Physics

Supporting Students' Science Content Knowledge through Project-based Inquiry

This project will address STEM learning through classroom implementation at two project partner schools in North Carolina, one urban and the other rural, with culturally diverse student populations. The project offers high school students the opportunity to be immersed in science content through engaging in globally-relevant learner-centered activities.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1907895
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

The Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global initiative will address STEM learning through classroom implementation at two project partner schools in North Carolina, one urban and the other rural, with culturally diverse student populations. Both are innovative public high schools implementing the Early College High School model, preparing diverse students from populations underrepresented in STEM fields for college success. Because of the synergistic interaction of theory and practice, the project will produce substantial advances in the development of improved inquiry-based learning materials and research on the impact of these materials on students and teachers. The project offers high school students the opportunity to be immersed in science content through engaging in globally-relevant learner-centered activities. The following three research questions will be addressed: 1) How does inquiry through the PBI Global process support student science content knowledge? 2) How can students' motivation and engagement be characterized after participating in the PBI Global process? 3) To what degree do teachers' attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogies change as a result of PBI Global professional development?

Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global responds to the need for research-informed and field-tested products with iterative development and implementation of a globally relevant, inquiry-based STEM curriculum. The project focuses on developing 9th grade student physical, biological, and environmental science content knowledge and science and engineering practices through the topics of global water and sanitation issues. Factors influencing student motivation and engagement, as well as teacher attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogies will be investigated. The project will use a Design-Based Research (DBR) approach to develop and refine instructional materials and teacher professional development for the existing interdisciplinary PBI Global initiative. A mixed-methods research convergent parallel design will be used to explore the effects of the classroom implementation on student and teacher outcomes.

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Professional Development for Teaching and Learning about Energy and Equity in High School Physics (Collaborative Research: Scherr)

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow. The project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907815
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow, an important scientific concept with economic and social implications. This energy learning is the foundation for informed decision-making about sustainable and just use of energy resources. Energy issues are not only issues of science and technology, but must be integrated with civics, history, economics, sociology, psychology, and politics to understand and solve modern energy problems. Placing the scientific concept of energy in this social context presents an opportunity to advance science education as equitable and culturally responsive.

This project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education. This model promotes a key epistemological issue: that science concepts are not culture-free or socially neutral ideas, but rather are concepts created and sustained by people in specific times and places for the purposes of (1) addressing specific social needs and (2) empowering people or groups of people. The two major components of the project are (1) the professional development experience, including both an intensive in-person summer workshop and an online professional learning community, and (2)an energy and equity portal, including an instructional materials library, an action research exchange, and a community forum for teacher discussions. The portal will provide technical resources to support the PLC, including support for sharing instructional materials and reporting on action research. The research plan includes exploratory, development and application phases. The researchers will identify teacher learning in the first iteration of PD, collect and analyze the instructional artifacts to inform how teacher engage with, participate in, and build an understanding energy as a historically and politically situated science concept. A team of scholar-videographers will observe, taking real-time field notes and making daily memos. The research team will use the instructional artifacts, video recordings, field notes, and memos as a basis for analysis through the next academic year. The result will be a nationally significant community of teacher-leaders and library of research-tested instructional materials that are responsive to students' scientific ideas, relevant to socio-political concerns about energy sustainability, respectful of students' cultures, and open to all students no matter their cultural background. Teachers participating in the project will learn to explain how scientific concepts of energy reflect culturally specific values, analyze socio-politically relevant energy scenarios, learn the historic and present-day inequities in the energy industry and in science participation, and be supported in preparing instruction for secondary students that is culturally responsive and relevant to their students' communities.

Professional Development for Teaching and Learning about Energy and Equity in High School Physics (Collaborative Research: Mason)

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow. The project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907950
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow, an important scientific concept with economic and social implications. This energy learning is the foundation for informed decision-making about sustainable and just use of energy resources. Energy issues are not only issues of science and technology, but must be integrated with civics, history, economics, sociology, psychology, and politics to understand and solve modern energy problems. Placing the scientific concept of energy in this social context presents an opportunity to advance science education as equitable and culturally responsive.

