Earth/Environmental Science

Unifying Life: Placing Urban Tree Diversity in an Evolutionary Context

This 3-year project seeks to develop and test curricular resources built around handheld mobile technology to study how these materials foster urban middle school student engagement with and learning of local biodiversity and the patterns of evolution.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1221188
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2012 to Tue, 06/30/2015
Full Description: 

City College of New York (CUNY) is conducting a 3-year exploratory project to develop and test curricular resources built around handheld mobile technology to study how these materials foster urban middle school student interest and engagement with local biodiversity and the patterns of evolution. The project aims to develop curricular resources for middle school students around Leafsnap, an iPhone tree identification app, through a co-design process; to pilot test curricular resources in the classrooms of three New York middle school teachers; to develop and revise assessment tools to measure student outcomes; and to field-test curricular resources in the classrooms of ten New York middle school teachers and analyze results to determine how the Leafsnap curriculum affects urban middle school student learning of biodiversity and the patterns of evolution. The results will be used to modify and disseminate curriculum online with the Leafsnap app.

During the project's first year, the curricular resources will be used in two East Harlem middle schools. In the second year, the resources will be used in the classrooms of ten New York City (NYC) public middle school teachers. In the third year, these resources will be integrated into a life science for middle school teachers course as part of CUNY's graduate program in secondary science education, a program specifically designed to prepare teacher candidates for careers in NYC public middle schools. Also, in the project's third year, the curricular resources will be disseminated through the Leafsnap website to a wider online audience.

The project advances understanding of underrepresented urban middle school student learning of local biodiversity in a historical evolutionary context by addressing the three major dimensions of the new Framework for K-12 Science Learning: core science content, the practice of science, and concepts that crosscut all scientific disciplines. Pre- and post-treatment clinical interviews with students will be conducted to provide qualitative insights into how use of the Leafsnap curriculum impacts students' understanding and motivation for identifying and organizing tree diversity.

Modeling Hydrologic Systems in Elementary Science (MoHSES)

This project investigates 3rd-grade students' model-based reasoning about hydrologic systems and how teachers scaffold students' engagement in modeling practices. The research builds upon existing modeling frameworks to guide the development and integration of a long-term conceptual modeling task into the Full Option Science System (FOSS) Water module. The data collected from this project can help inform science curriculum materials development and elementary teacher preparation efforts designed to foster reform-oriented, model-centered elementary science learning environments.

Award Number: 
1443223
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2012 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
UNL Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families, & Schools
Full Description: 

The Modeling Hydrologic Systems in Elementary Science (MoHSES) project involves research and development to investigate 3rd-grade students' model-based reasoning about hydrologic systems and how teachers scaffold students' engagement in modeling practices. The research builds upon existing modeling frameworks to guide the development and integration of a long-term conceptual modeling task into the Full Option Science System (FOSS) Water module. The participants in the study include ten 3rd-grade elementary teachers recruited from diverse settings. The team utilizes an extensive classroom observation system, in-depth interviews with students and teachers, and student artifacts to investigate the following research questions: (1) How do 3rd-grade students construct, use, evaluate, and revise conceptual models of groundwater systems to reason about geospheric components of the water cycle? (2) Are 3rd-grade students able to construct more scientifically-accurate models of groundwater cycling over time? (3) What instructional strategies do 3rd-grade teachers use to support students' model-based reasoning about groundwater systems?

This research can help build a foundation in model-based reasoning about complex global environmental and scientific phenomena in early learners. Investigations of elementary students' model-based reasoning about the water cycle, are largely absent from the literature. The data collected from this project can help inform science curriculum materials development and elementary teacher preparation efforts designed to foster reform-oriented, model-centered elementary science learning environments. This research also informs the development of learning progressions that account for elementary students' learning within a core component of the Earth Sciences.

