Biology

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Scholars Teacher Academy Resident System

This project will investigate the effectiveness of a teacher academy resident model to recruit, license, induct, employ, and retain middle school and secondary teachers for high-need schools in the South. It will prepare new, highly-qualified science and mathematics teachers from historically Black universities in high-needs urban and rural schools with the goal of increasing teacher retention and diversity rates.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621325
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/15/2016 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project at Jackson State University will investigate the effectiveness of a teacher academy resident model to recruit, license, induct, employ, and retain middle school and secondary science and mathematics teachers for high-need schools in the South. It will prepare new, highly-qualified science and mathematics teachers from historically Black universities in high-needs urban and rural schools. The project involves a partnership among three historically Black universities (Jackson, State University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), and diverse urban and rural school districts in Jackson, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Pine Bluff Arkansas region that serve more than 175,000 students.

Participants will include 150 middle and secondary school teacher residents who will gain clinical mentored experience and develop familiarity with local schools. The 150 teacher residents supported by the program to National Board certification will obtain: state licensure/certification in science teaching, a master's degree, and initiation. The goal is to increase teacher retention and diversity rates. The research question guiding this focus is: Will training STEM graduates have a significant effect on the quality of K-12 instruction, teacher efficacy and satisfaction, STEM teacher retention, and students? Science and mathematics achievement? A quasi-experimental design will be used to evaluate project's effectiveness.

CAREER: Making Science Visible: Using Visualization Technology to Support Linguistically Diverse Middle School Students' Learning in Physical and Life Sciences

Award Number: 
1552114
Funding Period: 
Wed, 06/01/2016 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

The growing diversity in public schools requires science educators to address the specific needs of English language learners (ELLs), students who speak a language other than English at home. Although ELLs are the fastest-growing demographic group in classrooms, many are historically underserved in mainstream science classrooms, particularly those from underrepresented minority groups. The significant increase of ELLs at public schools poses a challenge to science teachers in linguistically diverse classrooms as they try to support and engage all students in learning science. The proposed project will respond to this urgent need by investigating the potential benefits of interactive, dynamic visualization technologies, including simulations, animations, and visual models, in supporting science learning for all middle school students, including ELLs. This project will also identify design principles for developing such technology, develop additional ways to support student learning, and provide new guidelines for effective science teachers' professional development that can assist them to better serve students from diverse language backgrounds. The project has the potential to transform traditional science instruction for all students, including underserved ELLs, and to broaden their participation in science.

In collaboration with eighth grade science teachers from two low-income middle schools in North Carolina, the project will focus on three objectives: (1) develop, test, and refine four open-source, web-based inquiry units featuring dynamic visualizations on energy and matter concepts in physical and life sciences, aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); (2) investigate how dynamic visualizations can engage eighth-grade ELLs and native-English-speaking students in science practices and improve their understanding of energy and matter concepts; and (3) investigate which scaffolding approaches can help maximize ELLs' learning with visualizations. Research questions include: (1) Which kinds of dynamic visualizations (simulations, animations, visual models) lead to the best learning outcomes for all students within the four instructional science units?; (2) Do ELLs benefit more from visualizations (or particular kinds of visualizations) than do native-English-speaking students?; and (3) What kinds of additional scaffolding activities (e.g., critiquing arguments vs. generating arguments) are needed by ELLs in order to achieve the greatest benefit? The project will use design-based research and mixed-methods approaches to accomplish its research objectives and address these questions. Furthermore, it will help science teachers develop effective strategies to support students' learning with visualizations. Products from this project, including four NGSS-aligned web-based inquiry units, the visualizations created for the project, professional development materials, and scaffolding approaches for teachers to use with ELLs, will be freely available through a project website and multiple professional development networks. The PI will collaborate with an advisory board of experts to develop the four instructional units, visualizations, and scaffolds, as well as with the participating teachers to refine these materials in an iterative fashion. Evaluation of the materials and workshops will be provided each year by the advisory board members, and their feedback will be used to improve design and implementation for the next year. The advisory board will also provide summative evaluation of student learning outcomes and will assess the success of the teachers' professional development workshops.

