Chemistry

Developing, Researching, and Scaling Up SmartGraphs

SmartGraphs activities run in a web browser; there is no software to download or install. SmartGraphs allows students to interact with on-screen graphs to learn about linear equations, the motion of objects, population dynamics, global warming, or other STEM topics that use scatter plots or line graphs. Teachers and students may also use and share existing activities, which are released under a Creative Commons license (see http://www.concord.org/projects/smartgraphs#curriculum).

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918522
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/15/2009 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Sigmund Abeles
Full Description: 

SmartGraphs is a project that studies the educational value of digital objects embedded in graphs that “know” about themselves and that provide scaffolding to students to help them learn about graphs and the concepts conveyed in graphs. As planned, digital Smart Graphs can be authored or customized by teachers and accept inputs from students’ responses, sketches, functions, models, and probes. The software analyzes the graphs for the kinds of features that experts recognize and then engages students in conversations that instruct and assess student knowledge.

The project is guided by collaboration between the Concord Consortium and the Pennsylvania State Department of Education Classrooms for the Future program, through which 140,000 laptop computers are deployed to serve 500,000 students. The development of Smart Graphs is based on extensive prior research about students’ use and understanding of graphs (TEEMSS II and Science Universal Design for Learning projects) at the Concord Consortium.

CLUSTER: Investigating a New Model Partnership for Teacher Preparation (Collaborative Research: Steinberg)

This project integrates the informal and formal science education sectors, bringing their combined resources to bear on the critical need for well-prepared and diverse urban science teachers. The study is designed to examine and document the effect of this integrated program on the production of urban science teachers. This study will also research the impact of internships in science centers on improving classroom science teaching in urban high schools.

Award Number: 
0554269
Funding Period: 
Sat, 04/01/2006 to Thu, 03/31/2011
Full Description: 

            CLUSTER (Collaboration for Leadership in Urban Science Teaching, Evaluation and Research) is an NSF-funded TPC project. Its partners are The City College of New York (CCNY), New York Hall of Science (NYHS), and City University of New York’s Center for Advanced Study in Education (CASE). It aims to develop and research a model designed to increase and improve the pool of secondary science teachers who reflect the ethnic distribution of city students and who are prepared to implement inquiry-based science instruction.

            CLUSTER Fellows are undergraduate science majors in New York City. They are recruited, trained, and certified to teach science in New York City middle and high schools. They participate both as students in the CCNY Teacher Education Program and as Explainers in the NYHS Science Career Ladder. Their experiences in class and at the NYHS are integrated and guided by a conceptual framework, which emphasizes science as an active process of discovery where ideas are developed and constructed through meaningful experience.

            CLUSTER aims to produce generalizable knowledge of interest to the field regarding the growth and development of perspective teachers in an experiential training program and to assess the impact and value of the CLUSTER model.

Target Inquiry: Investigating the Teacher and Student Effects of a New Model in Chemistry Teacher Professional Development

This five-year research project has as its central aim the testing of the Target Inquiry (TI) model of teacher professional development with secondary school chemistry teachers. This model emphasizes the importance of the inquiry process in teaching and learning science by combining a research experience for teachers (RET) with curriculum adaptation and action research.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0553215
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/01/2006 to Sat, 04/30/2011
Full Description: 

Inquiry is the foundation of teaching and learning and is therefore at the center of the TI model.  The features of the TI model are designed to encourage and improve inquiry instruction by impacting teachers’ beliefs and attitudes, and content and pedagogical knowledge, as well as providing adequate resources and materials.  The model integrates the core experiences (research experience for teachers (RET), materials adaptation, action research) with the central characteristics of high-quality PD programs (duration, cohort participation, active learning, coherence, and content-focus (Garet, et al., 2001)) in alignment with the National Science Education Professional Development Standards (NRC, 1996) (see TI model on website).

Although many teachers associate inquiry with research scientists, the underlying habits of mind by which one actively acquires new knowledge are the same for a scientist in a research laboratory, a student in a science classroom, or a teacher assessing student understanding (Llewellyn, 2005; AAAS, 1993).  The RET will allow teachers to further develop habits of mind central to inquiry such as curiosity, persistence, reflection, skepticism, and creativity while gaining firsthand experience in how chemistry research is conducted.  However, research has shown that affecting instructional change requires clear connections to classroom practices (Gess-Newsome, 2001), and many teachers have difficulty translating the laboratory research experience to classroom instruction that promotes inquiry habits of mind.  Thus, the other core experiences and supporting features of TI are designed to build upon the RET, facilitating connections between the research laboratory and classroom practices, so that teachers can effectively engage their students in authentic inquiry activities. 

At GVSU, the TI model has been translated into seven graduate chemistry education courses to be taken over three years, with a majority of work to be carried out over three summers.  A five year study of the program, consisting of data from two cohorts shows that teachers beliefs about science inquiry become more aligned with those of practicing scientists following the RET experience; both the RET and materials adaptation experiences are required for significant gains in reformed teaching practices as measured by the RTOP instrument; teachers feel they have developed the skills to help them continue to reform their teaching practices; teachers believe that the use of inquiry instruction engages more of their students and results in better student confidence and retention; and student outcome measures show overall improvement in student content gains as teachers progress through the program.

Evaluation of High School Science Courses

This project collects evidence supporting the validity of test instruments and initial characterization of high school teachers' background and use of materials and pedagogies. The project is constructing and validating multiple forms of test instruments that can be used for the evaluation of interventions (e.g. professional development, implementation of new curricula) and the measurement of aspects of teacher knowledge (e.g. subject matter, knowledge of student misconceptions).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0732151
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/15/2007 to Fri, 07/31/2009

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