Biology

Learning in Places: Field Based Science in Early Childhood Education

This project aims to develop an innovative field-based science learning approach that will support the capacity of culturally diverse students in Grades K-3 to engage in complex ecological reasoning and related problem solving. To provide rich learning environments, outdoor learning gardens will be created in which students, teachers, garden educators, and families participate in activities that facilitate the investigation of tangible ecological challenges such as water capture and food security.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720578
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

Recent evidence suggests that reasoning and making decisions about ecological systems is a cultural activity that impacts participation in the core scientific practices of observation, evidence use, and claims making. This project aims to develop an innovative field-based science learning approach that will support the capacity of culturally diverse students in Grades K-3 to engage in complex ecological reasoning and related problem solving. To provide rich learning environments, outdoor learning gardens will be created in which students, teachers, garden educators, and families participate in activities that facilitate the investigation of tangible ecological challenges such as water capture and food security.

Using design-based research, the project team will collaborate with teachers, parents of participating students, and community garden educators to collectively design and develop four key components: 1) field-based curricular units for K-3 classrooms; 2) a model of family and community engagement that strengthens cultural relevance and equity in field-based science learning; 3) a pilot program of teacher professional development that informs future scaling efforts; and 4) research that unpacks student learning and teacher instructional practices that support children?s complex ecological reasoning and the cultural contexts of such knowledge. Data sources will include video, interviews, surveys, and student-created artifacts. A mixed-methods approach will be used to produce research findings at multiple levels including: student learning about complex ecological phenomena and field-based practices; classroom-level learning and high-leverage teaching practices in model units at each grade level; impacts of co-design on professional learning and practice; and family and community organizations learning and engagement in field-based science education. The project will be carried out by a research-practice-community partnership in Seattle, Washington that includes learning scientists (University of Washington), K-3 teachers and school administrators (Seattle Public Schools), garden educators (Seattle Tilth), and parents of participating students. In total, eight schools, 32 teachers, 800 students, and 32 families are expected to participate.

InquirySpace 2: Broadening Access to Integrated Science Practices

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics. InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research and learn what it means to be a scientist.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621301
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics courses. The project addresses the urgent national priority to improve science education as envisioned in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by focusing less on learning facts and equations and instead providing students with the time, skills, and resources to experience the conduct of science and what it means to be a scientist. This project builds on prior work that created a sequence of physics activities that significantly improved students' abilities to undertake data-based experiments and led to productive independent investigations. The goal of the InquirySpace project is to improve this physics sequence, extend the approach to biology and chemistry, and adapt the materials to the needs of diverse students by integrating tailored formative feedback in real time. The result will be student and teacher materials that any school can use to allow students to experience the excitement and essence of scientific investigations as an integral part of science instruction. The project plans to create and iteratively revise learning materials and technologies, and will be tested in 48 diverse classroom settings. The educational impact of the project's approach will be compared with that of business-as-usual approaches used by teachers to investigate to what extent it empowers students to undertake self-directed experiments. To facilitate the widest possible use of the project, a complete set of materials, software, teacher professional development resources, and curriculum design documents will be available online at the project website, an online teacher professional development course, and teacher community sites. 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.

InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research. These features will include (1) educational games to teach data analysis and interpretation skills needed in the approach, (2) reduced dependence on reading and writing through the use of screencast instructions and reports, (3) increased reliance on graphical analysis that can make equations unnecessary, and (4) extensive use of formative feedback generated from student logs. The project uses an overarching framework called Parameter Space Reasoning (PSR) to scaffold students through a type of experimentation applicable to a very large class of experiments. PSR involves an integrated set of science practices related to a question that can be answered with a series of data collection runs for different values of independent variables. Data can be collected from sensors attached to the computer, analysis of videos, scientific databases, or computational models. A variety of visual analytic tools will be provided to reveal patterns in the graphs. Research will be conducted in three phases: design and development of technology-enhanced learning materials through design-based research, estimation of educational impact using a quasi-experimental design, and feasibility testing across diverse classroom settings. The project will use two analytical algorithms to diagnose students' learning of data analysis and interpretation practices so that teachers and students can modify their actions based on formative feedback in real time. These algorithms use computationally optimized calculations to model the growth of student thinking and investigation patterns and provide actionable information to teachers and students almost instantly. Because formative feedback can improve instruction in any field, this is a major development that has wide potential.

Zoom In! Learning Science with Data

This project will address the need for high quality evidence-based models, practices, and tools for high school teachers and the development of students' problem solving and analytical skills by leveraging novel research and design approaches using digital tools and two well-established online instructional platforms: Zoom In and Common Online Data Analysis Platform.            