Guiding Understanding via Information from Digital Environments (GUIDE)

This project will develop and test a digital monitoring tool that will enable teachers to track student learning within a digital learning system and quickly adjust classroom instructional strategies to facilitate learning. The tool will be developed for use with an existing digital curriculum for high school genetics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503311
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2015 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project will develop and test a digital monitoring tool that will enable teachers to track student learning within a digital learning system and quickly adjust classroom instructional strategies to facilitate learning. The tool will be developed for use with an existing digital curriculum for high school genetics, and it will be tested in both introductory biology courses and advanced courses. The tool will be designed to analyze student progress within the digital curriculum and provide feedback to both students and teachers about challenges to learning as they are occurring. The system will simultaneously monitor and analyze the learning patterns of all students in a class, providing targeted feedback to individual students as needed, or enabling the teacher to make informed decisions about when some students need individual attention, or groups of students need help with a particular concept or learning challenge. As more digital learning experiences are incorporated into classroom practices, digital guidance systems such as this will be needed to help students and teachers effectively blend a variety of classroom learning experiences.

This design and development study focuses on improving student learning of domain-specific content and practices within traditional, technology-enriched classroom environments. The project will be guided by findings from prior research in two areas: the learning outcomes of game-like, simulation-based digital learning environments, and the effectiveness of intelligent tutoring systems. The system being developed in this project will construct analytic models of student knowledge and behavior from clickstream data and provide contextualized information at optimal junctures to students or teachers. This approach will enable a three-layered response system: a) direct, targeted support to individual students struggling with basic content; b) referral of a student to another student or group of students having encountered similar learning challenges; and c) feedback to teachers that would facilitate strategic guidance of student learning. Research questions guiding this project will focus on what information about student learning is most useful for guiding learning in digital environments, how can this information improve support for student learning within classrooms, and how does the availability and use of this information improve student knowledge and practices? The design and development work will be conducted over 4 years and will involve teachers and students in 22 classrooms in New England and North Carolina.

 

Three-Dimensional Teaching and Learning: Rebuilding and Researching an Online Middle School Curriculum

This project will develop an online curriculum-based supported by a teacher professional development (PD) program by rebuilding an existing life science unit of Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) Middle School Science. The project is designed to be an exemplar of fully digital Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned resources for teachers and students, creating an NGSS-aligned learning environment combining disciplinary core ideas with science and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1502571
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2015 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project was funded by the Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program that 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 projects. The project, in collaboration with Oregon Public Broadcasting, will develop an online curriculum-based supported by a teacher professional development (PD) program by rebuilding an existing life science unit of Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) Middle School Science. The materials will include strategically integrated multimedia elements including animations, interactive learning experiences, and enhanced readings for students, as well as classroom videos for teachers that will help all users gain a deeper understanding of three-dimensional learning. The project is designed to be an exemplar of fully digital Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned resources for teachers and students, creating an NGSS-aligned learning environment combining disciplinary core ideas with science and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts. Using the powerful affordances of a digital environment, the project will invigorate and inspire learners and support teachers as only a media-rich environment can do.

The project will develop and research the project innovation, the combination of digital instructional materials for students and online teacher PD using a proven lesson-analysis framework. Although prior research has demonstrated the efficacy of the lesson analysis PD and curriculum elements independently, there has been little investigation of their joint ability to transform teaching and learning. The project will merge research and development in this project by incorporating a complex array of multi-component assessment activities, including classroom-based assessments, in a quasi-experimental study. Assessment activities will be designed using an evidence-centered design process that will involve the careful selection and development of assessment tasks, scoring rubrics, and criteria for scoring based on the performance expectations (PEs) and the best ways to elicit evidence about student proficiency with those PEs. The research, carried out by SRI International, will use multi-component tasks that will support inferences about student learning and advance understanding of how to assess NGSS learning. Project research and resources, which will include a digital, middle school life sciences unit, teacher PD and online digital resources, and related assessment tools, which will be widely disseminated to policy makers, researchers, and practitioners.

