Science

Building Middle School Students' Understanding of Heredity and Evolution

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814194
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules. The planned research will also examine whether student understanding of evolution depends on the length and time of exposure to learning about heredity prior to learning about evolution.

This Early Stage Design and Development project will develop two new 3-week middle school curriculum units, with one focusing on heredity and the other focusing on evolution. The units will include embedded formative and summative assessment measures and online teacher support materials. These units will be developed as part of a curriculum learning progression that will eventually span the elementary grades through high school. This curriculum learning progression will integrate heredity, evolution, data analysis, construction of scientific explanations, evidence-based argumentation, pattern recognition, and inferring cause and effect relationships. To inform development and iterative revisions of the units, the project will conduct nation-wide beta and pilot tests, selecting schools with broad ranges of student demographics and geographical locations. The project will include three rounds of testing and revision of both the student curriculum and teacher materials. The project will also investigate student understanding of evolution in terms of how their understanding is impacted by conceptual understanding of heredity. The research to be conducted by this project is organized around three broad research questions: (a) In what ways can two curriculum units be designed to incorporate the three dimensions of science learning and educative teacher supports to guide students' conceptual understanding of heredity and evolution? (b) To what extent does student understanding of evolution depend on the length and timing of heredity lessons that preceded an evolution unit? And (c) In what ways do students learn heredity and evolution?

LabVenture - Revealing Systemic Impacts of a 12-Year Statewide Science Field Trip Program

This project will examine the impact of a 12-year statewide science field trip program called LabVenture, a hands-on program in discovery and inquiry that brings middle school students and teachers across the state of Maine to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) to become fully immersed in explorations into the complexities of local marine science ecosystems.

Award Number: 
1811452
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

This research in service to practice project will examine the impact of a 12-year statewide science field trip program called LabVenture. This hands-on program in discovery and inquiry brings middle school students and teachers across the state of Maine to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in Portland, Maine to become fully immersed in explorations into the complexities of local marine science ecosystems. These intensive field trip experiences are led by informal educators and facilitated entirely within informal contexts at GMRI. Approximately 70% of all fifth and sixth grade students in Maine participate in the program each year and more than 120,000 students have attended since the program's inception in 2005. Unfortunately, little is known to date on how the program has influenced practice and learning ecosystems within formal, informal, and community contexts. As such, this research in service to practice project will employ an innovative research approach to understand and advance knowledge on the short and long-term impacts of the program within different contexts. If proven effective, the LabVenture program will elucidate the potential benefits of a large-scale field trip program implemented systemically across a community over time and serve as a reputable model for statewide adoption of similar programs seeking innovative strategies to connect formal and informal science learning to achieve notable positive shifts in their local, statewide, or regional STEM learning ecosystems.

Over the four-year project duration, the project will reach all 16 counties in the State of Maine. The research design includes a multi-step, multi-method approach to gain insight on the primary research questions. The initial research will focus on extant data and retrospective data sources codified over the 12-year history of the program. The research will then be expanded to garner prospective data on current participating students, teachers, and informal educators. Finally, a community study will be conducted to understand the potential broader impacts of the program. Each phase of the research will consider the following overarching research questions are: (1) How do formal and informal practitioners perceive the value and purposes of the field trip program and field trip experiences more broadly (field trip ontology)? (2) To what degree do short-term field trip experiences in informal contexts effect cognitive and affective outcomes for students? (3) How are community characteristics (e.g., population, distance from GMRI, proximity to the coast) related to ongoing engagement with the field trip program? (4) What are aspects of the ongoing field trip program that might embed it as an integral element of community culture (e.g., community awareness of a shared social experience)? (5) To what degree does a field trip experience that is shared by schools across a state lead to a traceable change that can be measured for those who participated and across the broader community? and (6) In what ways, if at all, can a field trip experience that occurs in informal contexts have an influence on the larger learning ecosystem (e.g., the Maine education system)? Each phase of the research will be led by a team of researchers with the requisite expertise in the methodologies and contexts required to carry out that particular aspect of the research (i.e., retrospective study, prospective study, community study). In addition, evaluation and practitioner panels of experts will provide expertise and guidance on the research, evaluation, and project implementation. The project will culminate with a practitioner convening, to share project findings more broadly with formal and informal practitioners, and promote transfer from research to practice. Additional dissemination strategies include conferences, network meetings, and peer-reviewed publications.