Award Number: 
1621289
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project will expand the DRK-12 portfolio by contributing to a limited program portfolio on data science, and also by being responsive to a broader, national discourse on data science, exemplified in the data-dependent scientific practices emphasis in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). With the impetus toward data literacy, an acute need has emerged for high quality evidence-based models, practices, and tools to better prepare high school teachers to teach data skills and for students to develop the problem solving and analytical skills needed to interpret and understand data, particularly in the sciences. This project will address these challenges by leveraging novel research and design approaches, using digital tools and two well-established online instructional platforms; Zoom In and Common Online Data Analysis Platform.

With a user base of over 27,000 teachers and students, the existing Zoom In platform has proven successful in fostering evidence-based inquiry among social studies teachers. This project will test the feasibility of the platform to facilitate data-focused inquiry and skill development among high school science teachers and their students. In Year 1, two NGSS-aligned digital curriculum modules and supporting materials focused on scientific phenomena and problems in biology and earth science will be developed for high school science teachers and embedded in a modified iteration of Zoom In. The Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP) will be integrated into the modules to make hierarchical data structures, modeling, visualizations, and dynamic linking possible within Zoom In. A pilot and usability test will be conducted with 16 teachers and 100 students from diverse New York City public high schools. Two teacher focus groups and think-aloud sessions with the students will be held. In Year 2, the remaining four modules will be developed. Guided by four research questions, field testing with teachers and students will be done to assess the content, CODAP data tools, Zoom-in student supports, teacher supports, and outcome measures. In Year 3, final revisions to the tools will be completed. A small-scale efficacy test will be conducted to assess aspects of the implementation process, practices, and overall impact of the modules on student learning. For the efficacy study, a two-level cluster-randomized design will be employed to randomly assign schools to the Zoom In intervention. A comparison group will use another existing well-designed data literacy digital instructional platform but without key aspects of Zoom In. Outcome measures will be administered at the beginning and end of the school year to the treatment and comparison groups. Back-end data, observational data, and teacher log data will be collected and analyzed. Qualitative data will be gathered from teacher and student observations and interviews and analyzed. Researchers will analyze the impact on student learning using hierarchical linear models with an effect treatment condition and student-and-class-level covariates. The research findings will be broadly disseminated through the Zoom In platform, conferences, publications, and social media.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Zoom In! Learning Science with Data

Presenter(s): Megan Silander & Bill Tally


Learning Evolution through Human and Non-Human Case Studies

This project will develop and test two curriculum units on the topic of evolution for high school general biology courses, with one unit focusing primarily on human case studies to teach evolution and one unit focusing primarily on case studies of evolution in other species. The two units will be compared to examine how different approaches to teaching evolution affect students and teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621194
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project aligns with Alabama's College & Career-Ready Standards (CCRS) for biology in grades 9-12 relating to Unity and Diversity. These standards are based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and go into effect during the 2016-2017 school year. Building on prior work (DRL-119468), this project will develop and test two curriculum units on the topic of evolution for high school general biology courses, with one unit focusing primarily on human case studies to teach evolution and one unit focusing primarily on case studies of evolution in other species. The two units will be compared to examine how different approaches to teaching evolution affect students and teachers. The project will also develop and field test a Cultural and Religious Sensitivity (CRS) Resource to provide teachers with strategies for creating supportive learning environments where understanding of the scientific account of evolution is aided while also acknowledging the cultural controversy associated with learning about evolution. The impacts on student and teacher outcomes of using the curriculum units and the CRS Resource will be tested in classrooms by comparing the outcomes of the human versus non-human units, and by using or not using classroom strategies from the CRS Resource.

The project will examine student and teacher outcomes of four treatment groups: 1) Curriculum Unit 1, 2) Curriculum Unit 1 with the CRS Resource, 3) Curriculum Unit 2, and 4) Curriculum Unit 2 with the CRS Resource. The research questions are: 1) In what ways does using examples of human versus non-human evolution to teach core evolutionary concepts affect understanding of, acceptance of, and motivation to learn about evolution among high school introductory biology students? 2) In what ways do using teaching strategies that focus on acknowledging the cultural controversy about evolution using a procedural neutrality approach affect high school introductory biology teachers' comfort and confidence with teaching evolution? 3) In what ways does using examples of human versus non-human evolution to teach fundamental evolutionary concepts in conjunction with teaching strategies that focus on acknowledging the cultural controversy about evolution using a procedural neutrality approach affect understanding of, acceptance of, and motivation to learn about evolution among high school introductory biology students? And 4) In what ways does using examples of human versus non-human evolution to teach fundamental evolutionary concepts in conjunction with teaching strategies that focus on acknowledging the cultural controversy about evolution using a procedural neutrality approach affect high school introductory biology teachers' comfort and confidence with teaching evolution? The project will use a 2 X 2 X 2 mixed factorial quasi-experimental research design to answer these questions, and will include a total of 32 teachers, 8 in each treatment group, along with approximately 800 students. Each assessment will be administered as a pretest two weeks prior to starting the curriculum unit and as a posttest immediately after completing the unit. Test scores will be the within-subjects factors, and Curriculum Unit and CRS Resource will be the between-subjects factors.

