Biology

Learning Science as Inquiry with the Urban Advantage: Formal-Informal Collaborations to Increase Science Literacy and Student Learning

This project hypothesizes that learners must have access to the real work of scientists if they are to learn both about the nature of science and to do inquiry themselves. It explores the question "How can informal science education institutions best design resources to support teachers, school administrators, and families in the teaching and learning of students to conduct scientific investigations and better understand the nature of science?"

Award Number: 
0918560
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Learning Innovations at WestEd
Full Description: 

The American Museum of Natural History and Michigan State University propose a research and development project focused on DR-K12 challenge #2 and the hypothesis that learners must have access to the real work of scientists if they are to learn both about the nature of science and to do inquiry themselves. The overarching questions that drive this project are: How can informal science education institutions best design resources to support teachers, school administrators, and families in the teaching and learning of students to conduct scientific investigations and better understand the nature of science? How are these resources then used, and to what extent and in what ways do they contribute to participants’ learning? How are those resources then used for student learning? Answering these questions will involve the use of existing and new resources, enhancement of existing relationships, and a commitment to systematically collect evidence. Urban Advantage (UA) is a middle school science initiative involving informal science education institutions that provides professional development for teachers and hands-on learning for students to learn how to conduct scientific investigations. This project will (1) refine the UA model by including opportunities to engage in field studies and the use of authentic data sets to investigate the zebra mussel invasion of the Hudson River ecosystem; (2) extend the resources available to help parents, administrators, and teachers understand the nature of scientific work; and (3) integrate a research agenda into UA. Teaching cases will serve as resources to help teachers, students, administrators, and families understand scientific inquiry through research on freshwater ecosystems, and—with that increased understanding—support student learning. Surveys, observations, and assessments will be used to document and understand the effects of professional development on teachers, students, administrators, and parents. The study will analyze longitudinal, multivariate data in order to identify associations between professional development opportunities for teachers, administrators, and parents, their use of resources to support their own learning and that of students, middle school teachers’ instructional practices, and measures of student learning.

Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis (STeLLA) Professional Development Program: Scaling for Effectiveness

This is a full research and development project addressing challenge question: How can promising innovations be successfully implemented, sustained, and scaled in schools and districts? The promising innovation is the Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis (STeLLA) professional development (PD) program, which supports 4th- and 5th-grade teachers in teaching concepts in biology (food webs), physical science (phase changes), and earth science (earth’s changing surface, weather).

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918277
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
McREL
Full Description: 

Planting Science Research in Education

This project is implementing a program of professional development for teachers and web interface that links scientists with urban classrooms. Scientist mentors work with students and teachers through the web to carry out an original "authentic" inquiry project in plant science. The classroom intervention involves high school biology students working in assigned teams to generate their own research questions in plant science centered on core biology concepts from the National Science Education Standards.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733280
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2007 to Wed, 05/30/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Jane Larson, BSCS
Full Description: 

Project Publications and Presentations:

Hemingway, Claire & Packard, Carol (2011, April). Seeds of Wonder and Discovery. Science Scope, v. 34 (8), p. 38.

Ecosystems and Evidence Project (Collaborative Research: Berkowitz)

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.

Award Number: 
0918610
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Jackie DeLisi, Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)

Geniverse: A Student Collaboratory for Biology Cyberlearning

This project addresses biology teachers and students at the high school level, responding to the exponential increases occurring in biology knowledge today and the need for students to understand the experimental basis behind biology concepts. The project studies the feasibility of engaging students in an environment where they can learn firsthand how science knowledge develops in the fields of bioinformatics and DNA science by performing collaborative, simulated experiments to solve open-ended problems.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918642
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Full Description: 

Evolution Readiness: A Modeling Approach

This project uses computer-based models of interacting organisms and their environments to support a learning progression leading to an appreciation of the theory of evolution and evidence that supports it. The project has created a research-based curriculum centered on progressively complex models that exhibit emergent behavior. The project will help improve the teaching of complex scientific topics and provide a reliable means of directly assessing students' conceptual understanding and inquiry skills.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822213
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Philip Benincasa

CLUSTER: Investigating a New Model Partnership for Teacher Preparation (Collaborative Research: Steinberg)

This project integrates the informal and formal science education sectors, bringing their combined resources to bear on the critical need for well-prepared and diverse urban science teachers. The study is designed to examine and document the effect of this integrated program on the production of urban science teachers. This study will also research the impact of internships in science centers on improving classroom science teaching in urban high schools.

