Biology

SimScientists Human Body Systems: Using Simulations to Foster Integrated Understanding of Complex, Dynamic, Interactive Systems

This project leverages curricular module development to design, develop, and test new cyberlearning modules that integrate multiple (circulation, respiration, and digestion) systems of the human body. The project aims to deepen science content knowledge, science inquiry skills, and model-based reasoning skills for high school biology students. The project will use simulations showing how individual systems function, how they work together, and how the integration of all three creates a dynamic and reactive biological system.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020264
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/15/2010 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
Gargani + Company
Full Description: 

This research and development project leverages curricular module development to design, develop, and test new cyberlearning modules that integrate multiple (circulation, respiration, and digestion) systems of the human body. The project aims to deepen science content knowledge, science inquiry skills, and model-based reasoning skills for high school biology students. The project will use simulations showing how individual systems function, how they work together, and how the integration of all three creates a dynamic and reactive biological system. It is expected that the presentation of this dynamic system will result in a deeper understanding of the materials and enhanced performance on student achievement measures. The goals of the project are to: 1. Develop an integrated simulation of the human digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems that allows students to develop productive inquiry strategies. 2. Embed the simulation in online instructional modules that provide immediate, individualized coaching as students are challenged with a series of investigative tasks. 3. Provide reports of students' performances during the activities to students and teachers. 4. Develop follow-up online collaborative investigations that provide differentiated instruction to strengthen students' understanding and support transfer and opportunities to engage in scientific discourse. 5. Develop one benchmark assessment that measures outcomes across all three body systems and reports to students and teachers. 6. Develop and deploy professional development to support teachers as they use these materials. 7. Provide evidence of the technical quality, feasibility, and usability of the new materials. 8. Study the influence of these materials on complex science and inquiry learning of the integration of the three human body systems modeled. A small scale randomized, controlled trial will be performed at the end of the project. The project is grounded in model-based learning, cognitive learning research, and an evidence-centered design. Universal Design for Learning is factored into all simulation designs. Questions asked during the evaluation include: Is the project progressing as planned? Are the modules useable? Are the users satisfied? Are the modules used as intended in a typical high school setting? Does this improve teaching and learning of key content? The primary investigator is WestEd; the American Association for the Advancement of Science is a partner and three teachers from nearby schools serve as co-developers. The project has an external evaluator as well as a strong advisory board. The project will create multi-leveled instructional cyber-modules. These modules will contain embedded assessments that provide students and teachers immediate and individualized coaching. Professional development will also provide teachers tools and guidance to increase their learning of human body systems. Dissemination strategies include featuring the modules on WestEd's award-winning website as well as submission of academic papers to journals and national conferences targeted at science educators and education researchers. Because these modules supplement classroom curricula and use online technology, they could potentially be used to teach millions of high school biology students.

The Challenge of Interdisciplinary Education: Math-Bio

This project continues research and development work on high school instructional materials that integrate biology, computing, and mathematics. The project goal is to develop and test a one-semester high school course. The course consists of some modules developed under a previous NSF grant as well as some new material. Intended deliverables include up to five new instructional modules and a coherent one-semester course suitable for the increasing state requirements for a fourth year of mathematics.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1020166
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/15/2010 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
Len Albright at CSU
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at Rutgers University, Boston University, Colorado State University, and the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP) are continuing research and development work on high school instructional materials that integrate biology, computing, and mathematics. The project goal is to develop and test a one-semester high school course. The course consists of some modules developed under a previous NSF grant as well as some new material.

COMAP leads the effort to develop the instructional materials and the process involves mathematicians, biologists, computer scientists, teachers, and writers. The materials are pilot- and field-tested in a number of schools and revised after each test. Subject matter experts review the materials for accuracy and teachers and education professionals review them for their usability. Researchers at Colorado State University collect and analyze data on student learning and interest at all stages of the pilot- and field-testing.

