Physics

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

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle Schools (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Isabel Huff, Kaia Cormier, Glenn Ellis, Sonia Ellis, Crystal Ford, Kate Lytton, Becky Mazur, Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Jeremy Pina, & Al Rudnitsky

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

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle Schools (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Isabel Huff, Kaia Cormier, Glenn Ellis, Sonia Ellis, Crystal Ford, Kate Lytton, Becky Mazur, Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Jeremy Pina, & Al Rudnitsky

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

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


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.

CAREER: Supporting Elementary Science Teaching and Learning by Integrating Uncertainty Into Classroom Science Investigations

The goal of this study is to improve elementary science teaching and learning by developing, testing, and refining a framework and set of tools for strategically incorporating forms of uncertainty central to scientists' sense-making into students' empirical learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1749324
Funding Period: 
Fri, 06/01/2018 to Wed, 05/31/2023
Full Description: 

The goal of this study will be to improve elementary science teaching and learning by developing, testing, and refining a framework and set of tools for strategically incorporating forms of uncertainty central to scientists' sense-making into students' empirical learning. The framework will rest on the notion that productive uncertainty should be carefully built into students' empirical learning experiences in order to support their engagement in scientific practices and understanding of disciplinary ideas. To re-conceptualize the role of empirical investigations, the study will focus on the transitions between the experiences and processes students seek to understand, classroom investigations, evidence, and explanatory models as opportunities for sense-making, and how uncertainty can be built into these transitions. The project's underlying assumption is that carefully implementing these forms of uncertainty will help curriculum developers and teachers avoid the oversimplified investigations that are prevalent in K-8 classrooms that stand in stark contrast to authentic science learning and the recommendations of the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012). Accordingly, the project will seek to develop curriculum design guidelines, teacher tools, professional development supports, and four elaborated investigations, including sets of lessons, videos, and assessments that embed productive uncertainty for second and fifth graders and designed for use with linguistically, culturally, and socio-economically diverse students.

The hypothesis of this work is that if specific forms of scientific uncertainty are carefully selected, and if teachers can implement these forms of uncertainty, elementary students will have more robust opportunities to develop disciplinary practices and ideas in ways consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (Lead States, 2013). Employing Design-Based Research, the three research questions will be: (1) What opportunities for sense-making do elementary school empirical investigations afford where we might strategically build uncertainty?; (2) How can we design learning environments where uncertainty in empirical investigations supports opportunities for learning?; and (3) In classrooms with sustained opportunities to engage with uncertainty in empirical investigations, what progress do students make in content understandings and the practices of argumentation, explanation, and investigation? The work will consist of three design cycles: Design Cycle 1 will involve two small groups of six teachers in adapting their curricula to incorporate uncertainty, then describe how students engage around uncertainty in empirical investigations. Design Cycle 2 will involve the same small groups in implementing and refining task structures, tools, and teacher instructional strategies. In Design Cycle 3, teachers and researchers will further refine lesson materials, assessments, and supports. The project will partner with one school district and engage in design research with groups of teachers to develop: (1) a research-based description, with exemplars of opportunities for student sense-making within empirical investigations at both early and upper elementary grades; (2) a set of design principles and tools that allow teachers to elicit and capitalize on sense-making about uncertainty in investigations; and (3) four elementary investigations elaborated to incorporate and exemplify the first two products above. These materials will be disseminated through a website, and established networks for supporting implementation of the NGSS. An advisory board will oversee project progress and conduct both formative and summative evaluation.

Developing and Validating Assessments to Measure and Build Elementary Teachers' Content Knowledge for Teaching about Matter and Its Interactions within Teacher Education Settings (Collaborative Research: Hanuscin)

The fundamental purpose of this project is to examine and gather initial validity evidence for assessments designed to measure and build kindergarten-fifth grade science teachers' content knowledge for teaching (CKT) about matter and its interactions in teacher education settings.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814275
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 fundamental purpose is to examine and gather initial validity evidence for assessments designed to measure and build kindergarten-fifth grade science teachers' content knowledge for teaching (CKT) about matter and its interactions in teacher education settings. The selection of this topic will facilitate the development of a proof-of-concept to determine if and how CKT assessments can be developed and used to measure and build elementary teachers' CKT. Also, it will facilitate rapid and targeted refinement of an evidence-centered design process that could be applied to other science topics. Plans are to integrate CKT assessments and related resources into teacher education courses to support the ability of teachers to apply their content knowledge to the work of teaching and learning science. The project will combine efforts from prior projects and engage in foundational research to examine the nature of teachers' CKT and to build theories and hypotheses about the productive use and design of CKT assessment materials to support formative and summative uses. Likewise, the project will create a set of descriptive cases highlighting the use of these tools. Understanding how CKT science assessments can be leveraged as summative tools to evaluate current efforts, and as formative tools to build elementary teachers' specialized, practice-based knowledge will be the central foci of this effort.

