Science

Engaging Students in Scientific Practices: Evaluating Evidence and Explanation in Secondary Earth and Space Science

This project will develop, implement, test, and revise instructional approaches and materials for high school students that focus on the links between scientific evidence and alternative explanations of phenomena relating to Earth and space education. Students will learn to construct diagrams showing the links between explanatory models of natural phenomena and lines of evidence, and then evaluate the plausibility of various alternative explanations for events.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721041
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will develop, implement, test, and revise instructional approaches and materials for high school students that focus on the links between scientific evidence and alternative explanations of phenomena relating to Earth and space education. Students will examine alternative explanations for natural phenomena associated with extreme weather events, freshwater resource availability, and related topics in learning how to evaluate scientifically valid lines of evidence and explanation. Students will learn to construct diagrams showing the links between explanatory models of natural phenomena and lines of evidence, and then evaluate the plausibility of various alternative explanations for events. It is expected that engagement in these activities will help students gain proficiency in model-based reasoning, critical thinking, planning and analyzing scientifically valid investigations, constructing plausible explanations, engaging in collaborative argumentation, and critically evaluating scientific information.

This 4-year Design and Development project will examine use of Model-Evidence Link (MEL) diagrams that are intended to help students cognitively construct mental scaffolds that assist their engagement in the practices of critical evaluation, plausibility appraisal, and knowledge construction related to science topics that are considered by some as controversial. Prior research has demonstrated the potential educational outcomes of using MEL diagrams, but this project will extend the previous work by examining an approach where students construct their own MEL diagrams (build-a-MELs, or baMELs). The project will examine the use of both pre-constructed MELs and baMELs for effectiveness in promoting student engagement in scientific reasoning and practices. The project will employ design-based research methodologies in pursuing answers to three research questions: (1) Do baMEL activities tested in multiple high school classroom settings promote critical evaluation, plausibility reappraisal, and  scientifically accurate knowledge construction about controversial Earth and space science topics? (2) How do these additional baMELs differ from pre-constructed MELs in promoting critical evaluation, plausibility reappraisal, and knowledge construction? And (3) To what extent does repeated use of both pre-constructed MELs and baMELs result in student engagement of scientific practices (i.e., asking critical questions, using model-based reasoning, planning and analyzing scientifically valid investigations, constructing plausible explanations, engaging in collaborative argumentation, and critically evaluating scientific information)? The project will engage high school students taking Earth and space classes in selected schools of Georgia, New Jersey, and within Philadelphia. Teacher professional development opportunities associated with the project will include summer institutes, classroom supports, and mentoring sessions.

Examining an Innovative Approach to Supporting Science Teachers Practice Towards Three-Dimensional Learning Goals through Adapting Classroom Assessment Tasks

This collaborative project will conduct early stage research on promising advances in how we prepare science teachers to support three-dimensional science learning as outlined in the Framework for Science Education. The project aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of a new approach to designing support tools and professional development focused on adapting classroom assessments that achieves these shifts in teachers' instructional vision and practice in less than 20 hours of professional development.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1748757
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

This collaborative project will conduct early stage research on promising advances in how we prepare science teachers to support three-dimensional science learning as outlined in the Framework for Science Education (National Research Council, 2012). In order to achieve the new goals for science teaching and learning aimed for in current standards reforms, there is a need for radically new models of professional development of science teachers. While prior research has identified that 80-100 hours of professional development is necessary for teachers to change their instructional vision and practice to align with the Next Generation Science Standards, most states and districts who are adopting the new standards do not have the resources to support teacher preparation to this extent. This project aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of a new approach to designing support tools and professional development focused on adapting classroom assessments that achieves these shifts in teachers' instructional vision and practice in less than 20 hours of professional development. The team will also discern the contributions to changes in teachers' instructional vision when teachers only use the support tools versus using the tools in the context of the full professional development model. Evidence of effectiveness of this high leverage approach to teacher preparation focused on adapting classroom assessments is important in order to develop scalable solutions to the significant science teacher professional development need created by the recent adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards by 28 states and numerous other districts.

