Earth/Environmental Science

Developing Critical Evaluation as a Scientific Habit of Mind: Instructional Scaffolds for Secondary Earth and Space Sciences

This exploratory project develops and tests graphical scaffolds which facilitate high school students' coordination of connecting evidence with alternative explanations of particular phenomena, as well as their collaborative argumentation about these phenomena. At the same time, the project examines how high school students use these tools to construct scientifically accurate conceptions about major topics in Earth and space sciences and deepens their abilities to be critically evaluative in the process of scientific inquiry.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316057
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This exploratory project develops and tests graphical scaffolds, called model-evidence link (MEL) activities, which facilitate high school students' coordination of connecting evidence with alternative explanations of particular Earth and space sciences phenomena, as well as their collaborative argumentation about these phenomena. At the same time, the project examines how high school students use these tools to construct scientifically accurate conceptions about major topics in Earth and space sciences and deepens their abilities to be critically evaluative in the process of scientific inquiry. The project's research questions are: (1) how does year-long instruction using MEL activities change high school students' critical evaluation abilities; (2) how does use of critical evaluation promote judgment reappraisals about Earth and space science topics with large plausibility gaps; and (3) to what extent does promotion of plausibility reappraisal lead to high school students' construction and reconstruction of scientifically accurate conceptions about fundamental concepts in Earth and space sciences? The project develops three MEL activities that focus on important topics in Earth and space sciences. The topics will be hydraulic fracturing, wetlands, and lunar origin. These MELs were selected because they align with major topical units in Earth and space science (i.e., geology, water resources, and astronomy, respectively).

The project develops effective instructional tools (the MEL activities to stimulate collaborative argumentation) designed to increase high school students' critical evaluation abilities that that are central for fully engaging in these scientific and engineering practices and constructing scientifically accurate understanding. Science topics require students to effectively evaluate connections with evidence and alternative explanations. The development of MEL activities that cover major Earth and space sciences topics will assist teachers in increasing their students' critical evaluation abilities. These tools are developed in geographically diverse settings, including one school district with a Hispanic majority, to gauge their effectiveness in helping all students. Furthermore, the design-based research methods employed in the proposed study are focused on developing tools that can be easily integrated into a variety of science curricula to supplement and reinforce scientific and engineering practices, rather than wholesale replacement. The ability to be critically evaluative is essential for developing a society that characteristically exhibits scientific habits of mind and is equipped to deal with future challenges in a way that is beneficial to our nation.

Promoting Students' Spatial Thinking in Upper Elementary Grades using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

This project explores the potential for enhancing students' interest and ability in STEM disciplines by broadening fourth grade students' understanding and interest in the spatial perspectives inherent in geography and other science disciplines. The project tests a set of hypotheses that posit that the use of GIS in the classroom results in a measureable improvement in students' spatial reasoning and motivation.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316660
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This project explores the potential for enhancing students' interest and ability in STEM disciplines by broadening fourth grade students' understanding and interest in the spatial perspectives inherent in geography and other science disciplines. The study incorporates the latest developments in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) within the classroom. The project tests a set of hypotheses that posit that the use of GIS in the classroom results in a measureable improvement in students' spatial reasoning and motivation. Geography teachers in elementary schools are trained to use GIS software to create digital maps specific to the subject matter and projects on which their students work. Students then work in small collaborative groups and engage in open discussions designed to enhance the development and use of their spatial and multi-step causal reasoning.

GIS has been used in middle and high school settings. This project introduces GIS to upper elementary grades particularly to allow students an early opportunity to be involved in meaningful data and map-driven activities to promote their spatial skills. The proposal team predicts that the traditional gap between girls and boys in spatial skills will shrink with training thus will be strongly pronounced in the experimental relative to control groups. The project documents the effectiveness of instructional practices that are likely to enhance multistep reasoning, systems thinking, conceptual and spatial understanding, and motivation for learning while learning to work with maps to solve problems involving geography and ecological awareness. The project develops instructional methods that incorporate innovative tools for promoting problem solving to address real-life issues in this increasingly technology-driven era. The innovative tool is open-source and designed for professionals, but it can be modified to be child-friendly. Classroom activities are integrated with science and social studies curricula and content standards. Teachers are expected to find the curriculum attractive and easy to implement.

Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP)

This project aims to engage students in meaningful scientific data collection, analysis, visualization, modeling, and interpretation. It targets grades 9-12 science instruction. The proposed research poses the question "How do learners conceive of and interact with empirical data, particularly when it has a hierarchical structure in which parameters and results are at one level and raw data at another?"

