Science

A Quantitative Synthesis of Research on Elementary Science Programs

The goal of this project is to conduct a meta-analysis to assist in establishing a solid base of evidence to inform further research, practice, and policy in the area of early science education. The project will bring up-to-date the meta-analysis literature in the area of early science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2006179
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

The success of all students in science has become a priority, as the economic future depends on a workforce that is capable in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering. One area of emphasis has been on elementary science, where children's early attitudes and orientations about science are formed. Given the growth of high-quality evaluations of elementary science programs in recent years and the need to know what works in science education, an up-to-date review identifying effective programs and malleable factors in elementary science is needed. The goal of this project is to conduct a meta-analysis to assist in establishing a solid base of evidence to inform further research, practice, and policy in the area of early science education. The previous meta-analysis completed by this team published findings from approximately ten years ago. This project will bring up-to-date the meta-analysis literature in the area of early science education.

The review methods in the proposed quantitative synthesis on elementary science programs will be similar to those used by the What Works Clearinghouse. The focus of the review procedures is on timeliness, comprehensiveness, transparency, and minimizing bias. The goal of the project is to obtain and synthesize the entire literature evaluating elementary science programs to discover what works, for whom, and under what conditions. The team will systematically review the literature available in English between 2010 and 2021 to locate every study that meets well-established and accepted standards. Second, studies are grouped by categories, to look for patterns among effect sizes across studies. The team will use meta-regression techniques to test statistical significance of the categories and will explore cross-cutting substantive and methodological factors, as well as key moderators and mediators. The team will communicate findings to many audiences, including scholarly journals, practitioner journals, and the public.

Geological Construction of Rock Arrangements from Tectonics: Systems Modeling Across Scales

This project will create two curriculum units that use sophisticated simulations designed for students in secondary schools that integrate the study of the tectonic system and the rock genesis system. The project seeks to overcome the more typical approaches taken in earth science classrooms where such geologic processes are treated as discrete and highly predictable, rather than intertwined and dynamic.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2006144
Funding Period: 
Thu, 10/01/2020 to Mon, 09/30/2024
Full Description: 

Plate tectonics is the fundamental theory of geology that underlies almost all geological processes, including land and rock formation. However, the geologic processes and immense timeframes involved are often misunderstood. This study will create two curriculum units that use sophisticated simulations designed for students in secondary schools. The simulations will integrate the study of the tectonic system and the rock genesis system. Data from the simulations would be students' sources of evidence. For instance, the Tectonic Rock Explorer would use a sophisticated modeling engine that uses the physics involved in geodynamic data to represent compressional and tensional forces and calculate pressure and temperature in rock forming environments. This project seeks to overcome the more typical approaches taken in earth science classrooms where such geologic processes are treated as discrete and highly predictable, rather than intertwined and dynamic. In addition, this study would include work on students with disabilities in earth science classrooms and explore the practices that seem to be particularly useful in helping understand these systems. By working with simulations, the researchers intend to engage students in scientific practices that are more authentic to the ways that geologists work. The researchers will study if and how these simulations and the computer-based tools allow students to observe and manipulate processes that would be may otherwise be inaccessible.

This work follows on from prior work done by the Concord Consortium on simulations of earth systems. The design and development progression in Years 1 and 2 would create two units. The first module focuses on the relationship between tectonic movement and rock formation. The second would investigate geochronology and dating of rock formations. The researchers would work with 3 teachers (and classes), and then 15 teachers (and classes) using automated data logs, class observations, and video of students working in groups in Years 1 and 2. Professional development for teachers would be followed by the creation of educative materials. Researchers will also develop the framework for an assessment tool that includes understanding of geologic terms and embedded assessments. The researchers will used a mixed methods approach to analyze student data, including analyses cycles of analysis of students pre- and post-test scores on targeted concepts, reports of student performances on tasks embedded in the simulations, and the coding of videos to analyze discourse between partners and the supports provided by teachers. Teacher data will be analyzed using interviews, surveys and journals, with some special focus on how they are seeing students with identified disabilities respond to the materials and simulations. The research team intends to make materials widely available to thousands of students through their networks and webpages, and pursue outreach and dissemination in scholarly and practitioner conferences and publications.