The project will conduct a two-iteration comparative research study that explores differences in outcomes between science teachers who use only the support tools as resources to adapt classroom tasks versus those who use the tools as part of a two-day professional development experience. The outcomes include changes in teachers' instructional vision related to three-dimensional science learning as measured by a teacher vision survey and teacher interviews, and improvements in the quality of teachers' adapted assessment tasks as determined by a rubric-based analysis and observations of the professional development sessions. Data analysis will follow a conjecture-mapping strategy to compare changes over time within and across groups in order to evaluate hypothesized links between design features of the tools and professional development models, mediating processes, and outcomes. Findings of this study will provide evidence to inform instructional leaders and designs for science teacher preparation, and lead to future development and research in this area.

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Building a Community of Science Teacher Educators to Prepare Novices for Ambitious Science Teaching

This conference will bring together a group of teacher educators to focus on preservice teacher education and a shared vision of instruction called ambitious science teaching. It is a critical first step toward building a community of teacher educators who can collectively share and refine strategies, tools, and practices for preparing preservice science teachers for ambitious science teaching.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1719950
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

There is a growing consensus among science teacher educators of a need for a shared, research-based vision of accomplished instructional practice, and for teacher education pedagogies that can effectively prepare preservice science teachers to support the science learning of students from all backgrounds. This conference will bring together a group of teacher educators to focus on preservice teacher education and a shared vision of instruction called ambitious science teaching. This conference is a critical first step toward building a community of teacher educators who can collectively share and refine strategies, tools, and practices for preparing preservice science teachers for ambitious science teaching. The conference has two goals. The first goal is to develop a shared vision and language about effective pedagogy of science teacher preparation, focusing on ambitious science teaching and practice-based approaches to science teacher preparation. The second goal is to initiate a professional community that can generate, test, revise, and disseminate a set of resources (curriculum materials, tools, videos, models of teacher educator pedagogies, etc.) to support teacher educators.

There are immediate and long-term broader impacts that will result from this conference. One immediate impact is that this conference will set forth an actionable research agenda for the participants and the field to take up around ambitious science teaching and practice-based teacher education. Such an agenda will help shape new work, involving institutional collaborations,teacher preparation programs, and national organizations. Such an outcome has the potential to immediately impact the work of the conference participants and their own teacher preparation programs. In the long-term, this conference provides an opportunity for the participants to consider how to use ambitious science teaching to address issues of equity and social justice in science education and schools. In addition, the broader impacts of this conference will be to spread a vision of science teaching and practice-based teacher preparation in which students' ideas and experiences are the raw material of teachers' work.

Fostering Collaborative Computer Science Learning with Intelligent Virtual Companions for Upper Elementary Students (Collaborative Research: Wiebe)

The project will provide the opportunity for upper elementary students to learn computer science and build strong collaboration practices.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721000
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/15/2017 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

There is growing recognition that children can, and should, learn computer science. One of the central tenets of computer science is that it is a collaborative discipline, yet children do not start out with an intrinsic ability to collaborate. The project will provide the opportunity for upper elementary students to learn computer science and build strong collaboration practices. Leveraging the promise of virtual learning companions, the project will address three thrusts. First, the project will collect datasets of collaborative learning for computer science in diverse upper elementary school classrooms. Second, the project will design, develop, and iteratively refine its intelligent virtual learning companions, which support dyads of students in a scaffolded computer science learning environment with an interactive online coding tool. Third, the project will generate research findings and evidence about how children collaborate in computer science learning, and how best to support their collaboration with intelligent virtual learning companions. There will be three families of deliverables: learning activities and professional development, an intelligent learning environment with virtual learning companions, and research evidence that furthers the state of scholarship and practice surrounding the collaborative learning of computer science. The project will situate itself in highly diverse elementary schools in two states, Durham County, North Carolina and Alachua County, Florida. This project is supported by the Discovery Research PreK-12 program, which funds research and development of STEM innovations and approaches.