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1435470
Funding Period: 
Tue, 10/01/2013 to Fri, 09/30/2016
Full Description: 

This project aims to engage students in meaningful scientific data collection, analysis, visualization, modeling, and interpretation. It targets grades 9-12 science instruction. The proposed research poses the question "How do learners conceive of and interact with empirical data, particularly when it has a hierarchical structure in which parameters and results are at one level and raw data at another?" As working with data becomes an integral part of students' learning across STEM curricula, understanding how students conceive of data grows ever more important. This is particularly timely as science becomes more and more data driven.

The team will develop and test a Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP). STEM curriculum development has moved online, but development of tools for students to engage in data analysis has yet to follow suit. As a result, online curriculum development projects are often forced to develop their own data analysis tools, settle for desktop tools, or do without. In a collaboration with NSF-funded projects at the Concord Consortium, Educational Development Center, and University of Minnesota, the project team is developing an online, open source data analysis platform that can be used not only by these three projects, but subsequently by others.

The proposed research breaks new ground both in questions to be investigated and in methodology. The investigations build on prior research on students' understanding of data representation, measures of center and spread, and data modeling to look more closely at students' understanding of data structures especially as they appear in real scientific situations. Collaborative design based on three disparate STEM projects will yield a flexible data analysis environment that can be adopted by additional projects in subsequent years. Such a design process increases the likelihood that CODAP will be more than a stand-alone tool, and can be meaningfully integrated into online curricula. CODAP's overarching goal is to improve the preparation of students to fully participate in an increasingly data-driven society. It proposes to do so by improving a critical piece of infrastructure: namely, access to classroom-friendly data analysis tools by curriculum developers who wish to integrate student engagement with data into content learning.

This project is asociated with award number 1316728 with the same title.

Innovate to Mitigate: A Crowdsourced Carbon Challenge

This project is designing and conducting a crowd-sourced open innovation challenge to young people of ages 13-18 to mitigate levels of greenhouse gases. The goal of the project is to explore the extent to which the challenge will successfully attract, engage and motivate teen participants to conduct sustained and meaningful scientific inquiry across science, technology and engineering disciplines.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316225
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This project is designing and conducting a crowd-sourced open innovation challenge to young people of ages 13-18 to mitigate levels of greenhouse gases. The goal of the project is to explore the extent to which the challenge will successfully attract, engage and motivate teen participants to conduct sustained and meaningful scientific inquiry across science, technology and engineering disciplines. Areas in which active cutting edge research on greenhouse gas mitigation is currently taking place include, among others, biology (photosynthesis, or biomimicry of photosynthesis to sequester carbon) and chemistry (silicon chemistry for photovoltaics, carbon chemistry for decarbonization of fossil fuels). Collaborating in teams of 2-5, participants engage with the basic science in these areas, and become skilled at applying scientific ideas, principles, and evidence to solve a design problem, while taking into account possible unanticipated effects. They refine their solutions based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

An interactive project website describes specifications for the challenge and provides rubrics to support rigor. It includes a library of relevant scientific resources, and, for inspiration, links to popular articles describing current cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs in mitigation. Graduate students recruited for their current work on mitigation projects provide online mentoring. Social networking tools are used to support teams and mentors in collaborative scientific problem-solving. If teams need help while working on their challenges, they are able to ask questions of a panel of expert scientists and engineers who are available online. At the end of the challenge, teams present and critique multimedia reports in a virtual conference, and the project provides awards for excellence.

The use of open innovation challenges for education provides a vision of a transformative setting for deep learning and creative innovation that at the same time addresses a problem of critical importance to society. Researchers study how this learning environment improves learning and engagement among participants. This approach transcends the informal/formal boundaries that currently exist, both in scientific and educational institutions, and findings are relevant to many areas of research and design in both formal and informal settings. Emerging evidence suggests that open innovation challenges are often successfully solved by participants who do not exhibit the kinds of knowledge, skill or disciplinary background one might expect. In addition, the greater the diversity of solvers is, the greater the innovativeness of challenge solutions tends to be. Therefore, it is expected that the free choice learning environment, the nature of the challenge, the incentives, and the support for collaboration will inspire the success of promising young participants from underserved student populations, as well as resulting in innovative solutions to the challenge given the diversity of teams.

