Chemistry

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.

Supporting Scientific Practices in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms

This project will develop a learning progression that characterizes how learners integrate and interrelate scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling, building ever more sophisticated versions of practice over time using the three common elements of sense-making, persuading peers and developing consensus.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020316
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

Research on student learning has developed separate progressions for scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling. Engaging Learners in Scientific Practices develops a learning progression that characterizes how learners integrate and interrelate scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling, building ever more sophisticated versions of practice over time using the three common elements of sense-making, persuading peers and developing consensus. The learning progression is constructed through improvements in students' performance and understanding of scientific practice as measured by their attention to generality of explanation, attention to clarity of communication and audience understanding, attention to evidentiary support, and attention to mechanistic versus descriptive accounts. The project is led by researchers at Northwestern University, the University of Texas, Wright State University, Michigan State University, and the BEAR assessment group. Two cohorts of 180 students each are followed for two years from 4th to 5th grade in Illinois and two cohorts of 180 students each are followed for two years from 5th to 6th grade in Michigan The elementary school students will work with FOSS curriculum units modified to embed supports for scientific practices. Two cohorts of 500 middle school students are followed for three years from 6th to 8th grade as they work with coordinated IQWST units over three years. The outcome measures include analyses of classroom discourse, pre- and pos-test assessments of student learning, and reflective interviews grounded in students' own experiences with practices in the classroom to assess their growth across the dimensions. The BEAR team is responsible for validation and calibration of the frameworks and instruments, and design of the scheme for analysis of the data. Horizon Research performs the formative and summative evaluation. The project will produce an empirically-tested learning progression for scientific practices for grades 4-8 along with tested curriculum materials and validated assessment items that support and measure students' ability in the scientific practices of explanation, argumentation and modeling. In the process of development, an understanding is gained about how to design and test this learning progression. The framework is articulated on a website for use by other researchers and developers. The project also builds capacity by educating several graduate students.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Science Storylines

Presenter(s): Brian Reiser, Kelsey Edwards, Barbara Hug, Tara McGill, Jamie Noll, Michael Novak, Bill Penuel, Trey Smith, & Aliza Zivic


Expanding PhET Interactive Science Simulations to Grades 4-8: A Research-Based Approach

Colorado’s PhET project and Stanford’s AAALab will develop and study learning from interactive simulations designed for middle school science classrooms. Products will include 35 interactive sims with related support materials freely available from the PhET website; new technologies to collect real-time data on student use of sims; and guidelines for the development and use of sims for this age population. The team will also publish research on how students learn from sims.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020362
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Stephanie Chasteen
Full Description: 

In this DRK12 project, the PhET Interactive Simulations group at the University of Colorado and the AAALab at Stanford University are working together to produce and study learning from interactive simulations designed for middle school science classrooms. We are developing a suite of 35 high-quality, interactive simulations covering physical science topics. These simulations include innovative technologies that provide teachers with real-time, formative feedback on how their students are using the simulations.  The research investigates how various characteristics of the simulation design influence student engagement and learning, and how this response varies across grade-level and diverse populations. The research also includes an investigation of different ways of using simulations in class, and how these approaches affect student preparation for future learning when they are no longer using a given simulation.

      The original PhET simulations were designed for college use, but overtime, they have migrated to lower grades.  The current suite of free research-based, interactive PhET science simulations are used over 10 million times per year.  To optimize their utility for middle school science, we are conducting interviews with diverse 4-8th graders using 25 existing PhET simulations to help identify successful design alternatives where needed, and to formulate generalized design guidelines. In parallel, pull-out and classroom-based studies are investigating a variety of lesson plans to identify the most promising approach. These studies include controlled comparisons that collect both qualitative and quantitative data.

      On the basis of our emerging design principles, we are developing 10 new simulations in consultation with teachers, who are helping to identify high need areas for simulations. These new simulations also include a back-end data collection capability that can collect, aggregate, and display student patterns of simulation use for teachers and researchers. The design of the data collection and presentation formats depends on an iterative process done in collaboration with teachers to identify the most useful information and display formats. A final evaluation compares student learning with and without this back-end formative assessment technology.   

