Engineering

Fostering STEM Trajectories: Bridging ECE Research, Practice, and Policy

This project will convene stakeholders in STEM and early childhood education to discuss better integration of STEM in the early grades. PIs will begin with a phase of background research to surface critical issues in teaching and learning in early childhood education and STEM.  A number of reports will be produced including commissioned papers, vision papers, and a forum synthesis report.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417878
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/15/2015 to Tue, 05/31/2016
Full Description: 

Early childhood education is at the forefront of the minds of parents, teachers, policymakers as well as the general public. A strong early childhood foundation is critical for lifelong learning. The National Science Foundation has made a number of early childhood grants in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) over the years and the knowledge generated from this work has benefitted researchers. Early childhood teachers and administrators, however, have little awareness of this knowledge since there is little research that is translated and disseminated into practice, according to the National Research Council. In addition, policies for both STEM and early childhood education has shifted in the last decade. 

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the New America Foundation are working together to highlight early childhood STEM education initiatives. Specifically, the PIs will convene stakeholders in STEM and early childhood education to discuss better integration of STEM in the early grades. PIs will begin with a phase of background research to surface critical issues in teaching and learning in early childhood education and STEM. The papers will be used as anchor topics to organize a forum with a broad range of stakeholders including policymakers as well as early childhood researchers and practitioners. A number of reports will be produced including commissioned papers, vision papers, and a forum synthesis report. The synthesis report will be widely disseminated by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the New America Foundation.

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed project.

Design Technology and Engineering Education for English Learner Students: Project DTEEL

One significant challenge facing elementary STEM education is the varied preparation of English-language learners. The project addresses this with an innovative use of engineering curriculum to build on the English-language learners' prior experiences. The project will support teachers' learning about strategies for teaching English-language learners and using engineering design tasks as learning opportunities for mathematics, science and communication skills. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503428
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2015 to Thu, 05/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. One significant challenge facing elementary STEM education is the varied preparation of English-language learners. The project addresses this with an innovative use of engineering curriculum to build on the English-language learners' prior experiences. The project will support teachers' learning about strategies for teaching English-language learners and using engineering design tasks as learning opportunities for mathematics, science and communication skills. 

The project's cross-disciplinary approach is grounded in both inquiry-based science education research and bilingual cognition research. These complementary foci bridge research areas to highlight how engineering experiences for students can capitalize on bilingual students' experiences as problem solvers. The project will develop teachers' ability and instructional efficacy for both STEM and bilingual student instruction. The project adapts a previously developed curriculum for engineering education by adding resources and tools to support bilingual students. The research design primarily measures teacher-level phenomenon such as implementation of instructional strategies, STEM self-efficacy and ability to address the academic development of bilingual students through engineering design activities. Data collected include classroom observations, teacher surveys, focus groups, and teacher interviews. Student assessments will be piloted in the final year of the project.

Massachusetts Engineering Innovation and Dissemination Community (MEIDC)

Education researchers, practitioners, industry representatives, and policymakers are increasingly committed to making engineering education accessible to all K-12 students and teachers. This project is designed to learn what type of collaborative infrastructure would best support NSF awardees in engaging in the innovative, synergistic research, development, and dissemination activities that will enable engineering to fulfill this important role in K-12 teaching and learning. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1450532
Funding Period: 
Wed, 10/01/2014 to Wed, 09/30/2015
Full Description: 

Education researchers, practitioners, industry representatives, and policymakers are increasingly committed to making engineering education accessible to all K-12 students and teachers. This RAPID project is designed to learn what type of collaborative infrastructure would best support NSF awardees in engaging in the innovative, synergistic research, development, and dissemination activities that will enable engineering to fulfill this important role in K-12 teaching and learning. Focusing on Massachusetts (and the greater Boston area in particular), researchers from Tufts University and EDC will conduct a landscape analysis of K-12 engineering education, highlighting opportunities, gaps, and resources, and identifying areas of overlapping interests among NSF awardees and other stakeholders that may translate into a focus for purposeful activities.

