Biology

Videocases for Science Teaching Analysis Plus (ViSTA Plus): Efficacy of a Videocase-Based, Analysis-of-Practice Teacher Preparation Program

The new ViSTA Plus study explores implementation of a program for pre-service/beginning teachers that is fully centered on learning from an analysis-of-practice perspective, addressing the central research question of "What is the value of a videocase-based, analysis-of-practice approach to elementary science teacher preparation?" The project is producing science-specific, analysis-of-practice materials to support the professional development of teacher educators and professional development leaders using the ViSTA Plus program at universities and in district-based induction programs.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1220635
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2012 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

Prior studies have demonstrated the positive impact of content-specific videocases of other teachers' practice on science content knowledge and ability to analyze teaching when the videocases are incorporated in the methods courses for preservice teachers. Similar outcomes occurred for experienced, inservice teachers in a year-long professional development that included analyzing video of their own and others' teaching, and these teachers changed their practice in ways that influenced students' science learning. The new ViSTA Plus study explores implementation of a 2-year program for preservice/beginning teachers that is fully centered on learning from an analysis-of-practice perspective, addressing the central research question of "What is the value of a videocase-based, analysis-of-practice approach to elementary science teacher preparation?"

ViSTA Plus presents a distinctive version of practice-based teacher education, one that immerses teachers into practice via scaffolded, collaborative analyses of videocases - starting with analysis of other teachers' videocases and moving to collaborative analysis of teachers' own videocases. The ViSTA Plus conceptual framework supports teachers in using Student Thinking and Science Content Storyline Lenses to analyze science teaching and in using a set of teaching strategies that support use of each of these lenses in their planning and teaching. Through this analysis work, teachers deepen their science content knowledge, develop the ability to analyze teaching and learning, and improve their teaching and their students' learning. The current study incorporates a quasi-experimental design to compare the impact of the ViSTA Plus program to that of traditional teacher preparation programs when implemented at universities that serve diverse populations, especially Native American, Hispanic, and low-SES students. Teacher measures are assessing science content knowledge (pre, mid, and posttests), ability to analyze science teaching and learning (pre, mid, and post video analysis tasks), and teaching practice (videorecorded lessons during student teaching and first year of teaching). Elementary students' science achievement is being assessed using pre-post unit tests during student teaching and the first year of teaching.

The study design addresses a gap in the research on preservice teacher preparation by following the pathway of program influence from teacher learning to teaching practice to student learning, and accomplishes this in the context of ViSTA Plus, an alternative, practice-based approach to teacher preparation that embeds all phases of teacher learning in practice from the beginning. Partner universities in this effort are eager to reimagine the traditional teacher preparation sequence, offering new models for the field. The project is producing science-specific, analysis-of-practice materials (videocases, methods course guides, study group guides) to support the professional development of teacher educators and professional development leaders using the ViSTA Plus program at universities and in district-based induction programs.

Morehouse College DR K-12 Pre-service STEM Teacher Initiative

This project recruited high school African American males to begin preparation for science, technology, engineering and mathematics teaching careers. The goal of the program was to recruit and prepare students for careers in secondary mathematics and science teaching thus increasing the number of African Americans students in STEM. The research will explore possible reasons why the program is or is not successful for recruiting and retaining students in STEM Teacher Education programs  

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119512
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/15/2011 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Melissa K. Demetrikopoulos
Full Description: 

Morehouse College proposed a research and development project to recruit high school African American males to begin preparation for secondary school science, technology, engineering and mathematics(STEM) teaching as a career. The major goal of the program is to recruit and prepare students for careers in secondary mathematics and science teaching thus increasing the number of African Americans students in STEM. The research will explore possible reasons why the program is or is not successful for recruiting and retaining students in STEM Teacher Education programs including: (a) How do students who remain in STEM education differ from those who leave and how do these individual factors (e.g. student preparation, self-efficacy, course work outcomes, attitudes toward STEM/STEM education, connectivity to STEM/STEM education communities, learning styles, etc) enhance or inhibit interest in STEM teaching among African American males? (b) What organizational and programmatic factors (e.g. high school summer program, Saturday Academy, pre-freshman program, summer research experience, courses, enhanced mentoring, cyber-infrastructure, college admissions guidance, leadership training, instructional laboratory, program management, faculty/staff engagement and availability, Atlanta Public Schools and Morehouse College articulation and partnership) affect (enhance or inhibit) interest in STEM teaching among African American males?

