Engineering

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.

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.

Toward Integrated STEM Education: Developing a Research Agenda

The goal of the study is to craft a research agenda that will examine the value of an integrated STEM education to students (K-12) in terms of learning achievement, motivation, and career aspirations. The final report summarizes the findings from the data gathering and analysis and the committee's conclusions and recommendations for a research agenda. This report is disseminated through presentations, publication of print and online articles and editorials and briefings to relevant stakeholders.
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1114829
Funding Period: 
Wed, 06/01/2011 to Sat, 05/31/2014
Full Description: 

The National Academy of Engineering is conducting a comprehensive examination of the current state of integrated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in K-12 schools. STEM education is a recognized priority for K-12 education but to date most of the attention and funding has been focused on improving the single-letter components of STEM and mainly only science and mathematics. This study focuses attention on the potential benefits of teaching and learning that combine or integrate essential content and processes of two or more of the four STEM disciplines with particular emphasis on technology and engineering. Preliminary evidence suggests that integrated STEM may produce gains in students' academic interest and achievement as well as influence career aspirations. The goal of the study is to craft a research agenda that will examine the value of an integrated STEM education to students (K-12) in terms of learning achievement, motivation, and career aspirations. The final report summarizes the findings from the data gathering and analysis and the committee's conclusions and recommendations for a research agenda. This report is disseminated through presentations to relevant groups, publication of print and online articles and editorials and briefings to relevant stakeholders. About 75% of the funding for this study is provided through private foundations

The study is done by a carefully selected project committee of 12-14 experts in diverse fields relevant to the focus of the effort appointed by the president of the National Academy of Engineering. They are supported by knowledgeable Academy staff. The Committee meets six times over 30 months. The first workshop is to devise a conceptual framework or taxonomy of the multiple ways integration can occur. Other workshops inform the Committee about specific issues relevant to integrated STEM education. The project includes a review of the literature on integrated teaching and learning, primary qualitative research on the current practices in integrated teaching (surveys, curriculum analyses, interviews and site visits), and review of policy at the district, state, and national levels. The goal of the study is to develop a research agenda that will examine the value of an integrated STEM education to students (K-12) in terms of learning achievement, motivation, and career aspirations. An external evaluator assesses the data gathering effort, the project's communication and outreach efforts and the impact of the final report. Surveys and/or interviews with workshop participants and others determine how the report influences the national discussion STEM education. The final evaluation report distills the lessons learned and the implications for next steps in studying the integrated STEM concept.

The project and the final consensus report are designed to inform stakeholder groups that have an interest in understanding the limits and potential of integrated STEM. The stakeholders include federal and state agencies with a role in education, foundations, STEM teacher organizations and STEM professional societies as well as practitioners and the general public.

Integrating Engineering and Literacy

This project is developing and testing curriculum materials and a professional development model designed to explore the potential for introducing engineering concepts in grades 3 - 5 through design challenges based on stories in popular children's literature. The research team hypothesizes that professional development for elementary teachers using an interdisciplinary method for combining literature with engineering design challenges will increase the implementation of engineering in 3-5 classrooms and have positive impacts on students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020243
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Wed, 05/31/2017
Full Description: 

The Integrating Engineering and Literacy (IEL) project is developing and testing curriculum materials and a professional development model designed to explore the potential for introducing engineering concepts in grades 3 - 5 through design challenges based on stories in popular children's literature. The project research and development team at Tufts University is working with pre-service teachers to design and test the curriculum modules for students and the teacher professional development model. Then the program is tested and refined in work with 100 in-service teachers and their students in a diverse set of Massachusetts schools. The research team hypothesizes that professional development for elementary teachers using an interdisciplinary method for combining literature with engineering design challenges will increase the implementation of engineering in 3-5 classrooms and have positive impacts on students. The driving questions behind this proposed research are: (1) How do teachers' engineering (and STEM) content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and perceptions or attitudes toward engineering influence their classroom teaching of engineering through literacy? (2) Do teachers create their own personal conceptions of the engineering design process, and what do these conceptions look like? (3) What engineering/reading thinking skills are students developing by participating in engineering activities integrated into their reading and writing work? The curriculum materials and teacher professional development model are being produced by a design research strategy that uses cycles of develop/test/refine work. The effects of the program are being evaluated by a variety of measures of student and teacher learning and practice. The project will contribute materials and research findings to the ultimate goal of understanding how to provide elementary school students with meaningful opportunities to learn engineering and develop valuable problem solving and thinking skills.