The project addresses the research question, "How can we support upper elementary-school students in computer science learning and collaboration using intelligent virtual learning companions?" The initial dataset will provide a ground-truth measure of students' collaboration approaches to classroom computer science learning tasks through instrumenting computer labs in elementary schools for collecting dialogue and problem-solving activity. The project will collect triangulating qualitative data to better understand impactful classroom dynamics around dyadic learning of computer science. The technical innovation of the project is the way in which student dyads are supported: each pair of children within the elementary school classroom will interact with a dyad of state of-the-art intelligent virtual learning companions. These companions will enhance the classroom experience by adapting in real time to the students' patterns of collaboration and problem solving to provide tailored support specifically for that pair of students. The virtual learning companions will model crucial dimensions of healthy collaboration through their dialogue with one another, including self-explanation, question generation, attributing challenges to the task and not to deficits in each other, and establishing common ground through uptake of ideas. The project will compare outcomes of computer science learning as measured in two ways: individual pre-test to post-test, and quality of collaboratively produced solutions. The project team will measure collaborative practices through dialogue analysis for the target collaboration strategies, as well as interest and self-efficacy for computer science. The project will utilize a multilevel model design to study the effect of the virtual learning companions on student outcomes. Using speech, dialogue transcripts, code artifact analysis, and multimodal analysis of gesture and facial expression, the team will conduct sequential analyses that identify the virtual learning companion interactions that are particularly beneficial for students, and focus our development efforts on expanding and refining those interactions. They will also identify the affordances that students did not engage with and determine whether to eliminate or re-cast them. The analytics of collaborative process data will once again be augmented with qualitative classroom data from field notes, focus groups, and semi-structured interviews with students and teachers. The themes that emerge will guide subsequent refinement of the environment and learning activities.

Preparing Next Generation Scientists Through Teacher and Extension Science Partnerships and Schoolyard Citizen Science Investigations in Elementary Schools

This project will bring together two groups of educators - elementary school teachers (formal) and cooperative extension science volunteers (informal) - to create a community-based professional development partnership that improves educators' self-efficacy, science content knowledge, and instructional practice. The model builds on the premise that both groups have expertise that can be shared and collaboratively developed.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721133
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

With the release of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), great interest and demand has been placed on the design and development of high quality, NGSS-aligned professional development. The Standards' Three-Dimensional Learning Framework has also required more creative and non-conventional professional development models to support the changing landscape of science education and instruction. This project intends to address this critical need at the elementary school level through an innovative collaborative professional development model. The University of New Hampshire, in partnership with New Hampshire Schools, will bring together two groups of educators - elementary school teachers (formal) and cooperative extension science volunteers (informal) - to create a community-based professional development partnership that improves educators' self-efficacy, science content knowledge, and instructional practice. The model builds on the premise that both groups have expertise that can be shared and collaboratively developed. Together, with an interdisciplinary team of education experts, the teacher and extension science volunteers will learn how to design and implement appropriate, NGSS-aligned science lessons with elementary school students through locally relevant community-based, citizen science projects. This is a particularly novel approach. Though both groups are highly regarded for their contributions to elementary science education in their respective domains (i.e., formal and informal settings), few, if any, existing models examine the potential impact of partnering the groups together in a shared professional development experience.

This Early Stage Design and Development project will partner and engage approximately 50 elementary school teachers (grades 2nd-5th) and 30 extension science volunteers from urban and rural New Hampshire in the year-long professional development program. Over a three-year period, the target groups will participate in workshops and citizen science investigations related to biodiversity, soil science, stream ecology, plant phenology and/or wildlife habitats. Program content and activities will be aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and New Hampshire State Standards. A mixed methods approach will be employed to explore three aspects of the elementary school teacher?s efficacy over time. The research questions will seek to address: (1) What changes occur in elementary school teachers? self-efficacy teaching science and in their ability to integrate NGSS science practices through locally relevant citizen science projects? (2) What shifts occur in teacher content knowledge and how do the shifts in teacher content knowledge relate to the changes in teacher self-efficacy? (3) What is the process of collaboration between extension science volunteers and teachers? Data will be collected through surveys, interviews, and documents/artifacts. Formative and summative evaluations will be provided by an Advisory Board of experts with a broad range of relevant expertise. The outcomes of this project have the potential to impact professional development approaches across the country and will support the goal of increasing public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology by optimizing elementary teachers' implementation of locally-relevant citizen science in their classrooms. Similarly, by promoting a connection between the volunteers and local schools, this innovative model provides a new avenue for extension science volunteers to impact their communities.

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.