The main research questions will be: (1) What is the nature of elementary science teachers' CKT about matter and its interactions?; and (2) How can the development of prospective elementary teachers' CKT be supported within teacher education? To address the research questions, the study will employ a mixed-methods, design-based research approach to gather various sources of validity evidence to support the formative and summative use of the CKT instrument, instructional tasks, and supporting materials. The project will be organized around two main research and development strands. Strand One will build an empirically grounded understanding of the nature of elementary teachers' CKT. Strand Two will focus on developing and studying how CKT instructional tasks can be used formatively within teacher education settings to build elementary teachers' CKT. In addition, the project will refine a conceptual framework that identifies the science-specific teaching practices that comprise the work of teaching science. This will be used as well to assess the CKT that teachers leverage when recognizing, understanding, and responding to the content-intensive practices that they engage in as they teach science. To that end, the study will build on two existing frameworks from prior NSF-funded work. The first was originally developed to create CKT assessments for elementary and middle school teachers in English Language Arts and mathematics. The second focuses on the content challenges that novice elementary science teachers face. It is organized by the instructional tools and practices that elementary science teachers use, such as scientific models and explanations. These instructional practices cut across those addressed in the Next Generation Science Standards' (NGSS; Lead States, 2013) disciplinary strands. The main project's outcomes will be knowledge that builds and refines theories about the nature of elementary teachers' CKT, and how CKT elementary science assessment materials can be designed productively for formative and summative purposes. The project will also result in the development of a suite of valid and reliable assessments that afford interpretations on CKT matter proficiency and can be used to monitor elementary teachers learning. An external advisory board will provide formative and summative feedback on the project's activities and progress.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building Content Knowledge for Teaching about Matter

Presenter(s): Jamie Mikeska, Emily Borda, Katherine Castellano, Dante Cisterna, Dan Hanley, Debi Hanuscin, & Josie Melton


Project Accelerate: University-High School AP Physics Partnerships

Project Accelerate blends the supportive structures of a student's home school, a rigorous online course designed specifically with the needs of under-served populations in mind, and hands-on laboratory experiences, to make AP Physics accessible to under-served students. The project could potentially lead to the success of motivated but under-served students who attend schools where the opportunity to engage in a rigorous STEM curriculum is not available.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720914
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

Project Accelerate brings AP Physics 1 and, eventually, AP Physics 2 to students attending schools that do not offer AP Physics. The project will enable 249 students (mostly under-served, i.e., economically disadvantaged, ethnic minorities and racial minorities) to enroll in AP Physics - the students would otherwise not have access. These students either prepare for the AP Physics 1 exam by completing a highly interactive, conceptually rich, rigorous online course, complete with virtual lab experiments, or participate in an accredited AP course that also includes weekly hands-on labs. In this project, the model will be tested and perfected with more students and expanded to AP Physics 2. Further, model replication will be tested at an additional site, beyond the two pilot sites. In the first pilot year in Massachusetts at Boston University, results indicated that students fully engaged in Project Accelerate are (1) at least as well prepared as peer groups in traditional classrooms to succeed on the AP Physics 1 exam and (2) more inclined to engage in additional STEM programs and to pursue STEM fields and programs than they were prior to participating. In the second year of the pilot study, Project Accelerate doubled in size and expanded in partnership with West Virginia University. From lessons learned in the pilot years, key changes are being made, which are expected to increase success. Project Accelerate provides a potential solution to a significant national problem of too few under-served young people having access to high quality physics education, often resulting in these students being ill prepared to enter STEM careers and programs in college. Project Accelerate is a scalable model to empower these students to achieve STEM success, replicable at sites across the country (not only in physics, but potentially across fourteen AP subjects). The project could potentially lead to the success of tens of thousands of motivated but under-served students who attend schools where the opportunity to engage in a rigorous STEM curriculum is not available.