Developing Teachers' Epistemic Cognition and Teaching Practices for Supporting Students' Epistemic Practices with Scientific Systems

This project uses a new theoretical framework that specifies criteria for developing scientific thinking skills that include the value that people place on scientific aims, the cognitive engagement needed to evaluate scientific claims, and the scientific skills that will enable one to arrive at the best supported explanation of a scientific phenomenon.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009803
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

This project aims to investigate needs and challenges in developing an informed public able to evaluate empirical evidence generated from scientific activities. At the core of this research are two intertwined issues: (1) epistemic practices--how people acquire knowledge of science and how they evaluate knowledge sources; and (2) how people improve their abilities to evaluate these knowledge sources so as to improve their abilities to develop and use scientific knowledge. While much science education research has focused on helping students develop these abilities such as through scientific argumentation and modeling (hereafter referred to as scientific thinking), much less research has focused on how teachers acquire this understanding and how their understanding informs their instruction. Until recently, the science education field has lacked a comprehensive framework to support the acquisition, evaluation, and use of scientific knowledge sources. This project uses a new theoretical framework that specifies criteria for developing these scientific thinking skills that include, among others, the value that people place on scientific aims, the cognitive engagement needed to evaluate scientific claims, and the scientific skills that will enable one to arrive at the best supported explanation of a scientific phenomenon. The project will work with high school biology teachers to investigate their own understanding of scientific thinking, how it can be improved through professional development, and how this improvement can translate into practice to support student learning.

The project will work with 20 teachers and classrooms that will impact approximately 1500 to 3000 students. Teachers will act as design collaborators in three iterations of design and development activities with a goal to produce effective professional development supports with proven student outcomes that can be broadly disseminated. Data collection each year will entail: (1) 40 to 60 video-recordings of teacher instruction and student interactions; (2) Content and pedagogical content knowledge surveys from teachers and students; (3) Teacher pre- and post-interviews; and (4) Teacher and student artifacts that demonstrate the extent to which scientific thinking has been achieved. The data will be analyzed through a mixed-methods approach. Qualitative data will be analyzed through validated coding manuals that specify a range of abilities in scientific thinking. Likert-scale and open-ended survey questions will be used to measure changes in instruction and learning outcomes in various factors related to the research goals.

Opening Pathways into Engineering through an Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools Partnership

The Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools (IPaSS) Partnership Program responds to disparities in student access to high-quality, advanced physics instruction by bringing together Illinois high school physics teachers from a diverse set of school contexts to participate in intensive PD experiences structured around university-level instructional materials.

Award Number: 
2010188
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project will conduct research and teacher professional development (PD) to adapt university-level instructional materials for implementation by high school teachers in their physics courses. Access to high-quality, advanced physics instruction in high school can open pathways for students to attain university STEM degrees by preparing them for the challenges faced in gatekeeping undergraduate physics courses. Yet, across the nation, access to such advanced physics instruction is not universally available, particularly in rural, urban, and low-income serving districts, in which instructional resources for teachers may be more limited, and physics teacher isolation, under-preparation and out-of-field teaching are most common. The Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools (IPaSS) Partnership Program responds to these disparities in student access by bringing together Illinois high school physics teachers from a diverse set of school contexts to participate in intensive PD experiences structured around university-level instructional materials. This program will help teachers adapt, adopt, and integrate high-quality, university-aligned physics instruction into their classrooms, in turn opening more equitable, clear, and viable pathways for students into STEM education and careers.