Understanding the Role of Simulations in K-12 Science and Mathematics Teacher Education

This project will develop and implement a working conference for scholars and practitioners to articulate current use cases and theories of action regarding the use of simulations in PreK-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The conference will be structured to provide opportunities for attendees to share their current research, theoretical models, conceptual views, and use cases focused on the design and use of digital and non-digital simulations for building and assessing K-12 science and mathematics teacher competencies.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813476
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The recent emergence of updated learning standards in science and mathematics, coupled with increasingly diverse school students across the nation, has highlighted the importance of updating professional learning opportunities for science and mathematics teachers. One promising approach that has emerged is the use of simulations to engage teachers in approximations of practice where the focus is on helping them learn how to engage in ambitious content teaching. In particular, recent technological advances have supported the emergence of new kinds of digital simulations and have brought increased attention to simulations as a tool to enhance teacher learning. This project will develop and implement a working conference for scholars and practitioners to articulate current use cases and theories of action regarding the use of simulations in PreK-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The conference will be structured to provide opportunities for attendees to share their current research, theoretical models, conceptual views, and use cases focused on the design and use of digital and non-digital simulations for building and assessing K-12 science and mathematics teacher competencies.

While the use of simulations in teacher education is neither new nor limited to digital simulation, emerging technological capabilities have enabled digital simulations to become practical in ways not formerly available. The current literature base, however, is dated and the field lacks clear theoretic models or articulated theories of action regarding what teachers could or should learn via simulations, and the essential components of effective learning trajectories. This working conference will be structured to provide opportunities for attending, teacher educators, researchers, professional development facilitators, policy makers, preservice and inservice teachers, and school district leaders to share their current research, theoretical models, conceptual views, and use cases regarding the role of simulations in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The conference will be organized around four major goals, including: (1) Define how simulations (digital and non-digital) are conceptualized, operationalized, and utilized in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education; (2) Document and determine the challenges and affordances of the varied contexts, audiences, and purposes for which simulations are used in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education and the variety of investigation methods and research questions employed to investigate the use of simulations in these settings; (3) Make explicit the theories of action and conceptual views undergirding the various simulation models being used in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education; and (4) Determine implications of the current research and development work in this space and establish an agenda for studying the use of simulations in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The project will produce a white paper that presents the research and development agenda developed by the working conference, describes a series of use cases describing current and emergent practice, and identifies promising directions for future research and development in this area. Conference outcomes are expected to advance understanding of the varied ways in which digital and non-digital simulations can be used to foster and assess K-12 science and mathematics teacher competencies and initiate a research and development agenda for examining the role of simulations in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Understanding the Role of Simulations in Teacher Preparation

Presenter(s): Lisa Dieker, Angelica Fulchini Scruggs, Heather Howell, Michael Hynes, & Jamie Mikeska


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.

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

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

Award Number: 
1813342
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

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

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

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

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

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1854801
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Development and Validation of a Mobile, Web-based Coaching Tool to Improve PreK Classroom Practices to Enhance Learning

This project will promote pre-K teachers' use of specific teaching strategies that have been shown to enhance young children's learning and social skills. To enhance teachers' use of these practices, the project will develop a new practitioner-friendly version of the Classroom Quality Real-time Empirically-based Feedback (CQ-REF) tool for instructional coaches who work with pre-K teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813008
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

Children from low-income families often enter kindergarten academically behind their more economically affluent peers. Advancing pre-kindergarten (pre-K) teachers' ability to provide all students with high-quality early math learning experiences has potential to minimize this gap in school readiness. This project will promote pre-K teachers' use of specific teaching strategies, such as spending more time on math content and listening to children during instructional activities, that have been shown to enhance young children's learning and social skills. To enhance teachers' use of these practices, the project takes a novel approach--a mobile website that helps instructional coaches who work with pre-K teachers. The Classroom Quality Real-time Empirically-based Feedback tool (CQ-REF) will guide coaches' ability to observe specific teacher practices in their classrooms and then provide feedback to help teachers evaluate their practices and set goals for improvement.  Practically, the CQ-REF addresses the need for accessible, real-time feedback on high quality pre-K classroom teaching.

This project focuses on developing a new practitioner-friendly version of the CQ-REF, originally designed as a research tool for evaluating the quality of classroom teaching, for use by coaches and teachers. At the beginning of the four-year project, the team will collect examples of high-quality classroom teaching and coaching strategies. These will be used to create a library of video and other materials that teachers and coaches can use to establish a shared definition of what effective pre-K teaching looks like. In year three of the project, the team will pilot the CQ-REF with a diverse range of pre-K teachers and their coaches to determine the tool's usability and relevance. In this validation study coaches will be randomly assigned to either use the CQ-REF tool or coach in their usual manner. After one year, the CQ-REF's impact on teacher practices and student outcomes will be assessed. Outcomes of interest include teacher and student classroom behavior and children's executive function and ability in mathematics, literacy and science. Concurrently, an external evaluation team will examine how the coaching is being conducted and used, and participants' impressions of the coaching process. In the fourth and final year, the team will focus on refining the tool based on results from prior work and on disseminating the findings to research and practitioner audiences.

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