Exploring Ways to Transform Teaching Practices to Increase Native Hawaiian Students' Interest in STEM

This project will integrate Native Hawaiian cross-cultural practices to explore ways to help teachers know about and know how to connect resources of students' familiar worlds to their science teaching. This project will transform the ways teachers orient their teaching at the upper elementary and middle grades through professional development courses offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1551502
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2015 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project will integrate Native Hawaiian cross-cultural practices to explore ways to help teachers know about and know how to connect resources of students' familiar worlds to their science teaching. This research is needed since Native Hawaiians are often stereotyped as poor learners; the available STEM workforce falls short of meeting the demands of STEM employers in the state; and as the largest group of public school enrollees, data show a greater decline in percent of students meeting or exceeding proficiency in science at higher grade levels. This project will address these issues by transforming the ways teachers orient their teaching at the upper elementary and middle grades through professional development courses offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The professional development model for teachers will be situated in the larger national and global contexts of an increasingly technology oriented, urbanized society with associated marginalization of indigenous people whose traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous languages are often overlooked. Guided by the cultural mental model theory and a mixed methods approach, data will be collected through document analysis, surveys, individual and focus group interviews, and pre-post assessments. This approach will capture initials findings about the influence of the professional development model on teaching and learning in science. The end products from this project will be an improved professional development model that is more sensitive to contexts that promote learning by Native Hawaiian students. It will also produce a survey instrument to assess student interest and engagement in science learning whose teachers will have participated in the professional development model being explored. Both outcomes will potentially be instrumental in changing the way approximately 2000 Native Hawaiian students learn about and become more interested in STEM fields through their natural world.

PlantingScience: Digging Deeper Together - A Model for Collaborative Teacher/Scientist Professional Development

This project will design, develop, and test a new professional development (PD) model for high school biology teachers that focuses on plant biology, an area of biology that teachers feel less prepared to teach. The new PD model will bring teachers and scientists together, in-person and online, to guide students in conducting authentic science investigations and to reflect on instructional practices and student learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1502892
Funding Period: 
Thu, 10/01/2015 to Mon, 09/30/2019
Full Description: 

This project will design, develop, and test a new professional development (PD) model for high school biology teachers that focuses on plant biology, an area of biology that teachers feel less prepared to teach. The new PD model will bring teachers and scientists together, in-person and online, to guide students in conducting authentic science investigations and to reflect on instructional practices and student learning. The project will also develop and test the outcomes of a summer institute for teachers and a website that will support the online mentoring of students and the professional development of teachers. Outcomes of the project will include the development of a facilitation guide for the teacher professional development model, a website to support student mentoring and teacher professional development, a series of resources for teachers and scientists to use in working with students, and empirical evidence of the success of the new professional development model.

This full research and development project will employ a pre-test/post-test control group design to test the efficacy of a professional development model for high school biology teachers. The professional development model is grounded in a theory of action based on the premise that when teachers are engaged with scientists and students in a technology-enabled learning community, students will demonstrate higher levels of achievement than those using more traditional instructional materials and methodologies. The means of post-intervention outcome measures will be compared across treatment and comparison groups in a cluster-randomized trial where teachers will be randomly assigned to treatment groups. The study will recruit a nation-wide sample to ensure that participants represent a wide array of geographic and demographic contexts, with preference given to Title 1 schools. The research questions are: a) To what extent does participation in the Digging Deeper community of teachers and scientists affect teacher knowledge and practices? b) To what extent does participation in the Digging Deeper community of teachers and scientists affect scientists? quality of mentorship and teaching? And c) To what extent does student use of the online program and participation in the learning community with scientist mentors affect student learning? Instruments will be developed or adapted to measure relevant student and teacher knowledge, student motivation, and teacher practices. Computer-mediated discourse analysis will be used over the course of the study to track online interactions among students, teachers, and science mentors.

PBS NewsHour STEM Student Reporting Labs: Broad Expansion of Youth Journalism to Support Increased STEM Literacy Among Underserved Student Populations and Their Communities

The production of news stories and student-oriented instruction in the classroom are designed to increase student learning of STEM content through student-centered inquiry and reflections on metacognition. This project scales up the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL), a model that trains teens to produce video reports on important STEM issues from a youth perspective.

Award Number: 
1503315
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2015 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DR-K12) 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 (RMTs). 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 projects. This project scales up the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL), a model that trains teens to produce video reports on important STEM issues from a youth perspective. Participating schools receive a SRL journalism and digital media literacy curriculum, a mentor for students from a local PBS affiliate, professional development for educators, and support from the PBS NewsHour team. The production of news stories and student-oriented instruction in the classroom are designed to increase student learning of STEM content through student-centered inquiry and reflections on metacognition. Students will develop a deep understanding of the material to choose the best strategy to teach or tell the STEM story to others through digital media. Over the 4 years of the project, the model will be expanded from the current 70 schools to 150 in 40 states targeting schools with high populations of underrepresented youth. New components will be added to the model including STEM professional mentors and a social media and media analytics component. Project partners include local PBS stations, Project Lead the Way, and Share My Lesson educators.

