emerging area of research that develops new knowledge through computational analysis of vast biological and biomedical data. This project will investigate the professional development supports needed for teaching bioinformatics at the high school level. Building from a robust literature in professional development design research, project team will work with biology and mathematics teachers to co-design instructional modules to engage students with core bioinformatics concepts and computational literacies, by focusing on local community health issues supported through mobile learning activities. The overarching goal of the project is to help create an engage population of informatics-informed students who are capable of critically analyzing information and able to solve local problems related to their health and well-being.

The project team will use a design-based implementation research approach to identify the curricular and instructional supports needed to achieve the teaching and learning goals through iterative project revisions, employing mixed methods to evaluate teacher and student learning processes and outcomes. Teachers from local high needs schools will participate in a three-week summer workshop, where they will learn about state-of-the-art bioinformatics content, project-based pedagogies that promote computational literacy, and strategies integrate mobile technologies into instruction.  They will implement the instructional units during the year, and the summer workshop will be revised and delivered to an expanded cohort of teachers the following summer. The data collection and analysis conducted on teachers' enactment of these modules will reveal the professional development and implementation areas needed to support particular populations, specifically underrepresented groups in STEM, to engage with bioinformatics learning and take authentic action on local community issues.

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Linn)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813713
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

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