Connected Biology: Three-Dimensional Learning from Molecules to Populations (Collaborative Research: Reichsman)

This project will design, develop, and examine the learning outcomes of a new curriculum unit for biology that embodies the conceptual framework of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The curriculum materials to be developed by this project will focus on two areas of study that are central to the life sciences: genetics and the processes of evolution by natural selection.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620910
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project will contribute to this mission by designing, developing, and examining the learning outcomes of a new curriculum unit for biology that embodies the conceptual framework of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The curriculum materials to be developed by this project will focus on two areas of study that are central to the life sciences: genetics and the processes of evolution by natural selection. These traditionally separate topics will be interlinked and will be designed to engage students in the disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and the science and engineering practices defined by the NGSS. Once developed, the curriculum materials will be available online for use in high school biology courses nationwide.

This project will be guided by two main research questions: 1) How does learning progress when students experience a set of coherent biology learning materials that employ the principles of three-dimensional learning?; and 2) How do students' abilities to transfer understanding about the relationships between molecules, cells, organisms, and evolution change over time and from one biological phenomenon to another? The project will follow an iterative development plan involving cycles of designing, developing, testing and refining elements of the new curricular model. The project team will work with master teachers to design learning sequences that use six case studies to provide examples of how genetic and evolutionary processes are interlinked. An online data exploration environment will extend learning by enabling students to simulate phenomena being studied and explore data from multiple experimental trials as they seek patterns and construct cause-and-effect explanations of phenomena. Student learning will be measured using a variety of assessment tools, including multiple-choice assessment of student understanding, surveys, classroom observations and interviews, and embedded assessments and log files from the online learning environment.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: ConnectedBio: Interactive Evolution Across Biological Scales

Presenter(s): Kiley McElroy-Brown, Rebecca Ellis, & Frieda Reichsman


Connected Biology: Three-Dimensional Learning from Molecules to Populations (Collaborative Research: White)

This project will design, develop, and examine the learning outcomes of a new curriculum unit for biology that embodies the conceptual framework of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The curriculum materials to be developed by this project will focus on two areas of study that are central to the life sciences: genetics and the processes of evolution by natural selection.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620746
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project will contribute to this mission by designing, developing, and examining the learning outcomes of a new curriculum unit for biology that embodies the conceptual framework of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The curriculum materials to be developed by this project will focus on two areas of study that are central to the life sciences: genetics and the processes of evolution by natural selection. These traditionally separate topics will be interlinked and will be designed to engage students in the disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and the science and engineering practices defined by the NGSS. Once developed, the curriculum materials will be available online for use in high school biology courses nationwide.

This project will be guided by two main research questions: 1) How does learning progress when students experience a set of coherent biology learning materials that employ the principles of three-dimensional learning?; and 2) How do students' abilities to transfer understanding about the relationships between molecules, cells, organisms, and evolution change over time and from one biological phenomenon to another? The project will follow an iterative development plan involving cycles of designing, developing, testing and refining elements of the new curricular model. The project team will work with master teachers to design learning sequences that use six case studies to provide examples of how genetic and evolutionary processes are interlinked. An online data exploration environment will extend learning by enabling students to simulate phenomena being studied and explore data from multiple experimental trials as they seek patterns and construct cause-and-effect explanations of phenomena. Student learning will be measured using a variety of assessment tools, including multiple-choice assessment of student understanding, surveys, classroom observations and interviews, and embedded assessments and log files from the online learning environment.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: ConnectedBio: Interactive Evolution Across Biological Scales

Presenter(s): Kiley McElroy-Brown, Rebecca Ellis, & Frieda Reichsman


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.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: A Medical Mystery: Middle School Body Systems for the NGSS

Presenter(s): Susan Kowalski, Lindsey Mohan, Betty Stennett, Catherine Stimac, & Heather Young


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