Engineering

Design and Development of a K-12 STEM Observation Protocol (Collaborative Research: Ring-Whalen)

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812794
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will be developed for use in K-12 STEM settings. While the importance of integrated STEM education is established, there remains disagreement on models and effective approaches for integrated STEM instruction. This issue is confounded by the lack of observation protocols sensitive to integrated STEM teaching and learning to inform research to the effectiveness of new models and strategies. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments. The STEM-OP will be designed to be used effectively by multiple stakeholders in a variety of contexts. Researchers will benefit from having the STEM-OP available for them to carry out research and continue to improve STEM education in a variety of ways. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments.  The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available online platform. In brief, the STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

The primary product of this project is the new observation protocol called STEM-OP for K-12 classrooms implementing integrated STEM lessons. The project will use over 500 integrated STEM classroom videos to design the STEM-OP. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, the STEM-OP will be a valid and reliable instrument for use in a variety of educational contexts. The research will explore the different ways that elementary, middle, and high school science teachers enact integrated STEM instruction. This study will shed light on the nature of STEM instruction in each of these grade bands and provide information building towards an understanding of learning progressions for engineering practices across grade bands. Research exploring how the nature of STEM integration changes from day to day over the course of a unit will provide critical information about the different sequencing and trajectories of STEM units. Examining how integrated STEM instruction unfolds over a full unit of instruction will inform the understanding of integrated STEM practices at both micro- and macro- levels of analysis. The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available, which will be distributed via a publicly available, online platform that includes a training manual and classroom video for practice scoring.

Exploring the Relationship Between High School Mathematics and Bioscience, Standardized Testing and College Performance in Biotechnology-Related Fields

This project will focus on an early stage exploratory study of an idea that will reveal ways to develop more effective interventions to address student retention in bioscience and bioengineering pipelines. The study will attempt to initiate a new line of research in search of factors associated with bioscience and bioengineering education as a novel approach for uncovering factors that may negatively influence student participation in these fields.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1834733
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

This project will focus on an early stage exploratory study of an idea that will reveal ways to develop more effective interventions to address student retention in bioscience and bioengineering pipelines. As such, this study will help meet future workforce needs by taking a radical approach and looking beyond mathematics as the key major factor that determines student participation in STEM fields. To better understand what these factors might be, this study will examine high school transcripts from two local high schools. It will also review records of 350 undergraduate students who have been enrolled, are currently enrolled, have graduated, switched to another non-STEM field at the same institution, or left undergraduate programs in biotechnology-related fields. Data sources will include information on all mathematics, bioscience, biotechnology-related courses taken in high school and in college; college entrance test scores, and students' performance in bioengineering at the undergraduate level. This study will attempt to initiate a new line of research in search of factors associated with bioscience and bioengineering education as a novel approach for uncovering factors that may negatively influence student participation in these fields.

An interdisciplinary approach will be used to mine and analyze student data at the intersection of mathematics, biosciences, engineering, and technology. Although it is unclear if this approach will generate any new insights potentially beneficial to society, knowing whether the idea works or not will be a valuable contribution to the field. Additionally, this approach will not only be relevant to biosciences and bioengineering, but also important to national efforts, and will contribute to NSF's Big Idea on Harnessing the Data Revolution. However, attempting to merge data sets from multiple sources is risky since it may not reveal any meaningful information useful to addressing student retention. Such risks may be further compounded by the limited focus of the study on mostly content driven factors, a wide variation of pathways and classes, availability of courses, personal variation of student development, and motivation and interest in particular STEM subjects. Due to the complexity of this undertaking and the focus largely on student performance and success in these fields, the risk is high. These risks notwithstanding, outcomes from this study could potentially identify factors, other than mathematics, that might contribute to current attrition rates. Thus, this study will inform the development of more effective models of intervention, help prioritize broadening participation efforts, and promote further research.