This project is working to transform the way science is taught and learned in Grades 4-8 so that it is more effective at promoting scientific thinking and content learning, while also being engaging to diverse populations. The project is expected to impact many, many thousands of teachers and students through its production of a suite of 35 free, interactive science simulations optimized for Grades 4-8 along with “activity templates”, guidance, and real time feedback to teachers to support pedagogically effective integration into classrooms. Finally, the intellectual merit of the project is its significant contributions to understanding when, how, and why interactive simulations can be effective learning and research tools.

Developing the Next Generation of Middle School Science Materials--Investigating and Questioning Our World through Science and Technology (Collaborative Research: Reiser)

This project will design a comprehensive science curriculum for grades 6-8, in which learning performances drive the design of activities and assessments in order to specify how students should be able to use the scientific ideas and skills outlined in standards. The materials contain hands-on experiences, technology tools and reading materials that extend students' first-hand experiences of phenomena and support science literacy.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0439493
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2004 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Full Description: 

Building on the work that "Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology (IQWST)" completed in Phase I, a comprehensive science curriculum for grades 6-8 is developed in Phase II. A learning-goals-driven design is used in which learning performances that drive the design of activities and assessments specify how students should be able to use the scientific ideas and skills outlined in standards. The materials are organized around driving questions that provide a context to motivate students as they use their knowledge and skills in scientific practices -- such as modeling, designing investigations, explanation and argumentation and data gathering, analysis and interpretation -- to acquire understandings of the concepts, principles and habits of mind articulated in national science standards. The materials contain hands-on experiences, technology tools and reading materials that extend students' first-hand experiences of phenomena and support science literacy. All four science disciplines are studied for about one-quarter of each year. The physics topics for grades 6, 7 and 8 are description of motion, conservation and transformation of energy, and laws of motion respectively; in Earth science, the topics are Earth surface processes, climate and weather and objects in space; for biology, organisms and systems, genetics and the environment, and ecosystems and natural selection; and for chemistry, particulate nature of matter, chemical reactions of substances, and chemical reactions all around us. Teacher materials support teacher learning of the science content and pedagogical approaches. The materials include an on-line system that provides video examples of student work and pedagogy in action. The project also includes development of resources for the community so that learning opportunities linked to classroom activities can occur outside of school. Particular attention is paid to developing reading literacy.

Developing an Empirically-tested Learning Progression for the Transformation of Matter to Inform Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Design

A principled framework is created for the development of learning progressions in science that can demonstrate how their use can transform the way researchers, educators and curriculum developers conceptualize important scientific constructs. Using the construct of transformation of matter, which requires understanding of both discrete learning goals and also the connections between them, a hypothetical learning progression is constructed for grades 5-12.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822038
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/15/2008 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

A principled framework is created for the development of learning progressions in science that can demonstrate how their use can transform the way researchers, educators and curriculum developers conceptualize important scientific constructs. Using the construct of transformation of matter, which requires understanding of both discrete learning goals and also the connections between them, a hypothetical learning progression is constructed for grades 5-12. Assessments are developed that link to the learning progression and require students to use cognitively challenging activities such as construction of models and scientific explanation to demonstrate their understanding of topics related to transformation of matter. The resultant set of assessment items can be used to place students along the transformation of matter learning progression, regardless of curriculum. The learning progression is empirically tested in grades 6-8 using mainly, but not exclusively, the chemistry units of the IQWST curriculum in a three year longitudinal study that measures the longitudinal progression of students and the cross-sectional development of teachers as they gain experience with the curriculum. The framework developed for creating the tools can inform the learning of other core ideas in science in emergent sciences that are inherently interdisciplinary. Also investigated is the relationship between student and teacher factors and different levels of students' developmental learning.