This pre-service program for future secondary STEM teachers recruits promising African American male students in eleventh grade and prepares them for entry into college.  The program provides academic guidance and curriculum-specific activities for college readiness, and creates preparation for secondary science and math teaching careers.   This project is housed within the Division of Science and Mathematics at Morehouse College and engages in ongoing collaboration with the Atlanta Public School (APS) system and Fulton County School District (FCS). The APS-FCS-MC collaboration fosters access and success of underrepresented students through (a) early educational intervention practices; (b) enhanced academic preparation; and (c) explicit student recruitment. 

The program consists of six major program components: High School Summer Program; Saturday Academy I, II, and III; Pre-Freshman Summer Program; and Summer Research Experience, which begins in the summer between the student’s junior and senior years of high school and supports the student through his sophomore year of college.  To date, collaborations between education and STEM faculty as well as between Morehouse, APS, and FCS faculty have resulted in development and implementation of all six program components.   Students spent six weeks in an intensive summer program with a follow-up Saturday Academy during their senior year before formally beginning their academic careers at Morehouse College. The program integrates STEM education with teacher preparation and mentoring in order to develop secondary teachers who have mastery in both a STEM discipline as well as educational theory. 

This pre-service program for future teachers recruited promising eleventh grade African American male students from the Atlanta Public School District to participate in a four-year program that will track them into the Teacher Preparation program at Morehouse College. The research focuses on the utility and efficacy of early recruitment of African American male students to STEM teaching careers as a mechanism to increase the number of African American males in STEM teaching careers.

Teaching Evolution Through Human Examples (TEtHE)

This three-year exploratory research and development project is assessing how the use of resource activities and teaching strategies focused on human evolution will affect the understanding, teaching and learning of evolution by high school AP biology teachers and students. The project will develop resource activities and teaching strategies with and for high school biology teachers. Professional development will also provide teachers with guidance on how to incorporate the activities and strategies into the classroom.  

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119468
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
The Study Group
Full Description: 

Teaching Evolution through Human Examples (TEtHE), a three-year exploratory research and development project, is assessing how the use of resource activities and teaching strategies focused on human evolution will affect the understanding, teaching and learning of evolution by high school AP biology teachers and students. The guiding questions of the proposed project are 1) In what ways does using examples of human evolution to teach basic evolutionary concepts affect understanding of evolution among high school students? 2) In what ways do teaching strategies that focus on positive dialogue about human evolution help teachers overcome cultural challenges to teaching evolution concepts? 3) In what ways does using examples of human evolution to teach basic evolutionary concepts in conjunction with teaching strategies that focus on positive dialogue about human evolution affect understanding of evolution among high school students? TEtHE project will contribute to the field of evolution education, which is lacking on whether using teaching materials with a human emphasis along with strategies that increase teacher comfort and confidence in teaching evolution lead to greater understanding of evolution.

Project evaluation will focus on refining teaching materials and strategies and testing their efficacy in pilot studies in cooperation with the College Board and its professional development programs for the newly restructured AP course in biology. Studies include: independent assessment of teacher satisfaction with the resource activities as well as confidence and ease in use of the materials, independent review of the materials by the Advisory boards, and survey of all participating teachers to identify ways the materials were used. When addressing each question, the team will investigate validity, feasibility, usefulness, appropriateness, and student results. Methods for collection include: observation, open-response surveys, open-ended interviews, content assessments, and attitudinal surveys. The primary investigator is the Smithsonian Institute; the National Academies Teacher Advisory Board, the Understanding Evolution Teacher Advisor Board, and AP biology teachers from Washington DC serve as co-developers. The project has an external evaluator as well as an advisory board.

The TEtHE project will develop resource activities and teaching strategies with and for high school biology teachers. Professional development will also provide teachers with guidance on how to incorporate the activities and strategies into the classroom. The TEtHE project, over the course of three years, will involve over 100 AP biology teachers which will translate to reaching over 2000 AP biology students. The resources will be widely disseminated online at the end of the project, at national conferences, in national publications, and long range plans include incorporation into the national AP biology curriculum. This project could serve as a model for expanding effective methods for teaching evolution to Biology 1 classes, and contribute to an understanding of how to approach the teaching of scientific topics that intersect religious, ethical, and other areas of societal concern.