The research study conducted by New Knowledge, LLC will add new knowledge about the growing field of youth science journalism and digital media. Front-end evaluation will assess students' understanding of contemporary STEM issues by deploying a web-based survey to crowd-source youth reactions, interest, questions, and thoughts about current science issues. A subset of questions will explore students' tendencies to pass newly-acquired information to members of the larger social networks. Formative evaluation will include qualitative and quantitative studies of multiple stakeholders at the Student Reporting Labs to refine the implementation of the program. Summative evaluation will track learning outcomes/changes such as: How does student reporting on STEM news increase their STEM literacy competencies? How does it affect their interest in STEM careers? Which strategies are most effective with underrepresented students? How do youth communicate with each other about science content, informing news media best practices? The research team will use data from pre/post and post-delayed surveys taken by 1700 students in the STEM Student Reporting Labs and 1700 from control groups. In addition, interviews with teachers will assess the curriculum and impressions of student engagement.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: How Video Storytelling Reengages Teenagers in STEM Learning

Presenter(s): Leah Clapman & William Swift

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: PBS NewsHour's STEM SRL Transforms Classrooms into Newsrooms

Presenter(s): Leah Clapman & William Swift

2017 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: PBS is Building the Next Generation of STEM Communicators

Presenter(s): Leah Clapman, John Fraser, Su-Jen Roberts, & Bill Swift


Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis (STeLLA): High School Biology

This project will develop and test a biology teacher professional model that employs analysis of videotaped lessons to promote increased biology content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge among practicing biology teachers. The content of the professional development activities will focus on the crosscutting concepts of stability and change that link core ideas in three areas of biology: cell biology, heredity, and evolution.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503280
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2015 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

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 (RMTs). 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 projects. This project will develop and test a biology teacher professional model that employs analysis of videotaped lessons to promote increased biology content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge among practicing biology teachers. The content of the professional development activities will focus on the crosscutting concepts of stability and change that link core ideas in three areas of biology: cell biology, heredity, and evolution. These are content areas that have been shown to be difficult for students to learn, and difficult for teachers to teach. The professional development model will include: a) a summer institute where teachers gain new knowledge and skills in biology and learn to analyze videotaped lessons; b) opportunities to teach project-developed lessons during the academic year; and c) study group sessions during the academic year where participating teachers analyze videoclips of their own teaching.

The project will design, develop, and test a teacher professional development model that is based on a previously developed approach that has been shown to be effective among elementary school teachers. It is hypothesized that the newly developed program will have a positive impact on the science achievement of high school students, that it will improve teacher science content knowledge and classroom practice, and that the effects on student outcomes will be equitable across student demographic variables. To test thee hypotheses, the project will employ a quasi-experimental research approach in which teachers will serve as their own comparison groups in a cohort control design. Hierarchical linear modeling will be used to differentiate the effects of variances in teacher content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, student demographic variables, and school factors. It is anticipated that the project will find evidence that the proposed approach to biology teacher professional development has the potential to close the achievement gaps among student populations.

Stopping an Epidemic of Misinformation: Leveraging the K-12 Science Education System to Respond to Ebola

This project will develop resources for teachers and administrators that will provide instructional guidance for teaching about the Ebola virus and other epidemics of infectious diseases that may arise. The resources developed will include guidelines for administrators and teachers, as well as policy briefs related to teaching and learning about Ebola.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1520689
Funding Period: 
Sun, 03/01/2015 to Mon, 02/29/2016
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program supports projects that enhance learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by preK-12 students, teachers, administrators, and parents. This project will contribute to that mission by developing resources for teachers and administrators that will provide instructional guidance for teaching about the Ebola virus and other epidemics of infectious diseases that may arise. The resources to be developed will include guidelines for administrators and teachers, and these resources will be distributed both in print form and through the Web portals of project partners, including the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA), and the Council of State Science Supervisors (CSSS). Policy briefs related to teaching and learning about Ebola and will be tailored for specific organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Education Association. The informational needs of teachers and administrators will be determined through large-scale surveys of teachers and science supervisors of school districts and states. The resources developed by the project are expected to have broad impacts nationwide in helping schoolteachers and administrators respond constructively to the spread of misinformation that often accompanies outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as Ebola.