While Massachusetts (and the greater Boston area in particular) serves as a major center for NSF-funded K-12 engineering education research and development activities, NSF awardees engaged in engineering education and housed in institutions around the area do not routinely meet and collaborate as a group in an effort to improve engineering education, and there is currently no infrastructure in place to support NSF awardees and cross-sector collaboration in K-12 engineering education on an ongoing basis. Thus this is an appropriate testbed for a project concerned to learn more about infrastructures to support funded researchers in efforts to enhance K-12 engineering education. The researchers will concurrently conduct a robust literature review and interview key stakeholders across sectors (starting with NSF awardees). A report of findings from this landscape analysis will be disseminated broadly with the goal of informing K-12 engineering education efforts both in the area and nationally.

Read the project's report, Engineering for Every K-12 Studenthttp://ceeo.tufts.edu/documents/researchMEIDCreport.pdf 

Understanding the Role of Contextual Effects in STEM Pursuit and Persistence: A Synthesis Approach

This synthesis project will inform educators and policymakers about the cumulative evidence that exists on the impacts of a variety of contextual factors on a multitude of STEM outcomes (e.g., math and science achievement, self-efficacy, future goals). This project will provide new evidence regarding the significance of youth contexts on STEM outcomes that will assist policy makers and educators in evaluating productive educational environments.

Award Number: 
1417601
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The percentage of U.S. high school graduates pursuing STEM majors has declined over the last three decades with the largest decline among the highest achieving students. American youth are ill-prepared relative to their international counterparts - U.S. 15 year olds rank 16 out of 26 developed countries in science literacy and 19 out of 26 developed counties in mathematical literacy. There is much research in the areas of how students learn STEM in formal settings, but there is little knowledge of the impact of youth contexts on STEM. Youth contexts are social groups in the lives of young people such as neighborhoods, communities, schools, classrooms or friends. Understanding the role of youth contexts is crucial to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn STEM content. This project will synthesize the research literature on youth context and assess whether and how a range of these contexts shape K-12 STEM outcomes and engagement - predictors critical for later educational and occupational attainment. The researchers will conduct two large-scale meta-analyses - one based on the quantitative research body and one based on the qualitative research body - in order to draw conclusions about which contextual factors relate to which STEM outcomes across the span of extant research. In doing so, this synthesis project will inform educators and policymakers about the cumulative evidence that exists on the impacts of a variety of contextual factors on a multitude of STEM outcomes (e.g., math and science achievement, self-efficacy, future goals). This project will provide new evidence regarding the significance of youth contexts on STEM outcomes that will assist policy makers and educators in evaluating productive educational environments.

Syntheses of the research in youth contexts and their impact in STEM will address the following four research questions: (1) How do contextual factors impact STEM learning?; (2) How do these factors vary by the specific type of context?; (3) How do these factors vary by gender and race within each context?; and, (4) Are these factors influenced by the methodological features of the research? The review will include electronic searches of educational, economics, sociology, psychology, and general science databases covering the years 1980-2014. Results will be narrowed by youth context area, and separate analysis will be conducted on gender and race/ethnicity differences in STEM outcomes. The data for the full review will be evaluated by a common set of guidelines to be published along with the findings, enabling the conclusions of the review to be transparent and allowing for detailed information to be easily accessible. The review will discuss each study that meets the inclusion requirements for a valid research design. With this methodology, this study will be the first to provide a clearinghouse of rigorous research related to contextual factors of STEM outcomes.

Teacher Professional Development for Technology-enhanced Inquiry to Foster Students' 21st Century Learning

This project will develop and evaluate a module for use in a 7th grade classroom that promotes student development of 21st Century skills with a particular focus on student development of scientific reasoning. The technology-enhanced curriculum will be designed to engage learners in deep and meaningful investigations to promote student learning of content in parallel with 21st century skills.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417983
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

The goal of this Exploratory Design and Development Teaching project is to develop and evaluate a module for use in a 7th grade classroom that promotes student development of 21st Century skills with a particular focus on student development of scientific reasoning. The technology-enhanced curriculum will be designed to engage learners in deep and meaningful investigations to promote student learning of content in parallel with 21st century skills. The module will be designed using principles of inquiry-based learning as well as the principles of universal design for learning (UDL). The motivation behind this project is that it will directly contribute to the limited research on the interventions that impact teachers' capacity to provide high quality 21st century STEM education to all students, with a specific focus on underrepresented minorities and those with disabilities. The classroom setting for which the curriculum will be delivered is within an urban district which includes a large number of minority students and over 20% students with specific learning disabilities. The project will catalyze students' deep understanding of content knowledge while developing 21st century skills in parallel; hence better preparing students for sustainable learning experiences into high school and beyond.