InterLACE: Interactive Learning and Collaboration Environment

This project designs, constructs, and field-tests a web-based, online collaborative environment for supporting the teaching and learning of inquiry-based high school physics. Based on an interactive digital workbook environment, the team is customizing the platform to include scaffolds and other supports for learning physics, fostering interaction and collaboration within the classroom, and facilitating a design-based approach to scientific experiments.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119321
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Full Description: 

This project, under the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) designs, constructs, and field-tests a web-based, online collaborative environment for supporting the teaching and learning of inquiry-based high school physics. Based on prior NSF-funded work on RoboBooks, an interactive digital workbook environment, the team is customizing the platform to include scaffolds and other supports for learning physics, fostering interaction and collaboration within the classroom, and facilitating a design-based approach to scientific experiments. The InterLACE team hypothesizes that technology seamlessly integrating physics content and process skills within a classroom learning activity will provide a wide variety of student benefits, ranging from improved learning outcomes and increased content knowledge to gains in attitudinal and social displays as well.

The hypothesis for this work is based on research that indicates teachers believe proper implementation of design-based, inquiry projects are time consuming and can be difficult to manage and facilitate in classrooms without great scaffolding or other supports. Using design-based research with a small number of teachers and students, the PIs iteratively develop the system and supporting materials and generate a web-based implementation that supports students through the various stages of design inquiry. A quasi-experimental trial in the final years of the project is used to determine the usability of the technology and efficacy of the system in enhancing teaching and learning. Through the tools and activities developed, the researchers anticipate showing increases in effective inquiry learning and enhanced accessibility to meet the needs of diverse learners and teachers, leading to changes in classroom practice.

Through this project the PIs (1) gain insights that will enable them to refine the InterLACE platform so it can be implemented and brought to scale in the near terms as a support for design-based inquiry science projects, and (2) advance theory, design and practice to support the design of technology-based learning environments, and (3) understand how connecting students? hypotheses, ideas, and data impacts their learning of physics content and scientific inquiry skills.

Designing an Integrated Framework for Genetics Education to Develop Innovative Curricula and Assessments

This project is developing a model for integrating best practices in technology-supported instructional design and formative assessment for genetics instruction in upper elementary, middle and high school. Using the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment platform, the project is developing school curriculum that scaffold and model scientific practices, enable students to interface with real-world problems, provide opportunities for students to make connections between visible phenomena and underlying genetic processes, and promote student monitoring and reflection on learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119055
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Full Description: 

Michigan State University is developing a model for integrating best practices in technology-supported instructional design and formative assessment for genetics instruction in upper elementary, middle and high school. The project partners with an urban school district in Texas and a suburban school district in Michigan. The objectives are: (1) to articulate a detailed standards- and research-base conceptual framework for describing students' conceptions of genetics and how students develop a full understanding of genetics across grade spans (upper elementary, middle and high school); (2) to develop innovative instructional materials and embedded assessments that provide richer information about students' conceptual understanding of genetics and help practitioners make decisions about what to do next in instruction; and (3) to examine the implementation of these instructional materials and assessments to investigate students' understanding of genetics concepts.

Using the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) 4.0 platform (a technology-rich learning environment), the project is developing a 5-week elementary, middle, and secondary school curriculum models that scaffold and model scientific practices, enable students to interface with real-world problems, provide opportunities for students to make connections between visible phenomena and underlying genetic processes, and promote student monitoring and reflection on their learning. Each module will include animation- and stimulation-based contexts in WISE to provide rich occasions to press for building and developing reasoning and explanations. To promote teachers' use of student responses in formative ways, the materials will offer clear guidance about how to make evidence-based instructional decisions as well as provide options for contingent instruction activities that can be used to address persistent or common non-normative ways of reasoning.

The research offers generalizable approaches on the principled design of embedded assessments in WISE 4.0 and on using these assessments formatively. A quasi-experimental study employing a cross-sectional and longitudinal comparison design will investigate the development of students' understanding of genetics-related ideas from upper elementary to the high school years.

Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT) Designing and Studying a Multidisciplinary, Online Course for High School Teachers

This project will iteratively design, develop, field test, refine, and rigorously study a six-unit, facilitated, online professional development (PD) course focusing on energy-related concepts in the context of alternative energy. The primary audience is high school science teachers teaching out of their field of endorsement and serving students underrepresented in the sciences. The project will investigate whether the PD will precipitate changes in teacher knowledge and practice that result in higher student achievement.