Award Number: 
0554269
Funding Period: 
Sat, 04/01/2006 to Thu, 03/31/2011
Full Description: 

            CLUSTER (Collaboration for Leadership in Urban Science Teaching, Evaluation and Research) is an NSF-funded TPC project. Its partners are The City College of New York (CCNY), New York Hall of Science (NYHS), and City University of New York’s Center for Advanced Study in Education (CASE). It aims to develop and research a model designed to increase and improve the pool of secondary science teachers who reflect the ethnic distribution of city students and who are prepared to implement inquiry-based science instruction.

            CLUSTER Fellows are undergraduate science majors in New York City. They are recruited, trained, and certified to teach science in New York City middle and high schools. They participate both as students in the CCNY Teacher Education Program and as Explainers in the NYHS Science Career Ladder. Their experiences in class and at the NYHS are integrated and guided by a conceptual framework, which emphasizes science as an active process of discovery where ideas are developed and constructed through meaningful experience.

            CLUSTER aims to produce generalizable knowledge of interest to the field regarding the growth and development of perspective teachers in an experiential training program and to assess the impact and value of the CLUSTER model.

Electronic Teacher Guide: Its Development and Use in Supporting Educative Curricula

This project is developing and testing a prototype electronic teacher's guide for a 12-week genetics unit in the NSF-funded curriculum titled Foundation Science: Biology to determine how it impacts high school teachers' learning and practice. The electronic guide, which is based on an existing print guide, has a flexible design so that it anticipates and meets the curriculum planning and support needs of teachers with different knowledge/skills profiles.

Award Number: 
0918702
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Kathleen Haynie
Full Description: 

eTG Overview Poster

The hallmark of many inquiry-based curricula is a hefty teacher guide that accompanies the student materials.  These teacher guides are generally designed to be ‘educative’, intended both to help teachers implement the materials with fidelity to the  developers’ intentions and to give teachers opportunities to incorporate new instructional practices into their teaching such as guided inquiry, sense-making discussions, and formative assessment.  In many cases, the teacher guide may be the only professional development experience teachers have when embarking on the implementation of a new curriculum. 

Yet despite the best intentions of curriculum developers in providing accessible and useful teacher support materials, use of teacher guides is often random and occasional. The guides tend to be large, dense, and separate from the student books, making them unwieldy, difficult to navigate, and time consuming to use. Teachers may not realize the importance of these guides in the implementation of the materials, assuming that the contents are ancillary and supplemental. However evidence from field tests of these curricula indicate that when teachers do use them, they find them excellent resources that support the teaching of the curriculum and the acquisition of new instructional strategies.

To determine whether digital technology can make large print teacher guide more accessible and useful, EDC is developing an electronic Teacher Guide (eTG) based on the print guide for Foundation Science: Genetics. Our goal is to develop a cybertool that helps teachers plan and teach their curriculum, reflect on its execution, and enhance their teaching practice. The eTG is a cloud-based web application that lets teachers access the Foundation Science curriculum and their planning and teaching notes anytime, anywhere.  In the tool they find teaching tips, strategies and videos that are aligned with the student materials, features that encourage them to mindfully modify the curriculum with fidelity to intentions of curriculum, and slides that once modified, can be saved and projected for students to guide their inquiries.   