A study will be conducted to determine the effectiveness of the learning modules on classroom practices as well as student learning. A mixed methods design involving multiple measures will provide insights into changes in teachers' content knowledge, teaching practices that include a focus on 21st century learning, and fidelity of use of the TI21 framework for implementation of the learning activities. Pre- and post-testing of students using a scientific reasoning assessment and surveys on attitudes towards STEM, along with validated and widely used concept inventories, will provide further measures. As part of this exploratory project, the design and validity of instruments for use with the targeted population, which includes students with specific learning disabilities, will be further tested. This will include administering some of the assessments through web-based apps to meet the needs of these students. The learning modules, with embedded assessments and web-based apps, will provide an innovative approach in which transferable 21st century skills can be developed and measured. Outcomes of this project will be disseminated throughout the urban school system and therefore have the ability to impact thousands of other students (mostly minorities and many with disabilities) and their science, math, and technology teachers. Project outcomes will also inform the development of future science and/or modules for use in similar urban classroom settings.

Supports for Science and Mathematics Learning in Pre-Kindergarten Dual Language Learners: Designing and Expanding a Professional Development System

SciMath-DLL is an innovative preschool professional development (PD) model that integrates supports for dual language learners (DLLs) with high quality science and mathematics instructional offerings. It engages teachers with workshops, classroom-based coaching, and professional learning communities. Based on initial evidence of promise, the SciMath-DLL project will expand PD offerings to include web-based materials.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417040
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/01/2014 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

The 4-year project, Supports for Science and Mathematics Learning in Pre-Kindergarten Dual Language Learners: Designing and Expanding a Professional Development System (SciMath-DLL), will address a number of educational challenges. Global society requires citizens and a workforce that are literate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but many U.S. students remain ill prepared in these areas. At the same time, the children who fill U.S. classrooms increasingly speak a non-English home language, with the highest concentration in the early grades. Many young children are also at risk for lack of school readiness in language, literacy, mathematics, and science due to family background factors. Educational efforts to offset early risk factors can be successful, with clear links between high quality early learning experiences and later academic outcomes. SciMath-DLL will help teachers provide effective mathematics and science learning experiences for their students. Early educational support is critical to assure that all students, regardless of socioeconomic or linguistic background, learn the STEM content required to become science and mathematics literate. Converging lines of research suggest that participation in sustained mathematics and science learning activities could enhance the school readiness of preschool dual language learners. Positive effects of combining science inquiry with supports for English-language learning have been identified for older students. For preschoolers, sustained science and math learning opportunities enhance language and pre-literacy skills for children learning one language. Mathematics skills and science knowledge also predict later mathematics, science, and reading achievement. What has not been studied is the extent to which rich science and mathematics experiences in preschool lead to better mathematics and science readiness and improved language skills for preschool DLLs. Because the preschool teaching force is not prepared to support STEM learning or to provide effective supports for DLLs, professional development to improve knowledge and practice in these areas is required before children's learning outcomes can be improved.

SciMath-DLL is an innovative preschool professional development (PD) model that integrates supports for DLLs with high quality science and mathematics instructional offerings. It engages teachers with workshops, classroom-based coaching, and professional learning communities. Development and research activities incorporate cycles of design-expert review-enactment- analysis-redesign; collaboration between researcher-educator teams at all project stages; use of multiple kinds of data and data sources to establish claims; and more traditional, experimental methodologies. Based on initial evidence of promise, the SciMath-DLL project will expand PD offerings to include web-based materials, making the PD more flexible for use in a range of educational settings and training circumstances. An efficacy study will be completed to examine the potential of the SciMath-DLL resources, model, and tools to generate positive effects on teacher attitudes, knowledge, and practice for early mathematics and science and on children's readiness in these domains in settings that serve children learning two languages. By creating a suite of tools that can be used under differing educational circumstances to improve professional knowledge, skill, and practice around STEM, the project increases the number of teachers who are prepared to support children as STEM learners and, thus, the number of children who can be supported as STEM learners.