Award Number: 
1118643
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
RMC Research Corporation
Full Description: 

The Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT) project will iteratively design, develop, field test, refine, and rigorously study a seven-unit, facilitated, online professional development (PD) course focusing on energy-related concepts in the context of alternative energy. The primary audience is high school science teachers teaching out of their field of endorsement and serving students underrepresented in the sciences. The project will investigate whether the PD will precipitate changes in teacher knowledge and practice that result in higher student achievement. As a result, EMAT will improve the science achievement of underrepresented students and enhance their future participation in science. Biological Sciences Curriculum Study and partners Oregon Public Broadcasting, the National Teacher Enhancement Network, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, and RMC Research Corporation bring significant resources and are highly qualified to develop and research EMAT.

The EMAT project advances knowledge in the field of teacher professional development by merging two facets of PD that have hitherto been studied separately and testing hypotheses about the degree to which this pairing enhances learning and practice. These facets are structured constructivist experiences and experiences grounded in situated cognition learning theory. Teachers reflect on research-based teaching practices in the lesson analysis process through Science Content Storyline and Student Thinking lenses. EMAT tests longitudinal impacts on teachers' content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and teaching practices and students' content knowledge, contributing much needed data for future PD projects. EMAT also studies which aspects of online environments are most effective for teachers. Data collected will inform full revisions of the course and will help address significant gaps in our understanding of online PD.

EMAT advances the field's understanding of which elements of online PD are effective and the extent to which high-quality online PD translates to improved student learning. Simultaneously, the project develops and tests a scalable, flexible resource to enhance teacher learning and practice. As a result, EMAT will have a broad impact by promoting research-based teaching and learning while advancing discovery and understanding. Furthermore, by targeting the recruitment of teacher participants from large urban districts with high numbers of teachers teaching out of field, EMAT impacts students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. EMAT will not only contribute to the research on PD, but also will be available for use in diverse settings. A facilitation guide allows the course to be freely used by school districts and teacher education and certification programs across the country. In addition, the facilitated course will be offered for graduate credit through the National Teacher Enhancement Network and will be freely available to individuals for independent study. Results of all research and evaluation will be published in science education journals and practitioner journals for teachers, and presented to PD groups at conferences. EMAT will benefit society by impacting teacher and student understanding of energy-related concepts, thereby increasing the capacity of U.S. citizens to creatively address energy challenges from a foundation of scientifically sound knowledge.

Multiple Instrumental Case Studies of Inclusive STEM-Focused High Schools: Opportunity Structures for Preparation and Inspiration (OSPrl)

The aim of this project is to examine opportunity structures provided to students by inclusive STEM-focused high schools, with an emphasis on studying schools that serve students from underrepresented groups. The project is studying inclusive STEM-focused high schools across the United States to determine what defines them. The research team initially identified ten candidate critical components that define STEM-focused high schools and is refining and further clarifying the critical components through the research study.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118851
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

The aim of this project is to examine opportunity structures provided to students by inclusive STEM-focused high schools, with an emphasis on studying schools that serve students from underrepresented groups. In contrast to highly selective STEM-focused schools that target students who are already identified as gifted and talented in STEM, inclusive STEM-focused high schools aim to develop new sources of STEM talent, particularly among underrepresented minority students, to improve workforce development and prepare STEM professionals. A new NRC report, Successful K-12 STEM Education (2011), identifies areas in which research on STEM-focused schools is most needed. The NRC report points out the importance of providing opportunities for groups that are underrepresented in the sciences, especially Blacks, Hispanics, and low-income students who disproportionately fall out of the high-achieving group in K-12 education. This project responds specifically to the call for research in the NRC report and provides systematic data to define and clarify the nature of such schools. 

The project is studying inclusive STEM-focused high schools across the United States to determine what defines them. The research team initially identified ten candidate critical components that define STEM-focused high schools and is refining and further clarifying the critical components through the research study. The first phase of the study is focusing on 12 well-established and carefully planned schools with good reputations and strong community and business support, in order to capture the critical components as intended and implemented. Case studies of these high-functioning schools and a cross-case analysis using a set of instruments for gauging STEM design and implementation are contributing toward building a theory of action for such schools that can be applied more generally to STEM education. The second phase of the study involves selecting four school models for further study, focusing on student-level experiences and comparing student outcomes against comprehensive schools in the same district. Research questions being studied include: 1) Is there a core set of likely critical components shared by well-established, promising inclusive STEM-focused high schools? Do other components emerge from the study? 2) How are the critical components implemented in each school? 3) What are the contextual affordances and constraints that influence schools' designs, their implementation, and student outcomes? 4) How do student STEM outcomes in these schools compare with school district and state averages? 5) How do four promising such schools compare with matched comprehensive high schools within their respective school districts, and how are the critical components displayed? 6) From the points of view of students underrepresented in STEM fields, how do education experiences at the schools and their matched counterparts compare? And 7) How do student outcomes compare?