Project Accelerate blends the supportive structures of a student's home school, a private online course designed specifically with the needs of under-served populations in mind, and hands-on laboratory experiences, to make AP Physics accessible to under-served students. The goals of the project are: 1) have an additional 249 students, over three years, complete the College Board-accredited AP Physics 1 course or the AP Physics 1 Preparatory course; 2) add an additional replication site, with a total of three universities participating by the end of the project; 3) develop formal protocols so Project Accelerate can be replicated easily and with fidelity at sites across the nation; 4) develop formal protocols so the project can be self-sustaining at a reasonable cost (about $500 per student participant); 5) build an AP Physics 2 course, giving students who come through AP Physics 1 a second year of rigorous experience to help further prepare them for college and career success; 6) create additional rich interactive content, such as simulations and video-based experiments, to add to what is already in the AP Physics 1 prep course and to build the AP Physics 2 prep course - the key is to actively engage students with the material and include scaffolding to support the targeted population; 7) carry out qualitative and quantitative education research, identifying features of the program that work for the target population, as well as identifying areas for improvement. This project will support the growing body of research on the effectiveness of online and blended (combining online and in-person components) courses, and investigate the use of such courses with under-represented high school students.

Science and Engineering Education for Infrastructure Transformation

This project focuses on the research and develop an engineering education technology and pedagogy that will support project-based learning of science, engineering, and computation concepts and skills underlying the strategically important "smart" and "green" aspects of the infrastructure. The project will develop transformative technologies and curriculum materials to turn the campus of a high school or a geographical information system such as Google Maps into an engineering laboratory with virtually unlimited opportunities for learning and exploration.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721054
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/01/2017 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The Concord Consortium in collaboration with Purdue University will research and develop an engineering education technology and pedagogy that will support project-based learning of science, engineering, and computation concepts and skills underlying the strategically important "smart" and "green" aspects of the infrastructure. This project will develop transformative technologies and curriculum materials to turn the campus of a high school or a geographical information system such as Google Maps into an engineering laboratory with virtually unlimited opportunities for learning and exploration. The project will deliver two innovations: 1) The Smart High School is an engineering platform for designing Internet of Things systems for managing the resources, space, and processes of a school based on real-time analysis of data collected by various sensors deployed by students on campus; and 2) the Virtual Solar World is a computational modeling platform for students to design, deploy, and connect virtual solar power solutions for their homes, schools, and regions. Six standards-aligned curriculum units based on these technologies will be developed to guide student learning and support educational research. Approximately 2,000 students from rural, suburban, and urban high schools in Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Ohio will participate in this research. project products and findings through the Internet, conferences, publications, and partner networks.

The research is designed to identify technology-enhanced instructional strategies that can simultaneously foster the growth of skills and self-efficacy in scientific reasoning, design thinking, and computational thinking, all of which are needed to build the future infrastructure. The focus on infrastructure transformation is aligned with NSF's vision of smart and connected communities. Although this project will use the context of smart and green infrastructure to engage students to solve real-world problems, the skills of scientific reasoning, design thinking, and computational thinking that they will acquire through meeting the challenges of this project can be transferrable to other topics and fields. Using a design-based research approach, a rich set of formative and summative data will be collected from these students for probing into three research questions: 1) To what extent does the integrated learning model help students develop and connect scientific reasoning, design thinking, and computational thinking skills?; 2) To what extent is students' interest in cognate careers affected by the authenticity of engineering design challenges?; and 3) How do the variations in the solutions to overcome the cognitive and practical difficulties of real-world problems impact learning outcomes and career interest? The data sources include pre/post-tests, process data, self-reports, observations, surveys, interviews, and participant information.

Mobilizing Teachers to Increase Capacity and Broaden Women's Participation in Physics (Collaborative Research: Hazari)

This project assesses the impact of scaling-up the teaching of physics and engineering to women students in grade levels 11 and 12, particularly in reference to retention. The aim is to mobilize high school physics teachers to "attract and recruit" female students into physics and engineering careers. The project will advance physics identity research by testing research-based approaches/interventions with larger groups of teachers and connecting research to practice in ways that are both widely deployable and practical for teachers to implement.

Award Number: 
1721021
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/15/2017 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project assesses the impact of scaling-up the teaching of physics and engineering to women students in grade levels 11 and 12, particularly in reference to retention. The problem of low participation of women in physics and engineering has been a topic of concern for decades. The persistent underrepresentation of women in physics and engineering is not just an equity issue but also reflects an unrealized talent pool that can help respond to current and future challenges faced by society. The aim is to mobilize high school physics teachers to "attract and recruit" female students into science (physics) and engineering careers. The fundamental issues that the project seeks is to affect increases in the number of females in physics and engineering careers using research-informed and field-tested classroom practices that improve female students' physics identity. The project will advance science (physics) identity research by testing research-based approaches/interventions with larger groups of teachers and connecting research to practice in ways that are both widely deployable and practical for teachers to implement. The project will also affect female participation in engineering since developing a physics identity is strongly related to choosing engineering. The core area teachers will be trained in addressing student identity as a physicist or engineer.