This project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education. This model promotes a key epistemological issue: that science concepts are not culture-free or socially neutral ideas, but rather are concepts created and sustained by people in specific times and places for the purposes of (1) addressing specific social needs and (2) empowering people or groups of people. The two major components of the project are (1) the professional development experience, including both an intensive in-person summer workshop and an online professional learning community, and (2)an energy and equity portal, including an instructional materials library, an action research exchange, and a community forum for teacher discussions. The portal will provide technical resources to support the PLC, including support for sharing instructional materials and reporting on action research. The research plan includes exploratory, development and application phases. The researchers will identify teacher learning in the first iteration of PD, collect and analyze the instructional artifacts to inform how teacher engage with, participate in, and build an understanding energy as a historically and politically situated science concept. A team of scholar-videographers will observe, taking real-time field notes and making daily memos. The research team will use the instructional artifacts, video recordings, field notes, and memos as a basis for analysis through the next academic year. The result will be a nationally significant community of teacher-leaders and library of research-tested instructional materials that are responsive to students' scientific ideas, relevant to socio-political concerns about energy sustainability, respectful of students' cultures, and open to all students no matter their cultural background. Teachers participating in the project will learn to explain how scientific concepts of energy reflect culturally specific values, analyze socio-politically relevant energy scenarios, learn the historic and present-day inequities in the energy industry and in science participation, and be supported in preparing instruction for secondary students that is culturally responsive and relevant to their students' communities.

CAREER: Expanding Latinxs' Opportunities to Develop Complex Thinking in Secondary Science Classrooms through a Research-Practice Partnership

This project will address the need to educate teachers and students to engage in asking questions, collecting and interpreting data, making claims, and constructing explanations about real-world problems that matter to them. The study will explore ways to enhance youths' learning experiences in secondary school classrooms (grades 6-12) by building a sustainable partnership between researchers and practitioners.

Award Number: 
1846227
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

This project will address the need to educate teachers and students to engage in asking questions, collecting and interpreting data, making claims, and constructing explanations about real-world problems that matter to them. Science educators generally agree that science classrooms should provide opportunities for students to advance their thinking by engaging in critical conversations with each other as capable sense-makers. Despite decades of reform efforts and the use of experiential activities in science instruction, research indicates that classroom learning for students remains largely procedural, undemanding, and disconnected from the development of substantive scientific ideas. Furthermore, access to high-quality science instruction that promotes such complex thinking is scarce for students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project goals will be: (1) To design a year-long teacher professional development program; and (2) To study the extent to which the professional development model improves teachers' capacity to plan and implement inclusive science curricula.

This study will explore ways to enhance youths' learning experiences in secondary school classrooms (grades 6-12) by building a sustainable partnership between researchers and practitioners. The work will build on a previous similar activity with one local high school; plans are to expand the existing study to an entire school district over five years. The proposed work will be conducted in three phases. During Phase I, the study will develop a conceptual framework focused on inclusive science curricula, and implement the new teacher professional development program in 3 high schools with 15 science teachers. Phase II will expand to 6 middle schools in the school district with 24 teachers aimed at creating a continuous and sustainable research-practice partnership approach at the district. Phase III will focus on data analysis, assessment of partnership activities, dissemination, and planning a research agenda for the immediate future. The study will address three research questions: (1) Whether and to what extent does participating teachers' capacity of planning and implementing the curriculum improve over time; (2) How and why do teachers show differential progress individually and collectively?; and (3) What opportunities and constraints within schools and the school district shape teachers' development of their capacity to design and implement curricula? To address the research questions, the project will gather information about the quality of planned and implemented curriculum using both qualitative and quantitative data. Main project's outcomes will be: (1) a framework that guides teachers' engagement in planning and implementing inclusive science curricula; and (2) increased knowledge base on teacher learning. An advisory board will oversee the work in progress. An external evaluator will provide formative and summative feedback.

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Linn)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813713
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Teaching in Rural Areas Using Cultural Knowledge Systems

This project will collaborate with Indigenous communities to create educational resources serving Inupiaq middle school students and their teachers. The Cultural Connections Process Model (CCPM) will formalize, implement, and test a process model for community-engaged educational resource development for Indigenous populations. The project will contribute to a greater understanding of effective natural science teaching and science career recruitment of minority students.

Award Number: 
1812888
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

The Cultural Connections Process Model (CCPM) will formalize, implement, and test a process model for community-engaged educational resource development for Indigenous populations. The project will collaborate with Indigenous communities to create educational resources serving Inupiaq middle school students and their teachers. Research activities take place in Northwest Alaska. Senior personnel will travel to rural communities to collaborate with and support participants. The visits demonstrate University of Alaska Fairbanks's commitment to support pathways toward STEM careers, community engagement in research, science teacher recruitment and preparation, and STEM career awareness for Indigenous and rural pre-college students. Pre-service teachers who access to the resources and findings from this project will be better prepared to teach STEM to Native students and other minorities and may be more willing to continue careers as science educators teaching in settings with Indigenous students. The project will contribute to a greater understanding of effective natural science teaching and science career recruitment of minority students. The project's participants and the pre-college students they teach will be part of the pipeline into science careers for underrepresented Native students in Arctic communities. The project will build on partnerships outside of Alaska serving other Indigenous populations and will expand outreach associated with NSF's polar science investments.