The research uses a multiple instrumental case study design in order to describe and compare similar phenomena. Schools as critical cases are being selected through a nomination process by experts, followed by screening and categorization according to key design dimensions. Data sources include school documents and public database information; a survey, followed by telephone interviews that probe for elaborated information, to provide a systematic overview of the candidate components; on-site visitations to each school provide data on classroom observations at the schools; interviews with students, teachers and administrators in focus groups; and discussions with critical members of the school community that provide unique opportunities to learn such as mentors, business leaders, and members of higher education community that provide outside of school learning experiences. The project is also gathering data on a variety of school-level student outcome indicators, and is tracking the likely STEM course trajectories for students, graduation rates, and college admission rates for students in the inclusive STEM-focused schools, as compared to other schools in the same jurisdiction. Analysis of the first phase of the study aims to develop rich descriptions that showcase characteristics of the schools, using axial and open coding, to determine a theory of action that illustrates interconnections among context, design, implementation, and outcome elements. Analysis of the second phase of the study involves similar processes on four levels: school, student, databases, and a synthesis of the three. Evaluation of the project consists of an internal advisory board and an external advisory board, both of which provide primarily formative feedback on research procedures.

Research findings, as well as case studies, records of instrument and rubric development and use, annual reports, and conference proposals and papers are being provided on a website, in order to provide an immediate and ongoing resource for education leaders, researchers and policymakers to learn about research on these schools and particular models. An effort is also being made to give voice to the experiences of high school students from the four pairs of high schools studied in the second phase of the study. Findings are also being disseminated by more traditional means, such as papers in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations.

Leveling Up: Supporting and Measuring High School STEM Knowledge Building in Social Digital Games

This project designs, develops and tests a digital gaming environment for high school students that fosters and measures science learning within alternate reality games about saving Earth's ecosystems. Players work together to solve scientific challenges using a broad range of tools including a centralized web-based gaming site and social networking tools, along with handheld smart-phones, and an avatar-based massively multiplayer online environment. The game requires players to contribute to a scientific knowledge building community.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119144
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2011 to Mon, 06/30/2014
Project Evaluator: 
New Knowledge Organization
Full Description: 

This project designs, develops and tests a digital gaming environment for high school students that fosters and measures science learning within alternate reality games about saving Earth's ecosystems. Players work together to solve scientific challenges using a broad range of tools including a centralized web-based gaming site and social networking tools, along with handheld smart-phones, and an avatar-based massively multiplayer online environment (MMO). EdGE at TERC joins with GameGurus, high school teachers and assessment specialists to develop Leveling Up. The game requires players to contribute to a scientific knowledge building community; and players rate each other's contributions for their value to the communities' learning and decision-making in solving the challenge. Designers also work with high-school teachers to develop bridge activities that leverage science learning in games for use in formal education. Overall, the project goal is to understand the potential of the gaming environment as a direct intervention and as a catalyst to transform and measure high school STEM learning.

The research on Leveling Up compares the science learning measured within social digital games to class-based assessments of similar content and skills and explains the results using data from design documents, participant observations, surveys, interviews and student work. Formative research and iterative design with a cohort of with 15 testbed classes (grades 10-12) result in a set of assessments that have been validated in terms of scientific constructs and a set of common equivalent curriculum and assessments for implementation studies. In the third year of the project, researchers study 12 treatment classes and 3 control classes to compare students' advancement in the game to their gains on classroom assessments. In addition, half of the testbed classes use the classroom bridge activities and half do not, yielding samples of 180 students for each treatment and 90 students for the control sample. Researchers use multilevel models to examine the impact of the Leveling Up game play and bridge activities on high-school students' science knowledge. Independent evaluators (ILI) validate the interpretation of findings from the formative and implementation research.

Leveling Up is a fundamental first step for the STEM education field to understand how the pervasive social media emerging in today's society, including the phenomena of social digital gaming, can be leveraged to create exciting and productive STEM learning environments for the future. These technologies and knowledge building processes are critical for building a workforce of tomorrow that is scientifically, technologically, and data literate and also embody the inquiry and collaboration skills to contribute to productive and informed decisions about Earth's ecosystems and other important scientific and societal issues of our times. The project, Leveling Up, results in an ongoing STEM gaming environment for the public as well as a model for high school STEM assessment that may be used in other social digital games. Finally, Leveling Up also contributes a model for activities that bridge scientific inquiry occurring in social digital games with skills and content taught in high school STEM classes.