GRIDS: Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

Award Number: 
1418423
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project is a four-year full design and development proposal, addressing the learning strand, submitted to the DR K-12 program at the NSF. GRIDS will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. In middle school math, students typically graph only linear functions and rarely encounter features used in science, such as units, scientific notation, non-integer values, noise, cycles, and exponentials. Science teachers rarely teach about the graph features needed in science, so students are left to learn science without recourse to what is inarguably a key tool in learning and doing science. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

GRIDS will start by developing the GRIDS Graphing Inventory (GGI), an online, research-based measure of graphing skills that are relevant to middle school science. The project will address gaps revealed by the GGI by designing instructional activities that feature powerful digital technologies including automated guidance based on analysis of student generated graphs and student writing about graphs. These materials will be tested in classroom comparison studies using the GGI to assess both annual and longitudinal progress. Approximately 30 teachers selected from 10 public middle schools will participate in the project, along with approximately 4,000 students in their classrooms. A series of design studies will be conducted to create and test ten units of study and associated assessments, and a minimum of 30 comparison studies will be conducted to optimize instructional strategies. The comparison studies will include a minimum of 5 experiments per term, each with 6 teachers and their 600-800 students. The project will develop supports for teachers to guide students to use graphs and science knowledge to deepen understanding, and to develop agency and identity as science learners.

Developing and Testing the Internship-inator, a Virtual Internship in STEM Authorware System

The Internship-inator is an authorware system for developing and testing virtual internships in multiple STEM disciplines. In a virtual internship, students are presented with a complex, real-world STEM problem for which there is no optimal solution. Students work in project teams to read and analyze research reports, design and perform experiments using virtual tools, respond to the requirements of stakeholders and clients, write reports and present and justify their proposed solutions. 

Award Number: 
1418288
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Ensuring that students have the opportunities to experience STEM as it is conducted by scientists, mathematicians and engineers is a complex task within the current school context. This project will expand access for middle and high school students to virtual internships, by enabling STEM content developers to design and customize virtual internships. The Internship-inator is an authorware system for developing and testing virtual internships in multiple STEM disciplines. In a virtual internship, students are presented with a complex, real-world STEM problem for which there is no optimal solution. Students work in project teams to read and analyze research reports, design and perform experiments using virtual tools, respond to the requirements of stakeholders and clients, write reports and present and justify their proposed solutions. The researchers in this project will work with a core development network to develop and refine the authorware, constructing up to a hundred new virtual internships and a user group of more than 70 STEM content developers. The researchers will iteratively analyze the performance of the authorware, focusing on optimizing the utility and the feasibility of the system to support virtual internship development. They will also examine the ways in which the virtual internships are implemented in the classroom to determine the quality of the STEM internship design and influence on student learning.

The Intership-inator builds on over ten years of NSF support for the development of Syntern, a platform for deploying virtual internships that has been used in middle schools, high schools, informal science programs, and undergraduate education. In the current project, the researchers will recruit two waves of STEM content developers to expand their current core development network. A design research perspective will be used to examine the ways in which the developers interact with the components of the authorware and to document the influence of the virtual internships on student learning. The researchers will use a quantitative ethnographic approach to integrate qualitative data from surveys and interviews with the developers with their quantitative interactions with the authorware and with student use and products from pilot and field tests of the virtual internships. Data-mining and learning analytics will be used in combination with hierarchical linear modeling, regression techniques and propensity score matching to structure the quasi-experimental research design. The authorware and the multiple virtual internships will provide researchers, developers, and teachers a rich learning environment in which to explore and support students' learning of important college and career readiness content and disciplinary practices. The findings of the use of the authorware will inform STEM education about the important design characteristics for authorware that supports the work of STEM content and curriculum developers.