The intended deliverables include up to five new instructional modules and a coherent one-semester course suitable for the increasing state requirements for a fourth year of mathematics. The course is supported by a book in print and electronic format and includes teacher training support tools and activities to prepare teachers to present interdisciplinary bio-mathematics material.

Enabling Modeling and Simulation-Based Science in the Classroom: Integrating Agent-Based Models, Real World Sensing and Collaborative Networks

This project develops and assesses the effectiveness of integrating three computation-based technologies into curricular modules: agent-based modeling (ABM), real-world sensing, and collaborative classroom networks. The STEM disciplines addressed are life sciences and physical sciences at middle and high school levels, specifically Evolution, Population Biology/Ecology, Kinetic Molecular Theory, and Electromagnetism.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020101
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2010 to Thu, 07/31/2014
Full Description: 

This four-year Full Research and Development project develops and assesses the effectiveness of integrating three computation-based technologies into curricular modules: agent-based modeling (ABM), real-world sensing, and collaborative classroom networks. The team brings together researchers from Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Stanford universities in collaboration with a commercial partner, Inquire Learning. The STEM disciplines addressed are life sciences and physical sciences at middle and high school levels, specifically Evolution, Population Biology/Ecology, Kinetic Molecular Theory, and Electromagnetism.

The project proceeds in two phases: The first phase is a design experiment for the iterative creation of ABM-only and enhanced-ABM modules field tested with fourteen teachers drawn from seven schools. In the second phase, an experiment is conducted that aims at providing quantitative data to help characterize the different effects of various components of the intervention and to prepare the way for future efficacy and scaling research. Between 40 and 80 teachers participate in the experiment and are assigned to immediate or lagged treatments. The four topic areas were selected because they are scientifically important; they are difficult for students, provoking significant misconceptions; they are amenable to a complex-systems and modeling approach; and prior work has prepared the PIs to develop high-quality curricular materials on these topics. The evaluation is led by a member of the advisory board which is constituted to provide guidance on the project evaluation.

The products are research findings on the achievement, engagement and attitudes of students as a result of the deep use of computational modeling technologies in science. In addition, four fully developed classroom-ready modules with teacher support materials are deployed and disseminated through a broad network of educational communities.

DRK12-Biograph: Graphical Programming for Constructing Complex Systems Understanding in Biology

This project will investigate how complex systems concepts supported by innovative curricular resources, technology applications and a comprehensive research and development structure can assist student learning in the domain of biology by providing a unifying theme across scales of time and space. The project seeks to address four areas of critical need in STEM education: biological sciences, complex systems, computational modeling, and equal access for all.

Award Number: 
1019228
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
David Reider
Full Description: 

This proposal outlines a research and development project that investigates how complex systems concepts supported by innovative curricular resources, technology applications and a comprehensive research and development structure can assist student learning in the domain of biology by providing a unifying theme across scales of time and space. The project seeks to address four areas of critical need in STEM education: biological sciences, complex systems, computational modeling, and equal access for all. This proposal explores how these needs are addressed through a curricular and technological intervention that structures biology learning through the framework of complex systems and computational modeling. The primary partners are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, working with eight teachers in four schools in the Boston area.

The project integrates graphical programming and simulation software, StarLogo TNG, into the standard high school biology curriculum to improve learning of biology concepts through the introduction and understanding of core complex systems processes. Instead of learning biology in discrete chunks, the chosen biological topics are connected through the framework of complex systems, and successively build in complexity from the basic building blocks of life to the interdependence and sustainability of life forms. This approach is designed to help students understand how processes at one level are connected to those at another level. The research is designed to answer the following questions: 1. Does a learning progression based on the complex systems ideas of scale and emergence enable students to make connections across biological topics, remediate known misconceptions, and apply core complex systems principles better than traditional instructional sequences? 2. What are the on-going affordances and constraints of implementation taking into consideration structural, functional and behavioral variables and what changes to project activities yield increased implementation and learning capacities? 3. Does programming of simulations increase understanding of complex systems and biology concepts compared to use of previously constructed simulations? The evaluation is designed to collect data and provide feedback on the adherence to the plan, the implementation challenged, and how research informs development.