Promoting Engineering Problem Framing Skill-Development in High School Science and Engineering Courses

This project will develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content into their biology, chemistry, and physics classes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812823
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

This collaborative project involving Ohio Northern University, Ohio State University, and Olathe Northwest High School will develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content into their biology, chemistry, and physics classes. This work is important because students' limited exposure to engineering activities can negatively impact their decisions to enroll in STEM courses and to pursue engineering careers. Further, many states are adopting or considering adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of classroom standards which integrate engineering content into traditional science disciplines. While high school teachers under these standards are expected to incorporate the cross-cutting engineering content into their courses, they generally receive little high-quality support for doing so. If successful, the project could provide a powerful model of how to support busy and resource-constrained STEM teachers, and create broader student interest in STEM careers.

Drawing from best practices on instructional design, the project's main objectives are to: (1) design, field-test, and evaluate the impact of 12 NGSS-aligned, engineering problem-framing design activities on students enrolled in grades 9-12 science courses and (2) design and conduct high-quality, sustained professional development that fosters participating high school science teachers' ability to deploy the NGSS concepts-linked activities. Data sources include student design artifacts, video of classroom instruction, and surveys assessing student and teacher attitudes toward engineering, student design self-efficacy and teacher self-efficacy for teaching engineering content. These data will be analyzed to determine what teachers learned from the professional development activities, how those activities informed their teaching and in turn, how students' engagement with the engineering activities relates to their engineering design skills and attitudes. In terms of intellectual merit, the project aims to develop a learning progression of students' engineering design problem-framing skills by characterizing any observed change in students' design work and attitudes over time.

Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: Ellis)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814033
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Sonia Ellis, & Crystal Ford


Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: McGinnis-Cavanaugh)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813572
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Collaborative for Educational Services (CES)
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Sonia Ellis, & Crystal Ford


Integrating Science with Mathematics and Engineering: Linking Home and School Learning for All Young Learners

This study will investigate the integration of science with mathematics and engineering and develop resources that provide preschool children with integrated STEM learning experiences. The study will also investigate the connection between home and school learning and will develop resources that strengthen children's experiences at school and home.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813280
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 02/28/2022
Full Description: 

Children in preschool programs have few opportunities to engage meaningfully in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This is especially true in programs serving children from low-income communities, where resources are scarce. This study will investigate the integration of science with mathematics and engineering and develop resources that provide preschool children with integrated STEM learning experiences. The study will also investigate the connection between home and school learning and will develop resources that strengthen children's experiences at school and home. This will include investigating the needs of and designing for dual language learners who represent a large (and growing) proportion of the population served in public preschool programs.

Using design based research (DBR), the researchers will: (1) Develop learning blueprints to guide the design of classroom and family learning resources. (2) Co-design resources with teachers and parents from low-income as well as culturally and linguistically diverse communities. (3) Conduct a series of formative pilot studies with partner teachers and parents. (4) Conduct a quasi-experimental field study in preschool classrooms and homes to examine both implementation and learning outcomes. Data sources will include observations in classrooms and homes, surveys and interviews with teachers and parents, and child learning assessments. Analysis will include qualitative approaches to examine patterns of interaction and engagement with resources in classrooms and homes, as well as quantitative approaches to examine children's learning accounting for the multilevel structure of the data. The project involves a collaboration between Digital Promise Global, Education Development Center, WGBH and multiple early childhood programs in California and New York. A total of 28 preschool centers, 56 classroom teachers, 208 families and 560 children are expected to participate. Results from this project are intended to inform understanding of how young children learn STEM, how adults at school and home can support children's early STEM learning, and what supports are useful to diverse learners specifically. Results could also highlight design principles that can inform future early STEM education research and development efforts integrating media and technology.