Teaching STEM with Robotics: Design, Development, and Testing of a Research-based Professional Development Program for Teachers

Using design-based research, with teachers as design partners, the project will create and refine project-based, hands-on robotics curricula such that science and math content inherent in robotics and related engineering design practices are learned. To provide teachers with effective models to capitalize on robotics for elucidating science and math concepts, a design-based Professional Development program will be built using principles of technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge (TPACK).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417769
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Offering meaningful and motivating engineering contexts, such as robotics, within science and math courses constitutes a compelling strategy to address the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for Math while enhancing science and math learning for all students. Using design-based research, with teachers as design partners, the project will create and refine project-based, hands-on curricula such that science and math content inherent in robotics and related engineering design practices are learned. To provide teachers with effective models to capitalize on robotics for elucidating science and math concepts, a design-based Professional Development program will be built using principles of technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge (TPACK). To ensure that teachers are well prepared, research-based practices and features of effective Professional Development will be adopted. Experts in robotics, engineering, education, curriculum design, and assessment--with experience in K-12 education, training, and outreach--have formed an interdisciplinary team to make robotics central to and sustainable in middle school science and math classrooms.

The research questions addressed in this project are qualitative in nature as appropriate for design research questions. The methodologies include teacher needs assessment, teachers' perceptions of robotics, pre and post testing, classroom observations, and surveys. Examples of the research questions are:

What characteristics of robotics promote effective learning of middle school science and math?

What elements of Professional Development engender teachers' TPACK of robotics and link it with classroom science and math?

What are student prerequisites to effectively use robotics in science and math learning?

What are the gains in students' STEM engagement, interest, persistence, and career awareness?

The robotics curriculum will include physical science used in robot performance expectations and motion stability. Additionally the curriculum will include the engineering design process consisting of problem definition, solution development, and design improvement. Robotics provides opportunities to support science and engineering practices of the Next Generation Science Standards such as developing and using models, planning and conducting investigations, designing solutions, and analyzing and interpreting data. The project will be aimed at middle school students and will provide substantial teacher professional development to implement the new curriculum modules. The partner schools have student bodies drawn from a diverse student population in New York City.

DIMEs: Immersing Teachers and Students in Virtual Engineering Internships

This project will provide curricular and pedagogical support by developing and evaluating teacher-ready curricular Digital Internship Modules for Engineering (DIMEs). DIMES will be designed to support middle school science teachers in providing students with experiences that require students to use engineering design practices and science understanding to solve a real-world problem, thereby promoting a robust understanding of science and engineering, and motivating students to increased interest in science and engineering.

Award Number: 
1417939
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) outline the science competencies students should demonstrate through their K-12 years and represent a commitment to integrate engineering design into the structure of science education. However, achieving this new ideal of teaching and learning will require new curricular and pedagogical supports for teachers as well as new and time-efficient assessment methods. This project will provide such curricular and pedagogical support by developing and evaluating teacher-ready curricular Digital Internship Modules for Engineering (DIMEs). DIMES will be designed to support middle school science teachers in providing students with experiences that require students to use engineering design practices and science understanding to solve a real-world problem, thereby promoting a robust understanding of science and engineering, and motivating students to increased interest in science and engineering. The modules will also assess students' ability to apply their science knowledge in solving the engineering problem, thereby providing teachers with actionable data about the depth of their students' science and engineering understanding. The DIMEs will be environments where students work as interns at a simulated engineering firm. 

The Digital Internship Modules for Engineering will provide immersive experiences that simultaneously serve as learning and assessment opportunities. DIMEs will assess not only whether students understand NGSS science and engineering concepts, but also whether they can use them in the context of real-world problem solving. Teachers will orchestrate DIMEs using a custom-designed teacher interface that will show student work, auto-generated assessments, and reports on each student's learning progress. This project will build on prior work on NSF-funded computer-based STEM learning environments called epistemic games. Epistemic games are computer role-playing games that have been successfully used in both undergraduate engineering courses and informal settings for K-12 populations to teach students to think like STEM professionals, thereby preparing them to solve 21st century problems. The project will create six ten-day activities, two each in Physical Science, Life Science and Earth Science units that are typically taught in middle school. An iterative research and design process is used to conduct pilot tests of the six DIMEs in local classrooms, field test a beta version of each DIME with 15 teachers and up to 1500 students in national classrooms, and then implement final versions of each DIME in research trials with 30 teachers and up to 3000 students in national classrooms. By bringing cutting-edge developments in learning science and undergraduate engineering education to middle school STEM education, the project aims to improve educational practice, and enhance assessment of learning outcomes in middle school science classroom settings.

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