The IPaSS Partnership Program puts education researchers, university physics instructors, and teacher professional development staff at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I) in collaboration with in-service high school physics teachers to adapt university physics curricula and pedagogies to fit the context of their high school classrooms. The project will adapt two key components of U of I's undergraduate physics curriculum for high school use by: (1) using a web-based "flipped" platform, smartPhysics, which contains online pre-lectures, pre-labs and homework and (2) using research-based physics lab activities targeting scientific skill development, utilizing the iOLab wireless lab system - a compact device that contains all sensors necessary for hundreds of physics labs with an interface that supports quick data collection and analysis. The program adopts two PD elements that support sustained, in-depth teacher engagement: (1) incremental expansion of the pool of teachers to a cohort of 40 by the end of the project, with a range of physics teaching assignments and work collaboratively with a physics teaching community to develop advanced physics instruction for their particular classroom contexts, (2) involvement in a combination of intensive summer PD sessions containing weekly PD meetings with university project staff that value teachers' agency in designing their courses, and the formation of lasting professional relationships between teachers. The IPaSS Partnership Program also addresses needs for guidance, support and resources as teachers adapt to the shifts in Advanced Placement (AP) Physics standards. The recent revised high school physics curriculum that emphasizes deep conceptual understanding of central physical principles and scientific practices will be learned through the inquiry-based laboratory work. The planned research will address three central questions: (1) How does IPaSS impact teachers' practice? (2) Does the program encourage student proficiency in physics and their pursuit of STEM topics beyond the course? (3) What aspects of the U of I curricula must be adapted to the structures of the high school classroom to best serve high school student populations? To answer these questions, several streams of data will be collected: Researchers will collect instructional artifacts and video recordings from teachers' PD activities and classroom teaching throughout the year to trace the development of teachers' pedagogical and instructional development. The students of participating teachers will be surveyed on their physics knowledge, attitudes, and future career aspirations before and after their physics course, video recordings of student groupwork will be made, and student written coursework and grades will be collected. Finally, high school students will be surveyed post-graduation about their STEM education and career trajectories. The result of this project will be a community of Illinois physics teachers who are engaged in continual development of advanced high school physics curricula, teacher-documented examples of these curricula suited for a range of school and classroom contexts, and a research-based set of PD principles aimed at supporting students' future STEM opportunities and engagement.

Professional Development for Science Teachers Using Electronic Portfolios to Document Student Understandings of Energy Concepts Across Grades K-8

This project would investigate a new model of professional development for teams of science teachers in grades K-8 who would create electronic portfolios documenting how they taught specific concepts about energy. In addition, teachers would also select evidence of student understanding of the concepts and add those materials to their portfolios. The study focuses on teaching and learning energy core ideas and science practices that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Award Number: 
2010505
Funding Period: 
Thu, 10/01/2020 to Sat, 09/30/2023
Full Description: 

Professional development for science teachers is often restricted to content required for a single grade level or grade band. Consequently, teachers seldom have the opportunity to discuss evidence of how learning occurs as students pass from grade to grade. This project would investigate a new model of professional development for teams of science teachers in grades K-8 who would create electronic portfolios documenting how they taught specific concepts about energy. In addition, teachers would also select evidence of student understanding of the concepts and add those materials to their portfolios. The study focuses on teaching and learning energy core ideas and science practices that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The core ideas are designed to spiral over grade levels, with each core idea being revisited with more complexity as students advance from grades K to 8. The electronic portfolio will include images of artifacts such as student work samples and videos that reflect students' evolving thinking and discourse about energy topics. As teachers organize, share, and discuss this progression of evidence in professional learning communities guided by the researchers, the goal is to have a vertical electronic display of artifacts that illustrates how learning can occur. The vertically aligned evidence will help other teachers in the school district to gain an increasingly complex understanding of student learning trajectories across grade levels to improve teaching and learning in science classrooms across the district. The project is innovative because its goal is to move beyond the grade-level collaborations typical of professional development practice and literature, toward multi-grade teams of teachers who engage in complex reflection about spiraling core ideas and scientific practices developed by students over time.

The research questions are: 1.) How does participation in a vertical professional learning community (PLC) influence teachers' knowledge and instruction for teaching disciplinary core ideas through engagement in science practices? 2.) In what ways does professional learning about science teaching and learning differ in a vertical PLC, compared to grade-level PLCs? And 3.) How does the use of an electronic portfolio and feedback system influence teachers' learning from a vertical PLC? The study will first work with K-8 teacher leaders in the Little River Unified School District in California where an electronic portfolio system is already in place due to a prior NSF grant. In the first year, the researchers will add new features to the electronic portfolio system to expand its capabilities. Each teacher would provide a 5-day portfolio of lessons in the fall semester of the first year as a baseline measure of instructional practices. The project will focus on NGSS competencies in developing models and constructing explanations for energy concepts. The researchers will measure progress through teacher interviews, surveys, and lesson plans. Teachers will also collect additional artifacts reflecting student-drawn conceptual models and written or oral causal explanations of anchoring phenomena throughout the assigned units. By the end of the study, teachers will collect new 5-day portfolios, to sum up what they have learned and how they are approaching teaching the energy concepts and science practices. Participating teacher leaders will work with the UCLA research team to design and facilitate a series of professional development modules for all science teachers across grades K-8. These modules will use the evidence in the vertical portfolios to illustrate teaching and learning trajectories across K-8 physical science energy concepts and science.