Improving Multi-Dimensional Assessment and Instruction: Building and Sustaining Elementary Science Teachers' Capacity through Learning Communities (Collaborative Research: Lehman)

The main goal of this project is to better understand how to build and sustain the capacity of elementary science teachers in grades 3-5 to instruct and formatively assess students in ways that are aligned with contemporary science education frameworks and standards. To achieve this goal, the project will use classroom-based science assessment as a focus around which to build teacher capacity in science instruction and three-dimensional learning in science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813938
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This is an Early-Stage Design and Development collaborative effort submitted to the assessment strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. Its main goal is to better understand how to build and sustain the capacity of elementary science teachers in grades 3-5 to instruct and formatively assess students in ways that are aligned with contemporary science education frameworks and standards. To achieve this goal, the project will use classroom-based science assessment as a focus around which to build teacher capacity in science instruction and three-dimensional learning in science. The three dimensions will include disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. These dimensions are described in the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council; NRC, 2012), and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013). The project will work closely with teachers to co-develop usable assessments and rubrics and help them to learn about three-dimensional assessment and instruction. Also, the project will work with teachers to test the developed assessments in diverse settings, and to create an active, online community of practice.

The two research questions will be: (1) How well do these assessments function with respect to aspects of validity for classroom use, particularly in terms of indicators of student proficiency, and tools to support teacher instructional practice?; and (2) In what ways do providing these assessment tasks and rubrics, and supporting teachers in their use, advance teachers' formative assessment practices to support multi-dimensional science instruction? The research and development components of this project will produce assessments and rubrics, which can directly impact students and teachers in the districts and states that have adopted the NGSS, as well as those that have embraced the vision of science teaching and learning embodied in the NRC Framework. The project will consist of five major tasks. First, the effort will iteratively develop assessments and rubrics for formative use, using an evidence-centered design approach. Second, it will collect data from evidence-based revision and redesign of the assessments from teachers piloting the assessments and rubrics, project cognitive laboratory studies with students, and an external review of the assessments design products. Third, it will study teachers' classroom use of assessments to understand and document how they blend assessment and instruction. The project will use pre/post questionnaires, video recordings, observation field notes, and pre/post interviews. Fourth, the study will build the capacity of participating teachers. Teacher Collaborators (n=9) will engage in participatory design of the assessment tasks and act as technical assistants to the overall implementation process. Teacher Implementers (n=15) will use the assessments formatively as part of their instructional practice. Finally, the work will develop a community of learners through the development of a technical assistance infrastructure, and leveraging teacher expertise to formatively assess students' work, using the assessments designed to be diagnostic and instructionally informative. External reviewers and an advisory board will provide formative feedback on the project's processes and summative evaluation of the project's results. The main outcomes of this endeavor will be prototypes of elementary science multi-dimensional assessments and new knowledge for the field on the underlying theory for developing teachers' capacity for engaging in multi-dimensional science instruction, learning, and assessment.

Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to Enrich Early Childhood Science (NURTURES) Phase II: Expansion and Evaluation

Building on successful prior work, this project simultaneously targets young children's teachers and families/caregivers in an effort to build both parties' capacity to promote student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721059
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

Building on successful prior work, this University of Toledo project, Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to enRich Early Childhood Science (NURTURES): Researching the impact of teacher professional development and family engagement on PreK-3 achievement, simultaneously targets young children's teachers and families/caregivers in an effort to build both parties' capacity to promote student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning. Teachers participate in a two-week summer professional development program and receive support across the school year in the form of individualized coaching and participation in professional learning communities. Families receive science inquiry packets (sent home from school) four times a year and attend community STEM events throughout the year. Inquiry packets and community events encourage science inquiry, discourse, and further exploration of key science ideas. Project participants will include 120 teachers, 2,400 PreK-3 children and over 7,200 family members in Ohio and Michigan.

Extending the initial NURTURES project, developed with NSF Math and Science Partnership funding, this follow-up project aims to: 1) Transform early childhood science teaching based upon Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to measurably increase student science, literacy, and math achievement, and 2) Engage families of PreK-3 students in science inquiry practices to measurably improve student science, literacy, and math achievement. A particularly important facet of this follow-up project is the research effort to parse and understand how each component (teacher professional development versus family engagement) impacts student learning. The project will use a randomized control group research design (RCT) to compare student achievement outcomes among three groups: Children whose teachers received professional development and family engagement activities, children whose teachers received only professional development, and a control group. The project will use standardized tests (the TerraNova Complete Battery) to measure impact on learning gains in science, mathematics, reading, and early literacy for children in grades K- 3. The Lens on Science assessment will measure science learning in preschool children. This project will result in an NGSS-based program for teachers and families that has been systematically tested and may ultimately be scaled up to an impact study and dissemination at a broad level.