Educating the Imagination: A Studio Design for Transformative Science Learning

Educating the Imagination will develop a studio approach to science for underrepresented high school students. The approach integrates scientific and artistic habits of mind and forms of engagement for meaningful learning in water-related sciences. Youth will a) investigate significant water-related phenomena, b) develop creative responses to the phenomena that foster new understandings and possibilities for action, and c) exhibit their responses community-wide to involve others in re-imagining water locally and globally.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1135120
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2011 to Mon, 09/30/2013
Full Description: 

TERC, in collaboration with the Boston Arts Academy is developing an innovative studio learning environment for students in grades 7-9. This pilot project focuses on object-centered inquiry about water and water-related problems of local and global significance. The project promotes student learning through multi-faceted studies involving hydrology, history, health, digital media, web-based artifact generation, real world data collection, interactions with scientists and artists, and community exhibitions of student work. The primary goal of the Educating the Imagination project is to develop a more effective model for engaging and improving the science learning and achievement of underrepresented urban students.

Studio learning intentionally integrates experimentation with practices of analysis, interpretation, critique of work and conceptual development. During a four week summer studio program, students, guided by teachers and scientists, will produce research-based projects about water and create plans to exhibit their work in the Boston area during the school year. Students will be assessed along multiple dimensions ranging from the depth of their understanding of water science ideas, their ability to make claims and arguments, their use of multiple tools and modes of representation, and the quality of their presentations. Over a two year period researchers will collect data on the studio design model and student learning to determine which aspects of the studio are effective in engaging students in object-oriented inquiry related to important water science ideas and problems.

Educating the Imagination will provide valuable insights about the studio design model and its application to promote science learning. In addition, this project directly addresses the problem of inequality in opportunities to learn and participate in science by developing and testing an innovative, non-traditional learning model with underrepresented urban students. The results of this project could significantly change how we think about and structure STEM learning environments in urban settings.

Constructing and Critiquing Arguments in Middle School Science Classrooms: Supporting Teachers with Multimedia Educative Curriculum Materials

This project is developing Earth and Space Science multimedia educative curriculum materials (MECMs) and a system to facilitate teachers' learning and beliefs of scientific argumentation. The project is investigating the impact of the MECMs on teachers' beliefs about scientific argumentation and their related pedagogical content knowledge. The overarching research question focuses on how can multimedia educative curriculum materials provide support to middle school science teachers in implementing standards for constructing and critiquing arguments.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1119584
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
Naomi Hupert
Full Description: 

This project between Lawrence Hall of Science and Boston College is developing Earth and Space Science multimedia educative curriculum materials (MECM) and a system to facilitate teachers' learning and beliefs of scientific argumentation. The MECMs include videos, voice-over narratives, diagrammatic representations, images of student writings, and text. The PIs are investigating the impact of the MECMS on teachers' beliefs about scientific argumentation and their related pedagogical content knowledge. The overarching research question, with four sub questions, focuses on how can multimedia educative curriculum materials provide support to middle school science teachers in implementing standards for constructing and critiquing arguments. The four sub questions are: What factors impact teachers' implementation of argumentation instruction in the classroom? How can MECMs be designed to positively impact teachers' beliefs and their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) about argumentation? What is the relationship between teachers' beliefs about the value of argumentation and their implementation of argumentation in the classroom? What impact do MECMs have on teachers' beliefs and PCK?

A mixed method approach is being used to assess teachers' beliefs and pedagogical content knowledge. The PIs are developing and pilot testing teachers' beliefs about scientific argumentation. They will use an iterative design process for the MECMs that will involve 50 teachers. Twenty-five phone interviews will be conducted to investigate factors that impact teachers' implementations of scientific argumentation. Three iterative cycles of design and testing include focus groups, a pilot of the MECMs in six classrooms, and a national field test of 30 classrooms. One hundred teachers will field test the assessment followed by collection of six case studies and data analyses. The project's formative and summative evaluations include monitoring and providing feedback for all activities, and assessments of program implementation and impact.

Teachers need support using field tested multimedia educative materials (MECMs) in learning and delivering science content using a scientific argumentation process. By delivering and engaging the teaching and learning process through iterative design of Earth and Space Science multimedia educative curriculum materials, this project would provide, if successful, teachers and students with the necessary literacy and knowledge about scientific argumentation. The MECMs and approach has the potential for broad implementation in middle schools and beyond for delivering Earth and Space science material to support and teach scientific argumentation.