Taking Foundation Science to Scale—Digitally: Transforming a Print Curriculum into an Innovative Learning Tool for Commercial Distribution

This project provides a model of how existing, tested digital enhancements can increase student learning. Increasing the quality of science education requires careful coupling of effective, research-based curricula with innovative digital features that deepen and enhance science learning and teaching. This RAPID is to ensure that the content and pedagogical expertise is present during the development of the digital version of Foundation science.

Award Number: 
1119736
Funding Period: 
Fri, 04/01/2011 to Sun, 03/31/2013
Full Description: 

The print version of Foundation Science, a comprehensive high school science curriculum, has been extensively field tested and shown to be effective in increasing student learning and changing teacher practice. Carolina Biological Supply is scheduled to publish a digital version of Biology and Chemistry portions of Foundation Science that goes well beyond the conversion of print text to digital delivery by September 2012. Many digital enhancements have been developed and tested in the biology unit of Foundation Science, which was used as a model to develop a system to incorporate Universal Design for learning features in materials development and in on-line professional development for cross-over teachers. Some of the digital resources include a digital book reader; a notebook in which notes can take various forms such as text, drawing, voice recording; separate unscored assessments; an interactive glossary; graphing capabilities and an online research tool.

Thus this project provides a model of how existing, tested digital enhancements can increase student learning. Increasing the quality of science education requires careful coupling of effective, research-based curricula with innovative digital features that deepen and enhance science learning and teaching. This RAPID is to ensure that the content and pedagogical expertise is present during the development of the digital version of Foundation science.

Continuous Learning and Automated Scoring in Science (CLASS)

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program.

Award Number: 
1119670
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items (i.e., short essays, science narratives, concept mapping, graphing problems, and virtual experiments) into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program. WISE is an online science-inquiry curricula that supports deep understanding through visualization of processes not directly observable, virtual experiments, graphing results, collaboration, and response to prompts for explanations. In partnership with Educational Testing Services (ETS), project goals are: (1) to develop five automated inquiry assessment activities that capture students' abilities to integrate their ideas and form coherent scientific arguments; (2) to customize WISE by incorporating automated scores; (3) to investigate how students' systematic feedback based on these scores improve their learning outcomes; and (4) to design professional development resources to help teachers use scores to improve classroom instruction, and administrators to make better informed decisions about teacher professional development and inquiry instruction. The project targets general science (life, physical, and earth) in three northern California school districts, five middle schools serving over 4,000 6th-8th grade students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and 29 science teachers. It contributes to increase opportunities for students to improve their science achievement, and for teachers and administrators to make efficient, evidence-based decisions about high-quality teaching and learning.

A key research question guides this effort: How automated scoring of inquiry assessments can increase success for diverse students, improve teachers' instructional practices, and inform administrators' decisions about professional development, inquiry instruction, and assessment? To develop science inquiry assessment activities, scoring written responses include semantic, syntax, and structure of meaning analyses, as well as calibration of human-scored items with a computer-scoring system through the c-rater--an ETS-developed cyber learning technology. Validity studies are conducted to compare automated scores with human-scored items, teacher, district, and state scores, including sensitivity to the diverse student population. To customize the WISE curriculum, the project modifies 12 existing units and develops nine new modules. To design adaptive feedback to students, comparative studies explore options for adaptive guidance and test alternatives based on automated scores employing linear models to compare student performance across randomly assigned guidance conditions; controlling for covariates, such as prior science scores, gender, and language; and grouping comparison studies. To design teacher professional development, synthesis reports on auto-scored data are created to enable them to use evidence to guide curricular decisions, and comments' analysis to improve feedback quality. Workshops, classroom observations, and interviews are conducted to measure longitudinal teachers' change over time. To empower administrators' decision making, special data reports, using-evidence activities, individual interviews, and observation of administrators' meetings are conducted. An advisory board charged with project evaluation addresses both formative and summative aspects.

A research-informed model to improve science teaching and learning at the middle school level through cyber-enabled assessment is the main outcome of this effort. A total of 21 new, one- to three-week duration standards-based science units, each with four or more automatically scored items, serve as prototypes to improve students' performance, teachers' instructional approaches, and administrators' school policies and practices.

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