High Adventure Science: Earths Systems and Sustainability

This project is developing modules for middle school and high school students in Earth and Space Science classes, testing the hypothesis that students who use computational models, analyze real-world data, and engage in building scientific reasoning and argumentation skills are better able to understand Earth science core ideas and how humans impact Earth's systems. The resulting online curriculum modules and teacher guides provide exciting examples of next generation Earth science teaching and learning materials.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1220756
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 to Fri, 09/30/2016
Project Evaluator: 
Karen Mutch-Jones
Full Description: 

We have entered the Anthropocene, an age when the actions of seven billion humans have increasing influence on the Earth. The High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability project is developing modules for middle school and high school students in Earth and Space Science classes, testing the hypothesis that students who use computational models, analyze real-world data, and engage in building scientific reasoning and argumentation skills are better able to understand Earth science core ideas and how humans impact Earth's systems. The Concord Consortium in partnership with the University of California Santa Cruz and the National Geographic Society are co-developing these modules, conducting targeted research on how the modules enhance students' higher order thinking skills and understanding of human-Earth interactions, and broadly disseminating these materials via far-reaching education networks.

The High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability project is creating online, middle and high school curriculum modules that feature computational models and cover five topics: climate change, fresh water availability, fossil fuel utilization, resource sustainability, and land use management. At the same time, the project team is conducting design studies to look at how specific features, prompts, argumentation and evaluation tools built into the modules affect student understanding of core Earth science concepts. The design studies promote rapid, iterative module development and help to identify features that support student learning, as well as scientific reasoning, scientific argumentation with uncertainty, systems thinking, and model-based experimentation skills. For each module, pre- and posttest data, embedded assessments, student surveys, classroom observations, teacher interviews and surveys, provide important information to rapidly improve module features, content, and usability. The final, high-quality, project materials are being made available to a national audience through the National Geographic Society as well as through the High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability website hosted at the Concord Consortium.

It is essential that students graduate from high school with a solid understanding of the scientific concepts that help explain how humans impact Earth systems, and conversely, how Earth processes impact humans. The High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability project provides a unique, research-based approach to conveying to students core Earth science content, crosscutting concepts, and fundamental practices of science. The resulting online curriculum modules and teacher guides provide exciting examples of next generation Earth science teaching and learning materials, and the research findings provide new insights on how students learn core science concepts and gain critical scientific skills.

Ocean Tracks: Investigating Marine Migrations in a Changing Ocean (Collaborative Research: Krumhansl)

Ocean Tracks is developing and classroom testing powerful Web-based visualization and analysis tools derived from state-of-the-art knowledge about how to support student inquiry with data. Powerful Web-based visualization and analysis tools, derived from state-of-the-art knowledge about how to support student inquiry with data, allow students to learn and apply core concepts in ecology, biology, environmental science, earth science, oceanography, and climate science.

Award Number: 
1222413
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2012 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Full Description: 

Ocean Tracks: Investigating Marine Migrations in a Changing Ocean, a collaboration between Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), and Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, is developing a unique model of how to enable high school students to use authentic scientific data via an interactive Web-interface. Ocean Tracks is developing and classroom testing powerful Web-based visualization and analysis tools derived from state-of-the-art knowledge about how to support student inquiry with data. An interactive website provides access to near-real-time and archival data from electronically tagged marine animals, drifting buoys, and Earth-orbiting satellites collected through the Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Adopt-a-Drifter, and MY NASA DATA programs. Powerful Web-based visualization and analysis tools, derived from state-of-the-art knowledge about how to support student inquiry with data, allow students to learn and apply core concepts in ecology, biology, environmental science, earth science, oceanography, and climate science.

Concurrently, agencies such as the NSF, NOAA, and NASA are making significant investments in sophisticated cyberinfrastructures (CI) that will make available a treasure trove of scientific data via the Internet to scientists and educators; there is tremendous potential for this data to transform teaching and learning by engaging students in authentic scientific work. However, modifying expert-data interfaces for use by students and supporting students as they engage in scientific inquiry with data are significant challenges. There is an urgent need for model programs such as Ocean Tracks that instantiate the best knowledge of experienced educators and education researchers, practicing scientists, and technology experts. Ocean Tracks harnesses the promise of emerging CI to engage high school students in the use of data visualization tools to study the movement patterns and habitat usage of marine animals (e.g., sharks, tunas, turtles, seals, and seabirds) in relation to oceanographic variables (e.g., sea surface temperature, chlorophyll, and current speed and direction). The knowledge gained from Ocean Tracks will have broad impact by serving as a model for designing and implementing projects in which students, teachers, and scientists collaborate to conduct scientific research, even in classrooms that are far from the ocean and scientists' laboratories.