Supporting Students' Language, Knowledge, and Culture through Science

This project will test and refine a teaching model that brings together current research about the role of language in science learning, the role of cultural connections in students' science engagement, and how students' science knowledge builds over time. The outcome of this project will be to provide an integrated framework that can guide current and future science teachers in preparing all students with the conceptual and linguistic practices they will need to succeed in school and in the workplace.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010633
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

The Language, Culture, and Knowledge-building through Science project seeks to explore and positively influence the work of science teachers at the intersection of three significant and ongoing challenges affecting U.S. STEM education. First, U.S. student demographics are rapidly changing, with an increasing number of students learning STEM subjects in their second language. This change means that all teachers need new skills for meeting students where they currently are, linguistically, culturally, and in terms of prior science knowledge. Second, the needs and opportunities of the national STEM workforce are changing rapidly within a shifting employment landscape. This shift means that teachers need to better understand future job opportunities and the knowledge and skills that will be necessary in those careers. Third, academic expectations in schools have changed, driven by changes in education standards. These new expectations mean that teachers need new skills to support all students to master a range of practices that are both conceptual and linguistic. To address these challenges, teachers require new models that bring together current research about the role of language in science learning, the role of cultural connections in students' science engagement, and how students' science knowledge builds over time. This project begins with such an initial model, developed collaboratively with science teachers in a prior project. The model will be rigorously tested and refined in a new geographic and demographic context. The outcome will be to provide an integrated framework that can guide current and future science teachers in preparing all students with the conceptual and linguistic practices they will need to succeed in school and in the workplace.

This project model starts with three theoretical constructs that have been integrated into an innovative framework of nine practices. These practices guide teachers in how to simultaneously support students' language development, cultural sustenance, and knowledge building through science with a focus on supporting and challenging multilingual learners. The project uses a functional view of language development, which highlights the need to support students in understanding both how and why to make shifts in language use. For example, students' attention will be drawn to differences in language use when they shift from language that is suited to peer negotiation in a lab group to written explanations suitable for a lab report. Moving beyond a funds of knowledge approach to culture, the team view of integrating students' cultural knowledge includes strengthening the role of home knowledge in school, but also guiding students to apply school knowledge to their out-of-school interests and passions. Finally, the project team's view of cumulative knowledge building, informed by work in the sociology of knowledge, highlights the need for teachers and students to understand the norms for meaning making within a given discipline. In the case of science, the three-dimensional learning model in the Next Generation Science Standards makes these disciplinary norms visible and serves as a launching point for the project's work. Teachers will be supported to structure learning opportunities that highlight what is unique about meaning making through science. Using a range of data collection and analysis methods, the project team will study changes in teachers' practices and beliefs related to language, culture and knowledge building, as teachers work with all students, and particularly with multilingual learners. The project work will take place in both classrooms and out of class science learning settings. By working closely over several years with a group of fifty science teachers spread across the state of Oregon, the project team will develop a typology of teachers (design personas) to increase the field's understanding of how to support different teachers, given their own backgrounds, in preparing all students for the broad range of academic and occupational pathways they will encounter.

Supporting Elementary Teacher Learning for Effective School-Based Citizen Science (TL4CS)

This project will develop two forms of support for teachers: guidance embedded in citizen science project materials and teacher professional development. The overarching goal of the project is to generate knowledge about teacher learning that enables elementary school citizen science to support students' engagement with authentic science content and practices through data collection and sense making.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009212
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

Citizen science involves individuals, who are not professional scientists, in authentic scientific research, typically in collaboration with professional scientists. When implemented well in elementary schools, citizen science projects immerse students in science content and engage them with scientific practices. These projects can also create opportunities for students to connect with their local natural surroundings, which is needed, as some research has suggested that children are becoming increasingly detached from nature. The classroom teacher plays a critical role in ensuring that school-based citizen science projects are implemented in a way that maximizes the benefits. However, these projects typically do not include substantial guidance for teachers who want to implement the projects for instructional purposes. This project will develop two forms of support for teachers: (1) guidance embedded in citizen science project materials and (2) teacher professional development. It will develop materials and professional development experiences to support teacher learning for 80 5th grade teachers impacting students in 40 diverse elementary schools.