Promoting Spatial Thinking with Web-Based Geospatial Technologies

This project will develop STEM spatial thinking skills of middle school learners by equipping teachers with earth science investigations and support materials. This project will design, develop, and test curriculum materials that use Web Geospatial Information Systems that includes advanced visualization and geospatial analysis capabilities. The project will analyze how educative curriculum materials can prepare teachers to implement Web-based geospatial science pedagogical approaches to teaching, and document the impacts on student learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118677
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2011 to Sun, 06/30/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Dr. Jean Russo
Full Description: 

The Lehigh Environmental Initiative, the College of Education, and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lehigh University's Exploratory project from the NSF K-12 Discovery Research Program (DR K-12) is addressing the development of STEM spatial thinking skills of middle school learners. To achieve this goal, we focus on enhancing earth science education to ensure that middle school teachers are equipped with well-designed earth science investigations and support materials to promote spatial thinking. This project will design, develop, and test innovative earth science middle school spatial learningcurriculum materials that use Web GIS that includes advanced visualization and geospatial analysis capabilities that include Javascript (an open-source framework for building highly interactive, expressive Web applications that deploy consistently in all major browsers),  that can be hosted on any ArcGIS Server. The project will enable researchers to investigate how Web GIS can best be used to promote both spatial thinking and earth science learning goals with diverse learners, to analyze to what extent educative curriculum materials as a form of embedded professional development can prepare teachers to implement Web-based geospatial science pedagogical approaches to teaching, and to document the impacts in terms of student learning outcomes. The curriculum materials will be developed using frameworks and design principles for spatial learning activities that incorporate an innovative spatial learning design model and the use of educative curriculum materials that have demonstrably promoted learning at the middle school level. The currricular modules we propose will be readily adaptable for incorporation into existing middle school science curricula. 

 The intellectual merit of the project is enhanced by our innovative spatial learning design model and the creation of a new Web GIS to develop spatial thinking skills that are an enhancement to learning earth science content.  We seek to fill a deficiency in curricular materials in the earth sciences by taking advantage of newly available Web GIS applications and tools. This fulfills a pressing need in middle school STEM education. Our materials will provide research-based science learning materials designed for diverse middle school learners to promote spatial thinking. In addition, earth science literacy will be enabled through the use of design principles and frameworks that include robust educative curriculum materials to promote not only student learning, but teacher learning as well. The focus on Web-based spatial thinking and inquiry is unique in that the learning experiences we design for students will promote strong connections between national to global earth science issues while concurrently instilling spatial thinking skills. Our work will be enhanced through a design partnership model for the development of all curriculum materials that includes science educators, scientists, instructional designers, and classroom teachers. The project will advance our knowledge in important and significant ways to help the science education community understand how students develop spatial thinking skills that are essential to learning science and other disciplines with new Web GIS applications.

Broader Impacts and Enhancement for Infrastructure for Research and Education: The project will enable researchers to examine how Web-based geospatial technologies can best be used in a middle school science curriculum to promote learning with diverse learners. It will also elucidate how educative curriculum materials and other professional development experiences can be created to prepare teachers to implement geospatial science pedagogical approaches.  Further, the research conducted will reveal how Web GIS can be used effectively to impact student learning outcomes. The project will contribute to educational infrastructure by creating a series of assessment instruments designed to measure the effectiveness ofWeb-based geospatial learning and inquiry instruction on the development of earth sciences content knowledge and spatial thinking skills. The focus on diverse learners ensures that this project will impact a great number of students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines and careers. The project has a strong dissemination component that includes ESRI, the NSF supported GeoTech Center, and national education organizations. The project will serve the education community more broadly and save other groups and commercial publishers from the time and expense of creating a Web GIS with dynamic applications such as Javascript APIs from scratch.