Developing Teacher Noticing in Engineering in an Online Professional Development Program

This project will research how elementary (K-5) teachers in the Teacher Engineering Education Program (TEEP) program progress in one particular aspect of responsive teaching, noticing student thinking. Project research will also contribute to literature on how to support responsive teaching in web-based environments, expanding understanding of how design principles and features developed in in-person professional development settings can be implemented online.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720334
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The project will research how elementary (K-5) teachers in the Teacher Engineering Education Program (TEEP) program progress in one particular aspect of responsive teaching, noticing student thinking. TEEP includes four graduate-level courses that help them learn engineering content and pedagogical approaches. There has been little investigation of teacher professional development in engineering design. The work that has been done focuses on increasing teachers' content knowledge and familiarity in engineering. Most teacher professional development and research focus on teachers learning engineering content and process, with less attention on helping teachers develop new instructional practices necessary to help students navigate the complex, ill-defined problems in engineering. TEEP focuses on helping teachers develop practices of responsive teaching in engineering design, where teachers base their instructional moves on what they notice in their students are doing and saying. Project research will also contribute to literature on how to support responsive teaching in web-based environments, expanding understanding of how design principles and features developed in in-person professional development settings can be implemented online. The project will refine a program for engineering teachers nationwide, identify key features that are effective in developing teachers' practice, and create video resources for other professional development programs to use.

The project will address three research questions: (1) What do beginning engineering teachers notice in students' engineering design work? (2) What shifts occur in teachers' noticing over the course of a professional development program focused on responsive teaching and how do these shifts correlate with key features of the program? (3) What shifts occur in how teachers' talk about their goals for students' engineering and their instructional practice? The project will conduct independent analyses from two cohorts of teachers of three data streams: pre-post interviews about practice; teacher-captured classroom videos; video-stimulated interviews, and teachers' coursework. The analyses will then connect these analyses to address the research questions. Videocases of students' engineering will be disseminated for other teacher educators to use in supporting teacher noticing. The research outcomes of the research will not only advance our understandings of teacher learning, but will provide evidence that teachers can recognize, value, and leverage students' diverse resources for engineering. Research on the TEEP program will also provide much-needed empirical support on whether and how online programs can be effective for teachers' instructional practice.

Project MAPLE: Makerspaces Promoting Learning and Engagement

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies.

Award Number: 
1721236
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The makerspace movement has gained recognition and momentum, which has resulted in many schools integrating makerspace technologies and related curricular practices into the classroom. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies. The project plans to translate and apply research on the use of metacognitive strategies in supporting struggling learners to develop approaches that teachers can implement to increase opportunities for students who are the most difficult to reach academically. Project strategies, curricula, and other resources will be disseminated through existing outreach websites, research briefs, peer-reviewed publications for researchers and practitioners, and a webinar for those interested in middle-school makerspaces for diverse learners.

The research will address the paucity of studies to inform practitioners about what pedagogical supports help struggling learners engage in these makerspace experiences. The project will focus on two populations of struggling learners in middle schools, students with learning disabilities, and students at risk for academic failure. The rationale for focusing on metacognition within makerspace activities comes from the literature on students with learning disabilities and other struggling learners that suggests that they have difficulty with metacognitive thinking. Multiple instruments will be used to measure metacognitive processes found to be pertinent within the research process. The project will tentatively focus on persistence (attitudes about making), iteration (productive struggle) and intentionality (plan with incremental steps). The work will result in an evidence base around new instructional practices for middle school students who are struggling learners so that they can experience more success during maker learning experiences.

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