The overarching goal of this project is to generate knowledge about teacher learning that enables elementary school citizen science to support students' engagement with authentic science content and practices through data collection and sense making. Specifically, the study is designed to address the following research questions: (1) What kinds of support foster teacher learning for enacting effective school-based citizen science? (2) How do supports for teacher learning shape the way teachers enact school-based citizen science? and (3) What is the potential of school-based citizen science for positively influencing student learning and student attitudes toward nature and science? Data collected during project implementation will include teacher surveys, student surveys and assessments, and case study protocols.

Learning Progressions in Science: Analyzing and Deconstructing the Multiple Dimensions in Assessment

Through this project, researchers will develop internet-based assessments designed to capture learning outcomes that (a) measure the higher order cognitive skills that are essential to current reform efforts, and (b) that report results in ways that are readily accessible and interpretable.

Award Number: 
2010322
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

Assessments are a crucial tool to enable the success of teaching and learning in science classrooms. Hence, to realize the vision of current reform efforts assessments must be developed that (a) measure the higher order cognitive skills that are essential to those reforms, and (b) that report results in ways that are readily accessible and interpretable. Through this project, researchers will develop internet-based assessments that capture such learning outcomes. These assessments can influence policy and practice by providing tangible products that exemplify the kind of learning outcomes and performances expected in today's science classrooms. The measures will also ensure that all students are assessed fairly. This project has the potential to enable students to express their knowledge and skills in a variety of ways which are less demanding and more creative than typical in traditional assessments.

Researchers will develop assessment materials aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards practice of scientific argumentation, the cross-cutting concept of patterns, and content in each of the following foundational middle school science domains - physical, life, and Earth sciences. Researchers will work closely with administrators and educators to ensure the relevance and alignment of materials to teachers' needs. Data will be gathered from middle and high school students from ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse school districts in California and Arizona. Key measures to be developed include embedding questions about patterns into the nine existing scenarios (tasks) and in new scenarios about natural resources. The team will develop assessments that can be used in both open-ended and selected response formats, to enhance their usefulness to teachers for diagnostic understanding, and their efficiency for summative classroom use. Data will also be gathered from teachers, to help develop interpretational materials. Teachers will have access, in real time, to their own students' responses, and estimates of students' performance on learning progressions within each of the science practices, crosscutting concepts and domains mentioned. The team will use the BEAR Assessment System to develop and refine assessment materials. This system is an integrated approach to developing assessments that seeks to provide meaningful interpretations of student work relative to cognitive and developmental goals. The researchers will gather empirical evidence to develop and improve the assessment materials, and then gather reliability and validity evidence to support their use. In total, item response data will be collected from several thousand students across the two districts. Student response data will be analyzed using multidimensional item response theory models.

How Deep Structural Modeling Supports Learning with Big Ideas in Biology (Collaborative Research: Capps)

This project addresses the pressing need to more effectively organize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching and learning around "big ideas" that run through science disciplines. Unfortunately, finding ways to teach big ideas effectively so they become useful as knowledge frameworks is a significant challenge. Deep structure modeling (DSM), the innovation advanced in this project, is designed to meet this challenge in the context of high school biology.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010223
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project addresses the pressing need to more effectively organize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching and learning around "big ideas" that run through science disciplines. This need is forcefully advanced by policy leaders including the National Research Council and the College Board. They point out that learning is more effective when students organize and link information within a consistent knowledge framework, which is what big ideas should provide. Unfortunately, finding ways to teach big ideas effectively so they become useful as knowledge frameworks is a significant challenge. Deep structure modeling (DSM), the innovation advanced in this project, is designed to meet this challenge in the context of high school biology. In DSM, students learn a big idea as the underlying, or "deep" structure of a set of examples that contain the structure, but with varying outward details. As learners begin to apprehend the deep structure (i.e., the big idea) within the examples, they use the tools and procedures of scientific modeling to express and develop it. According to theories of learning that undergird DSM, the result of this process should be a big idea that is flexible, meaningful, and easy to express, thus providing an ideal framework for making sense of new information learners encounter (i.e., learning with the big idea). To the extent that this explanation is born out in rigorous research tests and within authentic curriculum materials, it contributes important knowledge about how teaching and learning can be organized around big ideas, and not only for deep structural modeling but for other instructional approaches as well.