CCPM will build on cultural knowledge systems and NSF polar research investments to address science themes relevant to Inupiat people, who have inhabited the region for thousands of years. An Inupiaq scholar will conduct project research and guide collaboration between Indigenous participants and science researchers using the Inupiaq research methodology known as Katimarugut (meaning "we are meeting"). The project research and development will engage 450 students in grades 6-8 and serves 450 students (92% Indigenous) and 11 teachers in the remote Arctic. There are two broad research hypotheses. The first is that the project will build knowledge concerning STEM research practices by accessing STEM understandings and methodologies embedded in Indigenous knowledge systems; engaging Indigenous communities in project development of curricular resources; and bringing Arctic science research aligned with Indigenous priorities into underserved classrooms. The second is that classroom implementation of resources developed using the CCPM will improve student attitudes toward and engagement with STEM and increase their understandings of place-based science concepts. Findings from development and testing will form the basis for further development, broader implementation and deeper research to inform policy and practice on STEM education for underrepresented minorities and on rural education.

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.

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.

The Spectrum Laboratory: Towards Authentic Inquiry for All

This project proposes to design, implement, and investigate the impact on students of an innovative curriculum supplement called the Spectrum Laboratory. The Spectrum Lab will be an online, interactive learning environment that enables students to make use of the database of publicly available spectra from research scientists, as well as from students.

Award Number: 
1814077
Funding Period: 
Tue, 05/01/2018 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project addresses physics, astronomy, and chemistry education at the high-school level. Spectroscopy is the single most important diagnostic tool in the sciences, and is required for inquiry at the frontiers of science across many disciplines, yet is unavailable to most classrooms. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory proposes to design, implement, and investigate the impact on students of an innovative curriculum supplement called the Spectrum Laboratory. The Spectrum Lab will be an online, interactive learning environment that enables students to make use of the database of publicly available spectra from research scientists, as well as from students. The online learning resource and associated materials are purposefully being developed and tested with a demographically diverse set of schools. The project will determine how the design of a spectroscopy workspace can help students to use spectra while gaining fluency with a range of important science practices. The project's significance and importance is to greatly increase the opportunities for high school students to engage in authentic inquiry. Being able to evaluate and interpret real-world data is a hallmark of data literacy that is developed with Spectrum Lab. Project will potentially benefit the field through advances with respect to education and diversity, and benefit society by equipping high school students with the perceptual and cognitive factors that promote students' reasoning about spectra.

The Spectrum Lab's initial design applies research-based principles recommended for educational interfaces that engage students with graphical data advancing knowledge from prior research into understanding of how students make sense of spectroscopic data and its graphical representations. The project will be developed in collaboration with partner teachers in up to eight high school classrooms, representing a diverse population of learners, and then tested with a national group of 20 teachers with 600 to 800 students. A mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, including pre/post surveys and assessments, analysis of student project work, classroom video, and teacher surveys, will help address researcher's questions about students' experiences with the Spectrum Lab. The data to be gathered will be used to iteratively improve the design of the laboratory to aid students understand the source of these authentic data coming from spectroscopy to address real-world science questions of interest and importance to them. The Spectrum Lab will enable students to engage in a broad range of inquiry projects that were previously inaccessible, including projects near the frontiers of science. The students will become involved in their authentic inquiry projects, where each activity engages them in key science practices, including generating model spectrum plots to make predictions, assessing and interpreting data, and reasoning from evidence (and models) in support of a claim. The students will be using graphs of well-documented experiments and in physics, more challenging graphs of spectra of less familiar wavelength axis. The students in chemistry will learn how to relate the bright lines observed in an atom's spectrum to energy levels of the atom.  There will be studies that track students' eye movements show that students associate the peaks or valleys of a spectrum with individual atoms in a molecule, rather than with the overall properties of the molecule. The resources developed by the project will be freely available online for teachers and researchers. The Spectrum Lab is an advance in education technology that uses modern tools for enabling interactive data visualization. Its features enable students to integrate and apply the most important elements of science practice, such as the ability to draw evidence-based conclusions, as well as the ability to gather, evaluate and interpret data, intended to help students' science practice more closely resemble how research is done. The Spectrum Lab will modernize a critical part of high-school science classrooms, help teachers meet the expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards, and will better prepare students for college work.

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