Ocean Tracks: Investigating Marine Migrations in a Changing Ocean (Collaborative Research: Block)

Ocean Tracks is developing and classroom testing powerful Web-based visualization and analysis tools derived from state-of-the-art knowledge about how to support student inquiry with data. Powerful Web-based visualization and analysis tools, derived from state-of-the-art knowledge about how to support student inquiry with data, allow students to learn and apply core concepts in ecology, biology, environmental science, earth science, oceanography, and climate science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1222220
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2012 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Full Description: 

Ocean Tracks: Investigating Marine Migrations in a Changing Ocean, a collaboration between Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), and Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, is developing a unique model of how to enable high school students to use authentic scientific data via an interactive Web-interface. Ocean Tracks is developing and classroom testing powerful Web-based visualization and analysis tools derived from state-of-the-art knowledge about how to support student inquiry with data. An interactive website provides access to near-real-time and archival data from electronically tagged marine animals, drifting buoys, and Earth-orbiting satellites collected through the Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Adopt-a-Drifter, and MY NASA DATA programs. Powerful Web-based visualization and analysis tools, derived from state-of-the-art knowledge about how to support student inquiry with data, allow students to learn and apply core concepts in ecology, biology, environmental science, earth science, oceanography, and climate science.

Concurrently, agencies such as the NSF, NOAA, and NASA are making significant investments in sophisticated cyberinfrastructures (CI) that will make available a treasure trove of scientific data via the Internet to scientists and educators; there is tremendous potential for this data to transform teaching and learning by engaging students in authentic scientific work. However, modifying expert-data interfaces for use by students and supporting students as they engage in scientific inquiry with data are significant challenges. There is an urgent need for model programs such as Ocean Tracks that instantiate the best knowledge of experienced educators and education researchers, practicing scientists, and technology experts. Ocean Tracks harnesses the promise of emerging CI to engage high school students in the use of data visualization tools to study the movement patterns and habitat usage of marine animals (e.g., sharks, tunas, turtles, seals, and seabirds) in relation to oceanographic variables (e.g., sea surface temperature, chlorophyll, and current speed and direction). The knowledge gained from Ocean Tracks will have broad impact by serving as a model for designing and implementing projects in which students, teachers, and scientists collaborate to conduct scientific research, even in classrooms that are far from the ocean and scientists' laboratories.

Mathematical and Computational Methods for Planning a Sustainable Future

This Exploratory Project is developing two prototype innovative instructional modules for grades 9-12 modules, and testing them extensively for usability and impact. These modules will emphasize the role of mathematics and computer science in planning for sustainability.

Award Number: 
1220022
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 to Tue, 09/30/2014
Full Description: 

This Exploratory Project is developing two prototype innovative instructional modules for grades 9-12 modules, and testing them extensively for useability and impact. These modules will emphasize the role of mathematics and computer science in planning for sustainability. The primary hypotheses is that short (roughly one week) interdisciplinary modules can positively impact students' in the following ways:

- attitudes toward mathematics and computer science by immersion in sustainability topics of personal relevance;

- facility with cross-cutting skills in mathematical and computational methods;

- awareness of interdisciplinary issues in sustainability;

- empowerment to engage in sustainability discourse and exercise responsible citizenship;

- learning of the STEM practices and modes of inquiry necessary to become the next generation of interdisciplinary problem solvers;

- awareness of STEM educational opportunities and career paths related to sustainable living.

The project is conducted by Rutgers Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP), Colorado State University (CSU), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and at multiple schools.

Topics for the initial two modules will be chosen by a high level Advisory Board from the following: Passive Solar Building Design, Weather Generators, Hydrologic Cycles, Invasive Species and Percolation, and Uncertainties with Projections in Climate Models. Each module will contain a description of career opportunities and related jobs, and highlight a person in one such job. Module writer teams of 2-3 writers consisting of at least one content expert and one pedagogical expert and/or experienced teacher will write the two modules in the first year; they will be tested with high school students in a summer prototyping workshop held at The Groton School in the summer between the two years of the project; revised during that summer; field tested in diverse high schools during the fall of the second year; revised again during the spring; and prepared for publication at the end of the two years.

Researching the Efficacy of the Science and Literacy Academy Model (Collaborative Research: Strang)

This project is studying three models of professional development (PD) to test the efficacy of a practicum for grade 3-5 in-service teachers organized in three cohorts of 25. There will be 75 teachers and their students directly impacted by the project. Additional impacts of the project are research results and professional development materials, including a PD implementation guide and instructional videos.