Embodied STEM Learning Across Technology-Based Learning Environments

This project conducts interdisciplinary research to advance understanding of embodied learning as it applies to STEM topics across a range of current technology-based learning environments (e.g., desktop simulations, interactive whiteboards, and 3D interactive environments). The project has two central research questions: How are student knowledge gains impacted by the degree of embodied learning and to what extent do the affordances of different technology-based learning environments constrain or support embodied learning for STEM topics?

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020367
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Sun, 07/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Susan Haag
Full Description: 

This project conducts interdisciplinary research to advance understanding of embodied learning as it applies to STEM topics across a range of current technology-based learning environments (e.g., desktop simulations, interactive whiteboards, and 3D interactive environments). The project builds on extensive research, including prior work of the PIs, regarding both embodied learning and statistical learning. The PIs describe embodied learning as engaging the neuromuscular systems of learners as they interact with the world around them visually, aurally, and kinesthetically in order to construct new knowledge structures. Statistical learning is described as the ability to learn, often without intent, which sequences of stimuli are consistent with a set of rules. An example of statistical learning is pattern recognition, which is central to mastery of complex topics in many STEM disciplines including physics and mathematics.

The project has two central research questions: How are student knowledge gains impacted by the degree of embodied learning and to what extent do the affordances of different technology-based learning environments constrain or support embodied learning for STEM topics? To investigate these questions, the PIs are conducting three series of experiments in five phases using two physics topics. The first four phases are developmental and the final phase implements and assesses the two modules in schools (20 plus teachers, 700 plus K-12 students) in Arizona and New York (15 total sites, 10 plus public schools, minimum one Title I school).

The aim of this project is to meld these two research trajectories to yield two key outcomes: 1) basic research regarding embodiment and statistical learning that can be applied to create powerful STEM learning experiences, and 2) the realization of exemplary models and principles to aid curriculum and technology designers in creating learning scenarios that take into account the level of embodiment that a given learning environment affords.

The Influence of MESA Activities on Underrepresented Students

The Math, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) outreach programs are partnerships between K-12 schools and higher education that for over forty years introduce science, mathematics and engineering to students traditionally underrepresented in the discipline. This project examines the influences MESA activities (field trips, guest lecturers, design competitions, hands-on activities and student career and academic advisement) have on students' perception of engineering, their self-efficacy and interest in engineering, and their subsequent decisions to pursue careers in engineering.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020019
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Wed, 07/31/2013
Full Description: 

The Math, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) outreach programs are partnerships between K-12 schools and higher education in eight states that for over forty years introduce science, mathematics and engineering to K-12 students traditionally underrepresented in the discipline. This exploratory study examines the influences that those MESA activities have on students' perception of engineering and their self-efficacy and interest in engineering and their subsequent decisions to pursue careers in engineering. The MESA activities to be studied include field trips, guest lecturers, design competitions, hands-on activities and student career and academic advisement.

About 1200 students selected from 40 MESA sites in California, Maryland and Utah are surveyed with instruments that build on those used in prior studies. Focus groups with a randomly selected subset of the students provide follow-up and probe the influence of the most promising activities. In the first year of the project the instruments, based on existing instruments, are developed and piloted. Data are taken in the second year and analyzed in the third year. A separate evaluation determines that the protocols are reasonable and are being followed.

The results are applicable to a number of organizations with similar aims and provide information for increasing the number of engineers from underrepresented populations. The project also investigates the correlation between student engagement in MESA and academic performance. This project provides insights on activities used in informal settings that can be employed in the classroom practice and instructional materials to further engage students, especially student from underrepresented groups, in the study of STEM.

DRK12-Biograph: Graphical Programming for Constructing Complex Systems Understanding in Biology

This project will investigate how complex systems concepts supported by innovative curricular resources, technology applications and a comprehensive research and development structure can assist student learning in the domain of biology by providing a unifying theme across scales of time and space. The project seeks to address four areas of critical need in STEM education: biological sciences, complex systems, computational modeling, and equal access for all.

Award Number: 
1019228
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
David Reider
Full Description: 

This proposal outlines a research and development project that investigates how complex systems concepts supported by innovative curricular resources, technology applications and a comprehensive research and development structure can assist student learning in the domain of biology by providing a unifying theme across scales of time and space. The project seeks to address four areas of critical need in STEM education: biological sciences, complex systems, computational modeling, and equal access for all. This proposal explores how these needs are addressed through a curricular and technological intervention that structures biology learning through the framework of complex systems and computational modeling. The primary partners are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, working with eight teachers in four schools in the Boston area.