The project anticipates a number of deliverables towards the end of the project and beyond. These include the creation of a unified high school biology curricular sequence that builds in increasing spatial and temporal scales to deepen student understanding of four core biology topics; the production, implementation and testing of curricular activities that acknowledge and ameliorate known implementation challenges; and the development of curricular strategies and tools to help teachers and students improve knowledge and skills in computational modeling, computer programming and participation in the cyberinfrastructure. In order to increase ease of integration into schools, and enhance scalability, the simulation activities are facilitated by a new web-based version of StarLogo TNG that integrates the curricular materials all of which will be distributed freely. Additional dissemination strategies include a website, conferences, a newsletter, community activities, active dissemination, and academic presentations.

Biocomplexity: Transforming an Innovative High School Curriculum with UDL Scaffolds and Multimedia Resources

This project transforms an already-useful curriculum to reach a wider population of students and teachers. The curriculum effectively builds on a base of core science and math concepts to bring important current science to high school, using a case-based approach that incorporates authentic scientific inquiry. The Biocomplexity and the Habitable Planet curriculum is designed to provide material for a year-long capstone course in ecology and environmental science, or two individual modules for semester-long electives.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020089
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
PERG
Full Description: 

This project transforms an already-useful and innovative curriculum to reach a wider population of students and teachers than anticipated. The curriculum to be transformed effectively builds on a base of core science and math concepts to bring important current science to high school, using a case-based approach that incorporates authentic scientific inquiry. The Biocomplexity and the Habitable Planet curriculum engages high school students in the science of coupled natural and human systems, exploring the complex fabric of relationships between humans and the environment at all spatial and temporal scales. The curriculum is designed to provide material for a year-long capstone course in ecology and environmental science, or two individual modules for semester-long electives.

Pilot and field tests provide preliminary evidence that this material has produced significant student learning. External evaluation during the pilot has yielded two important findings: 1) Teachers have confronted a much more heterogeneous student population than expected at the capstone level. This offers the opportunity to expand the potential audience for the curriculum. 2) Though the previous project has provided supports for teachers and students that address the innovative pedagogy and novel content of the curriculum, this unexpectedly large heterogeneity provides an exciting opportunity to conduct design research to develop effective new curricular scaffolding and contextual supports. In collaboration with CAST, TERC has identified strategies for a transformation and extension of the materials in order to create an enhanced electronic curriculum infused by the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

The project will result in the following deliverables:

1. An e-text based on two of the most requested Biocomplexity units, to provide the following UDL scaffolds: a) Contextual supports for student work with complex quantitative and visual data that include structured data sets, smart graphs, smart images, and other scaffolds to support data analysis; and b) Reading supports, including highlighting tools, embedded glossary, and careful linking of visual and textual data.

2. Multimedia resources for students on challenging core science ideas and on techniques of scientific argumentation, and teacher materials that provide both content and pedagogical support, for all four units.

3. Study and assessment materials for all four units, including a study guide, test items, and glossary.

4. A research article on the effectiveness of contextual supports for scaffolding student understanding of complex data.

5. A white paper for curriculum developers including guidelines for scaffolding student work with complex data.

The Bio-Math Connection

This project will develop 15 modules for high school students that connect biology, computation, and mathematics with corresponding teacher materials and professional development activities. The modules will draw on an approach to biological phenomena as involving information processing, in three illustrative areas conducive to learning at the high school level: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Mathematical Methods in Epidemiology, and Mathematical Methods in Ecology.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0628091
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/15/2006 to Thu, 09/30/2010
Full Description: 

