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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.