The project integrates graphical programming and simulation software, StarLogo TNG, into the standard high school biology curriculum to improve learning of biology concepts through the introduction and understanding of core complex systems processes. Instead of learning biology in discrete chunks, the chosen biological topics are connected through the framework of complex systems, and successively build in complexity from the basic building blocks of life to the interdependence and sustainability of life forms. This approach is designed to help students understand how processes at one level are connected to those at another level. The research is designed to answer the following questions: 1. Does a learning progression based on the complex systems ideas of scale and emergence enable students to make connections across biological topics, remediate known misconceptions, and apply core complex systems principles better than traditional instructional sequences? 2. What are the on-going affordances and constraints of implementation taking into consideration structural, functional and behavioral variables and what changes to project activities yield increased implementation and learning capacities? 3. Does programming of simulations increase understanding of complex systems and biology concepts compared to use of previously constructed simulations? The evaluation is designed to collect data and provide feedback on the adherence to the plan, the implementation challenged, and how research informs development.

The project anticipates a number of deliverables towards the end of the project and beyond. These include the creation of a unified high school biology curricular sequence that builds in increasing spatial and temporal scales to deepen student understanding of four core biology topics; the production, implementation and testing of curricular activities that acknowledge and ameliorate known implementation challenges; and the development of curricular strategies and tools to help teachers and students improve knowledge and skills in computational modeling, computer programming and participation in the cyberinfrastructure. In order to increase ease of integration into schools, and enhance scalability, the simulation activities are facilitated by a new web-based version of StarLogo TNG that integrates the curricular materials all of which will be distributed freely. Additional dissemination strategies include a website, conferences, a newsletter, community activities, active dissemination, and academic presentations.

Discovery Research K-12

Twelve fifth and sixth grade science teacher specialists and their students in a high needs district in Ohio are engaged in a design-based research project within a three-year professional development effort with faculty in several departments at the University of Cincinnati to study how the engineering design process can be used effectively as a pedagogical strategy in science instruction to improve student interest, learning and skill development.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1019672
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Wed, 07/31/2013
Full Description: 

Ten fifth and sixth grade science teacher specialists and their students in a high needs district in Ohio are engaged in a design-based research project within a three-year professional development effort with faculty in several departments at the University of Cincinnati to study how the engineering design process can be used effectively as a pedagogical strategy in science instruction to improve student interest, learning and skill development. Stage 1 of the exploratory project is articulation of engineering design, science content, and scientific inquiry using teacher learning teams to identify effective curriculum structures and instructional strategies, including the development of instructional materials. Stage 2 focuses on student outcomes on standardized tests and authentic assessments and improved student problem solving skills. The project is embedded in a revision of the Ohio Science Standards in which science content is juxtaposed with 21st century skills and other content areas. Dissemination is through the Cincinnati STEM Network, the Ohio State STEM Learning Network and through professional organizations and publications. The University of Cincinnati Evaluation Services Center evaluates the processes and outcomes.

The research seeks to define STEM education and develop needed resources to support the teaching and learning of STEM. The operationalization of STEM education requires teachers to infuse engineering into the usual school subjects of mathematics and science. The research seeks to understand how STEM can be operationalized in the elementary classroom and focuses on investigating how a real-world, authentic approach articulating science and eventually mathematics with engineering does indeed increase student engagement and motivation for learning all three subjects. The research issues address what articulation of engineering design and science inquiry looks like in the classroom and the challenges to articulating them. The research also investigates the skills and habits of mind that can be taught this way and the impact on student achievement. The evaluation determines how well the research adheres to the processes and timeline developed and monitors impacts on teacher and students.

Articulating engineering design with science content and scientific inquiry emphasizes the authentic investigation and real world problem solving that increases student interest in STEM content and improves student learning and achievement in science and mathematics. The research will contribute to understanding of how this STEM education can be operationalized in the elementary classroom. This study takes into account the complexity of the classroom and provides a situated context that could be used to inform other school contexts.

Engaging Youth in Engineering Module Study

This project is revising and field testing six existing modules and developing, pilot testing, and field testing two engineering modules for required middle school science and mathematics classes: Catch Me if You Can! with a focus on seventh grade life science; and Creating Bioplastics targeting eighth grade physical science. Each module addresses an engineering design challenge of relevance to industries in the region and fosters the development of engineering habits of mind.

Award Number: 
0918769
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
James Van Haneghan

Knowledge Synthesis on STEM Teachers in Professional Learning Communities

This project is evaluating existing knowledge about STEM teachers in professional learning communities (PLCs), both prospective teachers and classroom teachers across grades K-12. It will comprehensively synthesize peer-reviewed research but will also examine additional types of knowledge that influence the field. The project methods adapt those of Knowledge Management and Dissemination project, funded by NSF MSP and seeks to further advance the scope and rigor of knowledge synthesis.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822013
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Tue, 08/31/2010

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