This project will develop 15 modules for high school students that connect biology, computation, and mathematics with corresponding teacher materials and professional development activities. The project will build on the extensive experience of and be conducted as collaboration among Rutgers University (New Brunswick), the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS), the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP), and Colorado State University. The modules will draw on an approach to biological phenomena as involving information processing, in three illustrative areas conducive to learning at the high school level: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Mathematical Methods in Epidemiology, and Mathematical Methods in Ecology. These areas are likely to bring excitement about contemporary interconnections between the biological and mathematical sciences to the high school classrooms, hence increase student motivation to study both subjects. The modules will include self-contained text and problem situations (including web-based interactive materials) that can be used separately in high school mathematics courses or biology courses, as well as in Bio-Math integrated courses. Most modules will include about ten 40-minute class meetings, whereas a few will include 1-2 lessons that can be inserted into the existing curriculum. All modules will be developed within a four-phase process that includes pilot testing by teachers who are also involved in module development, field testing by teachers who received training workshops (at least five schools), evaluation and dissemination. Modules will be made available to high school mathematics/biology teachers, free of charge, during the first three years of the project (print and electronic formats). Both formative and summative evaluation will be conducted to examine the merit/impact of the project.

Developing the Next Generation of Middle School Science Materials--Investigating and Questioning Our World through Science and Technology (Collaborative Research: Reiser)

This project will design a comprehensive science curriculum for grades 6-8, in which learning performances drive the design of activities and assessments in order to specify how students should be able to use the scientific ideas and skills outlined in standards. The materials contain hands-on experiences, technology tools and reading materials that extend students' first-hand experiences of phenomena and support science literacy.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0439493
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2004 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Full Description: 

Building on the work that "Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology (IQWST)" completed in Phase I, a comprehensive science curriculum for grades 6-8 is developed in Phase II. A learning-goals-driven design is used in which learning performances that drive the design of activities and assessments specify how students should be able to use the scientific ideas and skills outlined in standards. The materials are organized around driving questions that provide a context to motivate students as they use their knowledge and skills in scientific practices -- such as modeling, designing investigations, explanation and argumentation and data gathering, analysis and interpretation -- to acquire understandings of the concepts, principles and habits of mind articulated in national science standards. The materials contain hands-on experiences, technology tools and reading materials that extend students' first-hand experiences of phenomena and support science literacy. All four science disciplines are studied for about one-quarter of each year. The physics topics for grades 6, 7 and 8 are description of motion, conservation and transformation of energy, and laws of motion respectively; in Earth science, the topics are Earth surface processes, climate and weather and objects in space; for biology, organisms and systems, genetics and the environment, and ecosystems and natural selection; and for chemistry, particulate nature of matter, chemical reactions of substances, and chemical reactions all around us. Teacher materials support teacher learning of the science content and pedagogical approaches. The materials include an on-line system that provides video examples of student work and pedagogy in action. The project also includes development of resources for the community so that learning opportunities linked to classroom activities can occur outside of school. Particular attention is paid to developing reading literacy.

Problem-Based Learning Designed for Science and Mathematics Professional Development

This project aims to: (1) develop, implement and study the impact of a subject matter-focused, Problem-based Learning professional development model; and to (2) design ways of incorporating Problem-Based Learning (PBL) into key subject matter and teacher preparation courses taken by pre-service teachers, and study the impact on pre-service teachers' learning. This project is designed with and for teams of K-12 science and mathematics teachers from school districts of mid-Michigan.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0353406
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2004 to Sat, 07/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
SAMPI Western Michigan University

The Scientific Thinker Project: A Study of Teaching and Learning Concepts of Evidence and Nature of Scientific Evidence in Elementary School

Current curriculum materials for elementary science students and teachers fail to provoke the following essential questions during science instruction: What is evidence? Why do you need evidence? The goal of this project is to identify whether and how elementary school students formulate answers to these questions and develop concepts of evidence and understandings of the nature of scientific evidence.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918533
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2009 to Sat, 07/31/2010

Ecosystems and Evidence Project (Collaborative Research: Jordan)

This exploratory research and development project addresses the question, "Can students develop an understanding of the ecological nature of science (ENOS) in high school biology and environmental science classes that is useful and productive in environmental citizenship?" To address this question, the project will identify the essential elements of ENOS, investigate how these can be taught and learned, and explore how ENOS skills and understandings are used to enhance environmental citizenship.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918589
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Wed, 08/31/2011

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