Research on the Utility of Abstraction as a Guiding Principle for Learning about the Nature of Models in Science Education

This project will develop a short instructional sequence and new student learning assessments that are implemented in earth science classes. The findings will help the field to understand whether the process of abstracting from multiple phenomena during model construction supports students' understanding of scientific models in relation to earth science ideas and the cross-cutting concept of scale.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720996
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/15/2017 to Thu, 04/30/2020
Full Description: 

Contemporary science education reforms consider modeling as a means to understanding science ideas and as an essential scientific practice to be learned. Modeling is the practice of developing and refining representations (or "models") as analogs of scientific phenomena. Important to the practice of modeling is the idea that, as an analog, a model draws out (or "abstracts") some as opposed to all aspects of a phenomenon. However, a well-known problem in modeling instruction is that leaners have difficulty understanding this essential point. Learners often think of models as literal interpretations, or replicas, of what they represent. The investigators hypothesize that engaging students in a process of abstraction -- that is, drawing out common structures from multiple scientific phenomena -- during the creation (or "synthesis") of their own model will help students better understand the nature of scientific models. Importantly, this approach will help students discover that a scientific model is not simply a literal interpretation, or replica, of any single phenomenon. Sixteen teachers and their estimated 960 students from economically challenged communities in Georgia and Maine will participate in and benefit from the research study in the context of high school earth and environmental science classes. The project will develop a short instructional sequence and new student learning assessments that are implemented in earth science classes. The findings will help the field to understand whether the process of abstracting from multiple phenomena during model construction supports students' understanding of scientific models in relation to earth science ideas and the cross-cutting concept of scale. The project will provide professional development workshops to up to forty-six teachers over three years as means of recruiting research participants and to cultivate teacher leadership around the new approach to modeling. The developed products and the research findings will be shared with researchers, teacher educators, and teachers through science education journals and conferences.

This Exploratory Learning Strand research study builds upon prior work of investigators at University of Georgia and University of Maine by rigorously testing their hypothesis that that engaging students in the process of abstracting from multiple source phenomena during model synthesis supports more scientifically accurate understandings of the nature of models. The research has the potential to (1) generate new knowledge about the potential value of abstraction as a guiding principle of learning about models and modeling practice; (2) identify ways in which specific classroom conditions, including teacher talk and actions, enable or hinder student learning about abstraction in models and modeling practice; and (3) demonstrate how teachers translate the modeling approach to other science disciplines they teach. Teachers will be recruited through existing partnerships with schools and through professional development workshops offered to teachers nearby the two universities. To address the first two goals, the investigators will develop and test a two-part instructional sequence that addresses core ideas in earth science and the cross-cutting concept of scale. The first component of the instructional sequence is a typical model-based inquiry, and the second component requires that students abstract structures from multiple phenomena during the synthesis of their own models. Twelve teachers and their students will be randomly assigned to either the treatment or the control group. The treatment group will experience the two-part instructional sequence. The control group will initially not experience the second component, but will have an opportunity to do so at the conclusion of the study. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of classroom observations, interviews with teachers, student knowledge tests, student work, and teacher logs will be used to determine the effectiveness of abstracting during model synthesis and classroom conditions that enable or hinder students' learning when the approach is used. To address the third goal, investigators will document the experience of four teachers as they develop and implement a similar instructional sequence in other science disciplines, providing preliminary evidence on the broader utility of the synthesis-through-abstraction approach to modeling. A new research assessment for measuring students' understanding of the nature of models, core ideas of earth science, and the cross-cutting concept of scale may be broadly useful for future research on learning at the intersection of the three knowledge dimensions. Findings will be shared by traditional means, such as papers in peer-reviewed research and practitioner journals and conference presentations. Investigators will conduct professional development workshops for teachers in the third year to disseminate the products and findings of the research to practitioner audiences and to further cultivate participating teachers' leadership around this novel approach to modeling practice in science education.