The centerpiece of the eTG is the Foundation Science: Genetics curriculum, in the form of an eBook that includes the text of both the student book and teacher guide. Included are a variety of digital supports, features that help teachers Plan, Teach, and Reflect on their curriculum and teaching. In Plan mode teachers can a) see graphic overviews of the teaching sequence, b) modify a basic “deck” of slides for their students while keeping the developers’ intent in mind, c) draw on a set of filtered web resources in adding to the materials, and d) can access videos and other graphical and text supports to help students have rich and grounded discussions about the meaning of the classroom activities and readings.  In Teach mode, teachers project their modified ‘slide deck’ and use it to guide student interaction and discussion.  As they proceed, teachers can modify their decks as needed. The Reflect mode provides checklists which enable the teacher to self-assess her/his attainment of the key goals of the learning experience and to make decisions about modifications of the material for the future.

In the midst of the fourth year of the eTG project, we have completed the prototype, tested it with teacher users for appeal, comprehensibility and effectiveness, and carried out field tests in several classrooms to investigate how and to what end teachers use the different features, and with what outcomes. The final year of the project will see a second round of classroom field-testing, data analysis and dissemination of our findings in the form of comparative case studies.

An Examination of the Impact of Teachers' Domain as a Professional Development Tool on Teacher Knowledge and Student Achievement in Biology

Using an experimental design, this project examines the effects of online professional development courses on high school biology teachers' content and pedagogical knowledge, and on their students' knowledge. The project is testing the impact of using digital resouces and is using hierarchal linear modeling techniques to analyze data. It will contribute to the knowledge base of what impacts student achievement by testing the efficacy of online professional development for science teachers.

Award Number: 
0732186
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2007 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
N/A
Full Description: 

The goal of this project is to investigate what teachers learn from an online professional development course, and whether teacher learning impacts student learning. High school biology teachers were randomly assigned to take an online course designed to enhance the teaching of genetics and evolution. in the course, participants explore the “big ideas” of the hard-to-teach topics of genetics and evolution through an exploration of online media resources and reflection on a range of teaching strategies. The course was created by WGBH Teachers’ Domain, an online library of free media resources from public television with funding from NSF and is administered by PBS TeacherLine.

Learning to RECAST Students' Causal Assumptions in Science Through Interactive Multimedia Professional Development Tools

This project produced and is testing a website with tools to help teachers identify when students’ science learning may be limited by how they construe the underlying causal structure of the concepts. It demonstrates students’ difficulties and a pedagogical approach to help them recast their explanations to align them with the causal structure in the scientifically accepted explanations. The site focuses on middle school with in-depth examples in density and ecosystems.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0455664
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2005 to Sat, 04/30/2011
Project Evaluator: 
EDC
Full Description: 

Understanding the nature of causality is critical to learning a range of science concepts from “everyday science” to the science of complexity. The Understandings of Consequence (UC) Project, funded by NSF, established that students hold default assumptions about the nature of causality that hinder their science learning and that curriculum designed to restructure students’ causal assumptions while learning the science leads to deeper understanding. In this project, the UC team and the Science Media Group (SMG) of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics collaborated in a five-year iterative design process to create interactive, multimedia professional development website. It has tools to guide middle school physics and biology teachers in assessing the structure of their students’ scientific explanations and in using existing curricula and developing their own curriculum to restructure or RECAST students’ understandings to fit with scientifically accepted explanations. It includes a range of formats including: documentary footage of real-life classrooms; interviews with teachers describing challenges and obstacles they faced introducing the curricula, how these were overcome, and, the benefits they obtained from using the materials; comments by students, which demonstrate the wide range of student prior thinking about specific causal forms as embedded in the science concepts; discussion questions, suggested hands-on activities, and short videotaped “content explorations,” examples of student written work and journals; design guides and questions to help teachers understand the features of and how to design RECAST activities, assessments, and assessment rubrics related to causal understanding in science. We are evaluating the site with 60 teachers and are iteratively improving it.

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