Award Number: 
1223021
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2012 to Sun, 07/31/2016
Full Description: 

This award is doing a research study of three models of professional development (PD) to test the efficacy of a practicum for grade 3-5 in-service teachers organized in three cohorts of 25. Model 1 is a one-week institute based on classroom discourse practices and a 2-week practicum (cohort 1). Model 2 is the one-week institute (cohort 2). Model 3 is a "business as usual" model (cohort 3) based on normal professional development provided by the school district. Cohorts 1 and 2 experience the interventions in year 1 with four follow-up sessions in each of years 2 and 3. In year 4 they receive no PD, but are being observed to see if they sustain the practices learned. Cohort 3 receives no treatment in years 1 and 2, but participates in a revised version of the institute plus practicum in year 3 with four follow up sessions in year 4. The Lawrence Hall of Science provides the professional development, and Stanford University personnel are conducting the research. The teachers come from the Oakland Unified School District. Science content is the GEMS Ocean Sciences Sequence.

There are 3 research questions;

1. In what ways do practicum-based professional development models influence science instructional practice?

2. What differences in student outcomes are associated with teachers' participation in the different PD programs?

3. Is the impact of the revised PD model different from the impact of the original model?

This is a designed-based research model. Teacher data is based on interviews on beliefs about teaching and the analysis of video tapes of their practicum and classroom performance using the Discourse in Inquiry Science Classrooms instrument. Student data is based on the GEMS unit pre- and post-tests and the California Science Test for 5th graders. Multiple analyses are being conducted using different combinations of the data from 8 scales across 4 years.

There will be 75 teachers and their students directly impacted by the project. Additional impacts of the project are research results and professional development materials, including a PD implementation guide and instructional videos. These will be presented in publications and conference presentations and be posted on linked websites at the Lawrence Hall of Science and the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching at Stanford University.

SimScientists Assessments: Physical Science Links

The goal of this project is to develop and validate a middle school physical science assessment strand composed of four suites of simulation-based assessments for integrating into balanced (use of multiple measures), large-scale accountability science testing systems. It builds on the design templates, technical infrastructure, and evidence of the technical quality, feasibility, and instructional utility of the NSF-funded Calipers II project. The evaluation plan addresses both formative and summative aspects.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1221614
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 to Fri, 09/30/2016
Full Description: 

The goal of this project is to develop and validate a middle school physical science assessment strand composed of four suites of simulation-based assessments for integrating into balanced (use of multiple measures), large-scale accountability science testing systems. It builds on the design templates, technical infrastructure, and evidence of the technical quality, feasibility, and instructional utility of the NSF-funded Calipers II project. The assessment strand consists of multilevel (increased thinking levels) assessment designs grounded on evidence-centered principles that target practices and key disciplinary conceptual schemes, such as matter, motion, energy, and waves identified in the National Research Council report "A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Knowledge, and Core Ideas". The assessment model vertically links simulations (interactive with feedback to students, coaching, and reflection); curriculum-embedded assessments for formative use; unit benchmark assessment for interim summative purposes; and a set of "signature tasks" (short-term simulations on recurring problem types). Members of the Advisory Board and an Assessment Review Panel actively participate in the development and implementation of this effort. Heller Research Associates is the external evaluator. The evaluation plan addresses both formative and summative aspects.

The project's theory of action is based on model-based learning and evidence-centered design reflective of the notion that the construct of science is multidimensional, requiring (a) understanding how the components of a science conceptual system interact to produce behaviors of the system; and (b) the use of inquiry practices to investigate the dynamic behaviors and underlying components' interactions of the system. A total of eight research and development questions guide the scope of work. The questions focus on: (a) validity (substantive and technical quality) of the individual simulation assessments; and (b) classroom implementation (feasibility, fidelity, utility). The methodology for test construction and revision follows the testing standards of major professional organizations (i.e., American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council of Measurement in Education) through three development phases. Phase I (Assessment Development) focuses on the alignment, quality, and prototype testing, including leverage and modification of prior work, and design of new assessment suites and signature tasks. Phase II (Pilot and Validation Studies) deals with the testing of all assessments, research instruments, and study methods. Phase III (Cross-Validation Studies) substantiates the multilevel integration assessment model, cross-validates the assessments piloted in Phase II, and establishes a reliable argument that the assessments measure the intended content and inquiry practices suitable for use in district and state-level assessment systems.

Expected outcomes are: (1) a research-informed and field-tested physical science simulations-based assessment model with high potential for extended use in middle school grades; and (2) a policy brief that provides recommendations for integrating assessments into districts and state large-scale, multi-level, balanced science assessments.

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