Concept Inventories and Chemistry Misconceptions: Chemistry Education Research Doctoral Scholars Program

In response to the critical need for scholars with deep content knowledge in chemistry and the specialized training to conduct CER, this capacity building project prepares scholars whose research marries expertise in instrument design with extensive literature on chemistry misconceptions, resulting in the development of concept inventories as reliable and valid measures of student learning for use by chemistry teachers (both high school and post-secondary) and chemistry education researchers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733642
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2007 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Dr. Jennifer Lewis, University of South Florida; Dr. Maralee Mayberry, University of South Florida

Communication in Science Inquiry Project (CISIP)

CISIP is a professional development program that enables English and science teachers to help students to learn content and communicate scientifically. The CISIP program: Translates How Students Learn Science in the Classroom and Common Core State Standards for student success; targets learning within a classroom discourse community that focuses on argumentation; and takes a team of science and English teachers at schools from middle level through university who collaborate.

Project Email: 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0353469
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2004 to Fri, 12/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
M. J. Young

Chemistry Facets: Formative Assessment to Improve Student Understanding in Chemistry

This project implemented a facets-of-thinking perspective to design tools and practices to improve high school chemistry teachers' formative assessment practices. Goals are to identify and develop clusters of facets related to key chemistry concepts; develop assessment items; enhance the assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials; develop teacher professional development and resource materials; and examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733169
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2007 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Heller Research Associates
Full Description: 

Supported by research on students' preconceptions, particularly in chemistry, and the need to build on the knowledge and skills that students bring to the classroom, this project implements a facets-of-thinking perspective for the improvement of formative assessment, learning, and instruction in high school chemistry. Its goals are: to identify and develop clusters of facets (students' ideas and understandings) related to key high school chemistry concepts; to develop assessment items that diagnose facets within each cluster; to enhance the existing web-based Diagnoser assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials for interpreting and using the assessment data; to develop teacher professional development and resource materials to support their use of facet-based approaches in chemistry; and to examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

The proposed work builds on two previously NSF-funded projects focused on designing Diagnoser (ESI-0435727) in the area of physics and on assessment development to support the transition to complex science learning (REC-0129406). The work plan is organized in three strands: (1) Assessment Development, consisting of the development and validation of facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter and the development and validation of question sets related to each facet cluster, including their administration to chemistry classes; (2) Professional Development, through which materials will be produced for a teacher workshop focused on the assessment-for-learning cycle; and (3) Technology Development, to upgrade the Diagnoser authoring system and to include chemistry facets and assessments.

Anticipated products include: (1) 8-10 validated facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter; (2) 12-20 items per facet cluster that provide diagnostic information about student understanding in relation to the facet clusters; (3) additional instructional materials related to each facet cluster, including 1-3 questions to elicit inital student ideas, a developmental lesson to encourage students' exploration of new concepts, and 3-5 prescriptive lessons to address persistent problematic ideas; and (4) a publically-available web-based Diagnoser for chemistry (www.Diagnoser.com), including student assessments and instructional materials.

An Investigation of the Impact of Strengthening the "T" and "E" Components of STEM in High School Biology and Chemistry Courses

The overriding goal of this project is to strengthen the “T” and “E” components of STEM in high school courses taken by a majority of students. Our hypothesis is that increasing the presence of engineering and technological design at the high school level, specifically by incorporating engineering activities in high school biology and chemistry classes, will improve students’ understanding of science concepts and strengthen students’ 21st century skills more than traditional methods.
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0917540
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012

Connected Chemistry as Formative Assessment

This project is developing, validating, and evaluating computer modeling-based formative assessments to improve student learning in chemistry. Activities include developing a series of computer models related to key topics in high school chemistry, developing questions to probe student understanding of matter and energy, identifying teaching and learning resources appropriate for different levels of student conceptual understanding, and developing professional development resources on integrating formative assessments into high school chemistry courses.

Project Email: 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918295
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
William Boone

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