This project has twin research and prototype development components. Both are taking place in the context of high school biology, in nine classrooms across three districts, supporting up to 610 students. The work focuses on three design features of DSM: (1) embedding model source materials with intuitive, mechanistic ideas; (2) supporting learners to abstract those ideas as a deep structure shared by a set of sources; and (3) representing this deep structure efficiently within the model. In combination, these features support students to understand an abstract, intuitively rich, and efficient knowledge structure that they subsequently use as a framework to interpret, organize, and link disciplinary content. A series of five research studies build on one another to develop knowledge about whether and how the design features bring about these anticipated effects. Earlier studies in the sequence are small-scale classroom experiments randomly assigning students to either deep structural modeling or to parallel, non modeling controls. Measures discriminate for the anticipated effects during learning and on posttests. Later studies use qualitative methods to carefully trace the anticipated effects over time and across topics. As a group, these studies are contributing generalized knowledge of how learners can effectively abstract and represent big ideas and how these ideas can be leveraged as frameworks for learning content with understanding. Two research-tested biology curriculum prototypes are being developed as the studies evolve: a quarter-year DSM biology curriculum centered on energy; and an eighth-year DSM unit centered on natural selection.

How Deep Structural Modeling Supports Learning with Big Ideas in Biology (Collaborative Research: Shemwell)

This project addresses the pressing need to more effectively organize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching and learning around "big ideas" that run through science disciplines. Unfortunately, finding ways to teach big ideas effectively so they become useful as knowledge frameworks is a significant challenge. Deep structure modeling (DSM), the innovation advanced in this project, is designed to meet this challenge in the context of high school biology.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010334
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project addresses the pressing need to more effectively organize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching and learning around "big ideas" that run through science disciplines. This need is forcefully advanced by policy leaders including the National Research Council and the College Board. They point out that learning is more effective when students organize and link information within a consistent knowledge framework, which is what big ideas should provide. Unfortunately, finding ways to teach big ideas effectively so they become useful as knowledge frameworks is a significant challenge. Deep structure modeling (DSM), the innovation advanced in this project, is designed to meet this challenge in the context of high school biology. In DSM, students learn a big idea as the underlying, or "deep" structure of a set of examples that contain the structure, but with varying outward details. As learners begin to apprehend the deep structure (i.e., the big idea) within the examples, they use the tools and procedures of scientific modeling to express and develop it. According to theories of learning that undergird DSM, the result of this process should be a big idea that is flexible, meaningful, and easy to express, thus providing an ideal framework for making sense of new information learners encounter (i.e., learning with the big idea). To the extent that this explanation is born out in rigorous research tests and within authentic curriculum materials, it contributes important knowledge about how teaching and learning can be organized around big ideas, and not only for deep structural modeling but for other instructional approaches as well.

This project has twin research and prototype development components. Both are taking place in the context of high school biology, in nine classrooms across three districts, supporting up to 610 students. The work focuses on three design features of DSM: (1) embedding model source materials with intuitive, mechanistic ideas; (2) supporting learners to abstract those ideas as a deep structure shared by a set of sources; and (3) representing this deep structure efficiently within the model. In combination, these features support students to understand an abstract, intuitively rich, and efficient knowledge structure that they subsequently use as a framework to interpret, organize, and link disciplinary content. A series of five research studies build on one another to develop knowledge about whether and how the design features bring about these anticipated effects. Earlier studies in the sequence are small-scale classroom experiments randomly assigning students to either deep structural modeling or to parallel, non modeling controls. Measures discriminate for the anticipated effects during learning and on posttests. Later studies use qualitative methods to carefully trace the anticipated effects over time and across topics. As a group, these studies are contributing generalized knowledge of how learners can effectively abstract and represent big ideas and how these ideas can be leveraged as frameworks for learning content with understanding. Two research-tested biology curriculum prototypes are being developed as the studies evolve: a quarter-year DSM biology curriculum centered on energy; and an eighth-year DSM unit centered on natural selection.

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