An Innovative Approach to Earth Science Teacher Preparation: Uniting Science, Informal Science Education, and Schools to Raise Student Achievement

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City, in partnership with New York University, and in collaboration with five high-needs schools, is developing, implementing, and researching a five-year pilot Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program in Earth Science. The program is delivered by the Museum's scientific and education teams and its evaluation covers aspects of the program from recruitment to first year of teaching.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1119444
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
David Silvernail, Center for Education and Policy, University of Southern Maine
Full Description: 

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in collaboration with New York University's Institute for Education and Social Policy and the University of Southern Maine Center for Evaluation and Policy, will develop and evaluate a new teacher education program model to prepare science teachers through a partnership between a world class science museum and high need schools in metropolitan New York City (NYC). This innovative pilot residency model was approved by the New York State (NYS) Board of Regents as part of the state’s Race To The Top award. The program will prepare a total of 50 candidates in two cohorts (2012 and 2013) to earn a Board of Regents-awarded Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree with a specialization in Earth Science for grades 7-12. The program focuses on Earth Science both because it is one of the greatest areas of science teacher shortages in urban areas and because AMNH has the ability to leverage the required scientific and educational resources in Earth Science and allied disciplines, including paleontology and astrophysics.

The proposed 15-month, 36-credit residency program is followed by two additional years of mentoring for new teachers. In addition to a full academic year of residency in high-needs public schools, teacher candidates will undertake two AMNH-based clinical summer residencies; a Museum Teaching Residency prior to entering their host schools, and a Museum Science Residency prior to entering the teaching profession. All courses will be taught by teams of doctoral-level educators and scientists.

The project’s research and evaluation components will examine the factors and outcomes of a program offered through a science museum working with the formal teacher preparation system in high need schools. Formative and summative evaluations will document all aspects of the program. In light of the NYS requirement that the pilot program be implemented in high-need, low-performing schools, this project has the potential to engage, motivate and improve the Earth Science achievement and interest in STEM careers of thousands of students from traditionally underrepresented populations including English language learners, special education students, and racial minority groups. In addition, this project will gather meaningful data on the role science museums can play in preparing well-qualified Earth Science teachers. The research component will examine the impact of this new teacher preparation model on student achievement in metropolitan NYC schools. More specifically, this project asks, "How do Earth Science students taught by first year AMNH MAT Earth Science teachers perform academically in comparison with students taught by first year Earth Science teachers not prepared in the AMNH program?.”

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.

EcoMobile: Blended Real and Virtual Immersive Experiences for Learning Complex Causality and Ecosystems Science

Researchers are studying whether middle school instruction about ecosystem science can be made more engaging and effective by combining immersion experiences in virtual ecosystems with immersion experiences in real ecosystems infused with virtual resources. Project personnel are developing a set of learning resources for deployment by mobile broadband devices that provide students with virtual access to information and simulations while working in the field.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1118530
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

Researchers at Harvard University are studying whether middle school instruction about ecosystem science can be made more engaging and effective by combining immersion experiences in virtual ecosystems with immersion experiences in real ecosystems infused with virtual resources. Project personnel are developing a set of learning resources for deployment by mobile broadband devices that provide students with virtual access to information and simulations while working in the field. The EcoMobile project is testing the hypothesis that student engagement, self-efficacy, and understanding of life science standards will be enhanced if students using a four-week inquiry-based curriculum that provides immersion experiences in simulated ecosystems employ smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices to collect and share data, access on-site information, and visit geo-referenced locations while investigating real ecosystems. Target audiences are middle school students and teachers, curriculum developers, and education researchers.

The project is using quasi-experimental methods to collect data on the usability of the blended environment approach, student gains, and relationships between the two modes of learning. Pilot-test middle school teachers are implementing the EcoMobile curriculum and a comparison curriculum that does not employ mobile devices in the field. Using a variety of assessment instruments and methods, researchers are measuring changes in students' knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy.

Blending virtual and mobile device-enhanced real world learning experiences can potentially enhance student-directed inquiry, enhance learning, and students' ability to understand and solve complex environmental problems. EcoMobile encompasses the types of learning strengths and preferences many students today bring to school, based on their use of social media, mobile devices, and games. Employing virtual and augmented reality learning environments in science classes may broaden the pool of science in science careers by enhancing their engagement in science learning, self-efficacy, and knowledge of science and technology.

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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