To determine the informational needs of teachers and administrators, the project will develop and administer three surveys: a teacher survey, a survey for school district science supervisors, and a survey for state science supervisors. The surveys will probe knowledge about Ebola and infectious diseases, where respondents get their information, how such information is incorporated into instruction, and what factors affect their responses. Survey items will be validated through expert review and follow-up cognitive interviews with a subset of responders. The project intends to survey 3,000 teachers and all members of NSELA and CSSS. Findings from the surveys and related interviews will be used to develop informational materials and policy briefs that can be used by teachers and districts to guide instructional practices and policies related to teaching about Ebola and related epidemics. Science teachers are uniquely positioned to counteract the spread of misinformation that often accompanies quickly emerging, science-related issues, and this project has the potential to provide much-needed guidance in providing reasoned, constructive responses.

SimScientists Games: Development of Simulation-Based Game Designs to Enhance Formative Assessment and Deep Science Learning in Middle School

This project will focus on understanding how educational games, designed according to research-based learning and assessment design principles, can better assess and promote students' science knowledge, application of science process skills, and motivation and engagement in learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503481
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2015 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program 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 projects. This project is a four-year design and development study submitted to the assessment strand of the program. It will focus on understanding how educational games, designed according to research-based learning and assessment design principles, can better assess and promote students' science knowledge, application of science process skills, and motivation and engagement in learning. The project will develop a new genre of games to serve as formative assessment resources designed to collect evidence of science learning during gameplay, provide feedback and coaching in the form of hints, and reinforce middle grade (6th-8th) students' life science concepts and investigation practices about ecosystems described in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (Achieve, 2013). The games will build on the designs of the simulation-based, curriculum-embedded assessments developed in previous NSF-funded efforts, which include student progress reports and reflection activities that allow teachers to provide feedback to students and adjust instruction. The design of the games will draw from multiple lines of research, such as cognition, particularly model-based learning; principled assessment design; and motivation. Intended to provide engaging activities for understanding and investigating the system components, roles, interactions, and population dynamics of ecosystems, the project will produce two sets of comprehensive games: (1) Organisms and Interactions, and (2) Emergent Population Levels: Managing an Ecosystem. Each game will consist of progressively advanced mini-games. Twenty-four California Bay Area middle school teachers will participate in the study. Teacher professional development (PD) will include face-to-face sessions and an online platform that permits a wide range of interactions among participants and the facilitators. The PD will emphasize the alignment of the ecosystem simulation-based curriculum modules with their state standards, instructional materials, and the new games. 

The project will address six research questions: (1) How well do the games align with the ecosystem crosscutting concepts, core ideas, and inquiry practices in the NGSS?; (2) How well do game components meet quality standards?; (3) How well do the games integrate with the existing simulation-based curriculum modules and the teachers' existing instructional sequence?; (4) What effect does the use of the games have on students' understanding of the science concepts, scientific practices, and collaboration skills?; (5) How does success in gameplay relate to improved performance on the external outcome measures comprised of the simulation-based benchmark and the pre/posttest?; and (6) How does the use of the games affect students' engagement in science learning? In a Year 1 usability study, the project will test, analyze, and revise alpha versions of the games. In Year 2, a classroom feasibility study of beta versions will inform further revisions. In Year 3, six teachers will pilot-test the games. A second pilot test in Year 4 will examine the effectiveness of the games by comparing student performance in classes using the existing simulation-based curriculum-embedded assessments and reflection activities with classes using the curriculum-embedded assessments plus the new games. Data collection and analysis strategies include: (a) alignment reviews; (b) focus groups and usability testing; (c) cognitive labs for construct validity and usability; (d) game reports (badges); (e) pre/posttest of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) items; (f) benchmark assessment data; (g) student interest in the games and science; (h) teacher surveys; (i) case studies; (j) game quality analysis; (k) differential item functioning; (l) analysis of covariance; and (m) analysis of variance on posttest scores (outcome variable) to compare the means across student groups (by intervention mode) and their prior science achievement levels.

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