Promoting Scientific Explorers Among Students with Learning Disabilities: The Design and Testing of a Grade 2 Science Program Focused on Earth's Systems

The purpose of this project is to design and empirically evaluate a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720958
Funding Period: 
Thu, 06/01/2017 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

A robust understanding of core science concepts and practices is necessary for obtaining jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Despite these occupational and practical affordances, few effective instructional tools exist for the elementary science classroom. Moreover, early elementary school teachers have limited materials at their disposal to promote a rich knowledge of science among the full range of learners. The purpose of this project is to address this need by designing and empirically evaluating a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics. Scientific Explorers will be designed to improve students' knowledge and understanding of core science concepts. Recognizing the important role of early literacy and mathematics in science learning and teaching, this project will integrate core disciplinary ideas with critical mathematics and literacy standards. To support students as they engage in scientific tasks associated with Earth's Systems, this project will engineer the Scientific Explorers program around a guided inquiry framework. Another aim of this project is to develop and empirically validate a science assessment that measures students' knowledge and application of core science concepts and practices related to Earth's Systems.

Employing a mixed-method approach, this project will investigate the feasibility and efficacy of the Scientific Explorers program. Additional research activities will include establishing the reliability and validity of a second grade science assessment. Approximately 40 second grade classrooms from two different geographical regions will participate in the project. Using multilevel modeling and item response theory techniques, this project will address five primary research questions: (1) To what extent can teachers feasibly implement the Scientific Explorers program in authentic education settings? (2) What is the impact of Scientific Explorers on the science achievement of students in participating classrooms? (3) Do early literacy skills at the beginning of second grade predict differential response to the Scientific Explorers program? (4) Does responsiveness to the Scientific Explorers program differ as a function of reading disability, mathematics disability, or a learning disability in reading and mathematics (comorbid LD)?, and (5) To what extent does the early science achievement measure demonstrate technical adequacy (reliability and validity)?

Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science: Connecting Land, Language, and Culture

This Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science project seeks to advance this knowledge base through research and by catalyzing new approaches to Indigenous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (ISTEM) learning. Using an ISTEM focused model, the project will develop, test, and implement a culturally responsive land-based curriculum that integrates Western science, multimodal technologies and digital tools, and Native American tribal knowledge, cultures and languages to investigate and address local environmental science and sustainability concerns.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720931
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

The intersection between Indigenous and Western science continues to be of great importance to K-12 science education, particularly with regards to broadening participation in STEM. With over five hundred federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States, there is much to learn and understand. This Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science project seeks to advance this knowledge base through research and by catalyzing new approaches to Indigenous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (ISTEM) learning. Using an ISTEM focused model, the project will develop, test, and implement a culturally responsive land-based curriculum that integrates Western science, multimodal technologies and digital tools, and Native American tribal knowledge, cultures and languages to investigate and address local environmental science and sustainability concerns. While Indigenous STEM teaching and learning as constructs have existed for many years, the rigorous research design and extensive integration of multimodal technologies as platforms for scientific inquiry, data management, knowledge dissemination and curation are innovative and timely. Few, if any, Design and Development projects in the current DRK-12 portfolio explore similar work. Therefore, the broader impacts of this project are poised to not only contribute to the DRK-12 portfolio but also advance knowledge in Indigenous STEM education and science education, more broadly.

Over a three year period, hundreds of Native American students (grades 4-9) in tribal schools located in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho will engage in the project. Each year, approximately 60-80 students (grades 7-9), with some returning students, will also participate in enrichment activities and in years 1-3, in the residential summer experience at Washington State University. A qualitative, quasi-experimental design-based study will be conducted to address three salient research questions: (a) What are the impacts of culturally responsive and land education-based ISTEM curriculum and technology on Native American student engagement, efficacy and achievement in school? (b) What types of professional development activities foster teacher efficacy and improve teacher learning and teaching of ISTEM in classrooms? and (c) How can ISTEM foster greater family and community engagement in schools and in Tribal Communities? Data will be collected through interviews, surveys, and or questionnaires from participating students, teachers, and Tribal members. Consistent with Indigenous methodologies, focus group interviews (talking circles) will also be facilitated after ISTEM community expositions and engagement activities to capture community impacts. Formative and summative evaluations will be conducted by the Learning and Performance Research Center (LPRC) at Washington State University, an independent entity of the University with extensive expertise in project evaluation. A broad range of dissemination activities will be employed to achieve maximum impacts, including the use of the Plateau People's Web Portal, a digital tool designed to help Native communities to manage, circulate, and curate their digital materials using their own cultural protocols, language and social systems. This regional collaboration includes partnerships with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Oregon), Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Washington), and the Coeur D'Alene Tribe (Idaho).

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.

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