In this project, two research universities (Florida International University, Texas A&M-Commerce) and the two largest national organizations in physics (American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers) will work together using approaches/interventions drawn from prior research results that will be tested with teachers in three states (24 teachers, 8 in each state) using an experimental design with control and treatment groups. The project proposes three phases: 1. Refine already established interventions for improving female physics identity for use on a massive national level which will be assessed through previously validated and reliable surveys and sound research design; 2. Launch a massive national campaign involving workshops, training modules, and mass communication approaches to reach and attempt to mobilize 16,000 of the 27,000 physics teachers nationwide to attract and recruit at least one female student to physics using the intervention approaches refines in phase 1 and other classroom approaches shown to improve female physics identity; and 3. Evaluate of the success of the campaign through surveys of high school physics teachers (subjective data) and data from the Higher Education Research Institute to monitor female student increases in freshmen declaring a physics major during the years following the campaign (objective data). The interventions will focus on developing female students' physics identity, a construct which has been found to be strongly related to career choice and persistence in physics. The project has the potential to reduce or eliminate the gender gap in the field of physics. In addition, the increase in female physics identity is likely to also increase female representation in engineering majors. Therefore, the work will lay the groundwork for adapting similar methods for increasing under-representation of females in other disciplines. The societies involved (American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers) are uniquely positioned within the discipline to ensure a successful campaign of information dissemination to physics teachers nationally and under-representation of females in other disciplines as well, engineering specifically.

Mobilizing Teachers to Increase Capacity and Broaden Women's Participation in Physics (Collaborative Research: Lock)

This project assesses the impact of scaling-up the teaching of physics and engineering to women students in grade levels 11 and 12, particularly in reference to retention. The aim is to mobilize high school physics teachers to "attract and recruit" female students into physics and engineering careers. The project will advance physics identity research by testing research-based approaches/interventions with larger groups of teachers and connecting research to practice in ways that are both widely deployable and practical for teachers to implement.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720917
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/15/2017 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project assesses the impact of scaling-up the teaching of physics and engineering to women students in grade levels 11 and 12, particularly in reference to retention. The problem of low participation of women in physics and engineering has been a topic of concern for decades. The persistent underrepresentation of women in physics and engineering is not just an equity issue but also reflects an unrealized talent pool that can help respond to current and future challenges faced by society. The aim is to mobilize high school physics teachers to "attract and recruit" female students into science (physics) and engineering careers. The fundamental issues that the project seeks is to affect increases in the number of females in physics and engineering careers using research-informed and field-tested classroom practices that improve female students' physics identity. The project will advance science (physics) identity research by testing research-based approaches/interventions with larger groups of teachers and connecting research to practice in ways that are both widely deployable and practical for teachers to implement. The project will also affect female participation in engineering since developing a physics identity is strongly related to choosing engineering. The core area teachers will be trained in addressing student identity as a physicist or engineer.

In this project, two research universities (Florida International University, Texas A&M-Commerce) and the two largest national organizations in physics (American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers) will work together using approaches/interventions drawn from prior research results that will be tested with teachers in three states (24 teachers, 8 in each state) using an experimental design with control and treatment groups. The project proposes three phases: 1. Refine already established interventions for improving female physics identity for use on a massive national level which will be assessed through previously validated and reliable surveys and sound research design; 2. Launch a massive national campaign involving workshops, training modules, and mass communication approaches to reach and attempt to mobilize 16,000 of the 27,000 physics teachers nationwide to attract and recruit at least one female student to physics using the intervention approaches refines in phase 1 and other classroom approaches shown to improve female physics identity; and 3. Evaluate of the success of the campaign through surveys of high school physics teachers (subjective data) and data from the Higher Education Research Institute to monitor female student increases in freshmen declaring a physics major during the years following the campaign (objective data). The interventions will focus on developing female students' physics identity, a construct which has been found to be strongly related to career choice and persistence in physics. The project has the potential to reduce or eliminate the gender gap in the field of physics. In addition, the increase in female physics identity is likely to also increase female representation in engineering majors. Therefore, the work will lay the groundwork for adapting similar methods for increasing under-representation of females in other disciplines. The societies involved (American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers) are uniquely positioned within the discipline to ensure a successful campaign of information dissemination to physics teachers nationally and under-representation of females in other disciplines as well, engineering specifically.

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